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Introduction to the Aquatic World
What comes to your mind when you say “marine life”? What comes to your mind when you say “ocean”? Is it the 1 place on earth where life began? Is it the 1 place on earth where the first humans started eating? Of course I can ask so many questions! What comes to my mind is that all of us, every living creature depend upon the earth’s oceans, rivers, seas, streams and lakes, not only for water, but for food, transportation, power, health and recreation. To explain the relationship between humanity and the planet’s ocean is vastly complex. The beauty underneath the waters, the historic secrets it reveals, the life that explains us our equality beside our side of life. At the same time, we seek to control water resources and exploit them for our benefit. This relationship is undeniable and critical, for even now and for further in future. When it comes to the health of our aquatic environment, no community has such a personal view or cares more passionately than divers. But there are a few who join alongside divers to protect the aquatic realm, and it keeps increasing every day.
The One Big Ecosystem
When it comes to life underneath our world, can you imagine humans living here? Or how could they? Or does something else dwell beneath? As we live on one side of the planet, who lives on the other side of the planet? Possibly not Aquaman from the comics! First when you look into the water you see tiny cute little sprats, and mackerels and sometimes small squids too. Well aren’t these little cute fellas fascinating and adorable looking! Sometimes you want to hug them or give them a kiss, but aren’t they so tiny! You look a little outside on the horizon and you see some cool guys jumping out of the water as if they are performing stunts, now who can you imagine could do these things? Dolphins of course, bigger than those sprats, mackerels and small squids. Bigger enough to give them a kiss or a hug. A bit more east to the waters, you see a large tail fin 5 times bigger than you rising up the surface. Now what could that be? How big can it be? Then you start to think about what that is. The blue whale of course, the largest animal you will ever see in your life. Too big for you to give a hug or a kiss. Following you can now imagine how broad the other side of the world is! Thousands of creatures of different sizes, colors, behaviors exist in this ecosystem. There is more to you than meets the eye on this side of the world!
Rainforests Of The Sea
There is no more special place on earth for underwater lovers to see than a coral reef or a kelp forest. Coral reefs are habitats and nursery grounds for 25% of all known marine species, most of which we rely on for food. An impressive statistic thinking how little of the sea bottom is a coral reef. But the most accepted figure is that coral reefs cover only about 284,300 square kilometers/110,000 square miles. Coral reefs are so important to marine life that they are storehouses of biodiversity. Think about us living in huge beautiful homes. So think as if a butterfly fish is living in a big most beautiful coral, now what a luxury home is that for the lucky fish! Reefs attract many types of fish and other creatures, just like we get attracted for an enormous beautiful house, so it’s pretty likely though. Coral reefs are made out of lots of corals in a group, like a colony. Corals grow best in the shallow, clear water of tropical and subtropical regions where the annual temperature is between 18 – 30 degree Celsius. These are tiny marine invertebrates that secrete skeletons of calcium carbonate to form small cups called corallites. A method for the production of sand. Many types of corals are impressive builders that make up strong big reefs. The largest structure on earth manufactured by living organisms is Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which is visible even from outer space! So don’t think of just being an astronaut to go outer space to look at the reef, but become a diver to take the closest beautiful looks ever.
How can we compare that a kelp forest or a coral reef that looks more like an underwater rainforest? Kelp refers to a variety of large brown algae that grow where summertime water temperatures are about 20 degree Celsius. Their growth requires a solid point of attachment, such as a rock, and form distinctive subtidal communities in areas exposed to fierce currents or heavy surf from depths of 20-40 meters. None of kelp grows in Maldives, but is found on other parts of the world. Kelps are the largest of all algae and are among the fastest growing plants on earth. Kelp forests are beautiful to look at. Imagine the Amazon rainforest and an underwater kelp forest just like Amazon. Lots of amazing creatures inhabit in a kelp forest just like the animals in a local on land rainforest. We could say corals reefs are homes to the living creatures underneath and the kelp…just like those little greenhouses we keep at home!
Natural and Human-Induced Threats
Smoke rises into the air from factories and nuclear power plants. Rubbish and garbage on our roads and public. We cannot explain nature’s instincts. One-fifth of the world’s coral reefs is dead for good, and keeps dying. Another 35% is at critical risk or in a threatened state, for climate change is to blame. Will coral reefs survive? We don’t know a glimpse about it. But we can do one thing to make sure it won’t happen, protect them! The world needs to create a better strategy, enforce laws and more human empowerment is needed to overcome these threats. Global weather anomalies such as El Nino, severe storms such as hurricanes and typhoons, freshwater inundation, species blooms, exposure to air during extremely low tides and diseases…cause death of coral reefs, which would cause death of other lives in a chain. Not natural threats are common.
But we can explain human instincts! Human induced changes to the environment are the most severe threat to coral reefs and other marine life. Most commonly throwing rubbish and garbage into the sea, kills coral reefs. Take K. Thilafushi for an example. The whole island is made out of non-biodegradable waste and from that island, garbage slowly flows into the ocean and has killed almost all the marine life in the inner and outer lagoon of the island. Call that island a freaking wasteland! Garbage thrown into the sea, dives itself underneath and lands on corals, which smothers them from breathing and finally kills them. So when they are killed, the fish and other creatures abandon their dead homes and are forced to migrate to another area, which would affect a big change to the Maldivian fishing industry. Then when we don’t get fish to eat, so comes loss to the main work of our bloodline. Oil spills on to the ocean, hunting for sharks, hunting for whales (in which the blue whale is now the rarest species on earth), picking up corals for construction industries, blowing or dredging coral reefs to create artificial islands and so many more! The Mediterranean Sea, The Straits of Malacca, The North Sea, The Baltic Sea, The Persian Gulf and The Caribbean Sea, these areas are now having a near-death experience and soon will be completely dead unknowingly to authorities.
The Action Of Life
What harm have they done to us when we are harming them? Why do we kill the innocent when they aren’t guilty? Why do we attempt to kill our own planet!? More importantly these questions wander in every environment lover’s heart. But wander these questions too…How can we preserve the underwater life? What can we do to stop the threats? How can we ask forgiveness from the other side of our world!? If we don’t act now, the oceans will turn into a barren wasteland. So will out own land become a wasteland if so. Become an ambassador for the aquatic realm and guard it with your lives. In this age, many NGOs and such environment activists are calling out to work hard to protect the marine life. They understand how important the marine life is to us. Protected marine areas prevent humans from confronting such ways to destroy the area. Awareness has been giving throughout the time to explain the importance of marine life and its benefits. Artificial reefs provide structure and relief in areas that are otherwise devoid of bottom features. Such as shipwrecks. It’s no secret that our aquatic environment needs our help. We have polluted our oceans, lakes, rivers and waterways. We have overfished food fish to the point of depletion. We have altered coastal zones and wetland areas with increased development. And through we have caused so much devastation to the aquatic environment; we also nurture it back to health. We screwed it all up…and so we are the only ones who can fix it.
Mohamed Azan Abdulla, Is a Member of ECOCARE Maldives and a Recreational Diver who is also a Project AWARE Specialist.