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The Ocean: Life and Livelihood

World ocean day is the most renowned day for the ocean. The day was first celebrated in 1992 following the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro. In 2008, United Nations General Assembly was decided that on June 8, 2009, the day will be celebrated as World Ocean Day by the UN. Since 2009, it has been celebrated across the world every year on June 8 to highlight the role played by the ocean in our daily life and motivate us to protect the ocean and imperishable use of marine natural resources. The theme selected for this year by the world ocean network is “The Ocean: Live and Livelihood”.

Oceans are among the most appreciated natural resource on earth. About 70% of the earth’s surface is occupied by the oceans and constitutes about 90% of various life forms on earth. Ocean provides us food, jobs, entertainment, sailing, and a diversity of natural metabolites that are beneficial for pharmaceutical purposes. Around 200,000 marine species have been reported and the discovery of new marine species is also in progress. Marine animals are varied in size from microscopic 0.02mm including plankton to large marine animals includes sponges, jellyfishes, shellfish, fish, and huge cetaceans such as Dolphins, Seal, and Whales, etc. It is estimated that marine microorganisms constituting about 70% of the total marine biomass. These include bacteria, archaea, viruses, algae, fungi, planktons, etc. These microorganisms can found from the ocean surface to the deepest part 10,900m of the ocean such as the Mariana Trench. These microorganisms are essential for the marine ecosystem. These play a crucial role in nutrient recycling in oceans as they act as decomposers. These are also accountable for particularly all photosynthesis that occurs in the marine ecosystem as well as the cycling of some essential nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, etc., and trace elements. Some of these microorganisms play a crucial role in the marine food chain as producers these organisms serve as food for a large marine organism such as sponges, and whales feed on bacteria and planktons. These tiny creatures are also beneficial for pharmaceutical purposes because various compounds (fucoxanthin, marine collagen peptides, dieckol, krill oil, and fucoidan, etc) have been isolated from marine microbes. These compounds are more potent than compounds isolated from a terrestrial source. A wide range of enzymatic activity and capability for various chemical reactions and enzymes are the characteristic feature of these microorganisms. Compounds isolated from marine microbes highly active against various human pathogenic bacteria, and viruses, used for immunomodulation, against allergy, inflammation, tumor, metabolic dysfunctions such as diabetes and obesity), etc.


Million people depend on the ocean for their earning. According to the FAO, approximately 59.6 million peoples in the world are engaged in fisheries and aquaculture and about 90% of world trade is made by the ocean. Fisheries play a significant role in Pakistan’s economy by employing 400,000 people directly and another 600,000 in the ancillary industries. According to a conservative estimate, the GDP contribution of the fisheries sector in Pakistan was 232.5 million USD. Among marine and inland sectors, the former sector is the main contributing sector and contributes around 60% of the total fish production.

Shellfish and fish have been eaten all over the world for centuries. Shellfish (mollusks, gastropods, bivalves, shrimps, crabs, lobsters, squid, octopus, etc) are the major component of global seafood production. Globally, about 15% of our protein requirement is fulfilled from seafood. Commercial fishing has led to over 90% of marine fish stocks getting completely fished or overfished. According to the FAO report, about 167.2 million metric tons (MMT) of seafood was available worldwide, with a catch of shrimp, American lobsters, and cephalopods at 3.5, 0.16, and 4.3 MMT respectively. Fish and shellfish not only play a vital role in our economy as well as beneficial for our health and pharmaceutics because these are a rich source of bioactive peptide, proteins, fats, essential minerals, nutrients, astaxanthin, carotenoids, and vitamins that offer a variety of health benefits such as (boosting immunity, aid weight loss beneficial for brain and cardia health) to the consumers. Although these are generally safe for food but sometimes may entail health risks because of the possible presence of various hazardous substances such as pathogenic organisms, parasites, biotoxin, industrial and environmental pollutants, heavy metals, and also the presence of allergy- causing compounds in their bodies.


More than 5,300 bioactive natural metabolites (such as bioactive terpenes, sterols, fatty acids, alkaloids, cyclic peptides, peroxides, amino acids, and halogenated compounds) are extracted from marine animals and used for medicinal purpose for the treatment of various ailments such as cancer, HIV-AIDs, inflammations, microbial infections, anthelmintic, or used as immunosuppressive, and neuro suppressive agent. The first anti- leukemia drug was developed from compounds extracted from a sponge. Recently a compound has been discovered from the Indo-Pacific sponge that is found active against cervical, prostate, and other cancer cells. People prefer sea sponges because of their soft texture and water retention capacity for deep cleansing the face. Dermatologists also recommend natural marine sponges for sensitive skin and skin with allergies. Sponges are also used in the ceramic industry, home decorating, painting, shoemaking industries.


Ocean also has therapeutic potential. Research has proven that the ocean directly reduces psychological stress and improves mood. It is often thought that rainforests are commonly alluded to as the earth’s lungs; however, little marine creatures (phytoplankton) produce the greater part of the earth’s oxygen and act in the same way as trees do. Oceans also play important role in regulating climate. It absorbs heat and transports warm water to the poles and cold water to the tropics without these flows climate would be outrageous in certain locales and fewer places would be tenable. The oceans and the life inside them also absorb about a fourth of the carbon dioxide (CO2) that we release into the air. So it also helps in reducing the amount of carbon dioxide from the earth’s atmosphere and shield us from global warming but it comes at a cost. When the ocean absorbs CO2 it becomes more acidic and this acidification increase day by day. Human activities such as the burning of oil, coal, gas, as well as deforestation, are the primary cause of the increased CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.

Ocean’s need – our attention

The Ocean, the fabric of life on which we all depend is declining rapidly because of human activity. Pakistan is blessed with a large coastal and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with a variety of marine life. However, the ecosystem of our diverse marine life is endangered due to various human activities and environmental factors. Climate change is a key factor driving increase worldwide, as ocean warm, acidify, and rise. In addition, commercial fishing, runoff from industrial and agriculture pollution, and shipping are escalating continuously each year in a different part of the ocean. Today, our oceans are more acidic as compare to 800,000 years back. This acidification of the ocean seriously affects marine life such as coral has experienced mass bleaching and turn deathly white. It is needed to reduce the CO2 emissions that result from human activities.

Commercial fishing has led to over 90% of marine fish stocks getting completely fished or overfished. Overfishing tends to kill off large fish, decrease propagation rate, further may lead to depleting fish stocks. It also threatens the community that depends on fishing for their food and income. The world record of plastic litter enter into the ocean is about 4.8-12.7 million metric tons. These plastics can be ingested by marine animals, with potentially harmful effects. The increased use of plastic and its products may result in the accessibility of plastic to the aquatic ecosystem is estimated to increase significantly in the future. Industrial and agricultural waste (nutrient-rich) that enter into the ocean, can cause algal bloom. By utilizing the oxygen in the water, blooms like these are responsible for the oxygen depletion zone. These zones are so starved of oxygen they can barely support marine life. A million gallons of oils are also released from various sources including natural seeps, boring, and spills from boats and pipelines, into the ocean every year. Oil from roads and storm drains additionally flow into the ocean. This oil can be deadly for marine life, damaging their lungs, traps turtles, and can make bird’s feathers unable to repel water, causing them to die from hypothermia. One spill can take decades to recover an ecosystem.


The condition may look bleak, but it’s not too late to make a difference. Scientists reported that a variety of coral reefs can still be protected if we established marine protected areas and fishing is better regulated. Technology also has a role to play. Researchers in the United State have fostered an “Oleo sponge” as a reusable device for cleaning oil spills. A year ago, Ocean Voyages Institute utilized satellite and robot technology to eliminated more than 40 tons of plastic from the Pacific Ocean. However much we need technology, to clean up the wreck we have made. Around the globe, people voluntarily pick up plastic waste from seashores and rivers. In any case, we need each other, while there are uncountable threats to our oceans, there are also many opportunities to discover a solution. Our oceans give us life and many benefits yet it’s dependent upon us to secure them.

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