The Importance Of Our Marine Biodiversity
Our paradise island has declared a state of environmental emergency after the Japanese owned ship MV Wakashio carrying 4000 tons of fuel hit the reefs at Pointe d’Esny on July 25 and started to ooze oil. About 1000 tons of the oil has leaked into the waters and the south-east trade winds made it even more difficult to contain the oil from spreading even further, resulting in an ecological disaster. This oil spill has had a devastating effect on our unique nature reserve, also endangering the lives of the inhabitants of the south-east coast.
Given that the effect of oil spills can cause serious health harm such as skin damage, respiratory tract disease and long- term cancer, the government ordered the closure of schools in the affected regions and that all fishing and boating activities be stopped. The situation had become critical as time progressed and if nothing had been done on time, the impact would have been much more catastrophic. Fortunately, in tough times like these all Mauritians have joined hands to clear the oil spills from the sea. Local NGOs and volunteers all around the island came together to make straw barriers that helped to contain the spill.
Many Mauritians also donated their hair as this too helped to absorb the oil from the ocean. With the help of all the dedicated volunteers and the efforts of the authorities, our beautiful lagoon is slowly recovering from this mishap.
However, there are many people who are not fully aware of the importance of marine biodiversity and its contribution to the Earth’s ecosystem. Below are some facts and importance of our magnificent blue lagoon.
The marine ecosystem is the largest on Earth that occupies about 70% of the surface of the planet, responsible for regulating the Earth’s climate and affecting the weather. This ecosystem is also responsible for providing food, employment and revenue to many through fishing, leisure, transportation and tourism.
Marine ecosystems are vital to the regulation of the carbon dioxide and oxygen gases in the atmosphere. Phytoplankton (marine algae) absorbs carbon dioxide from surface water and releases oxygen. Marine ecosystems also help to reduce the impact of greenhouse warming.
Coral reefs, important to the reproduction of aquatic species, support more than “800 hard coral species and more than 4000 species of fish”. Coral reefs also play an important role to coastal protection by dissipating the force of incoming waves, reducing coastal erosion. ("Value of Corals | Coral Reef Systems", 2020)
Essential to the balance of the planet, mangroves are home to many fish and bird species allowing them to nest, breed and mature. Situated near the shore, mangroves have adapted to the salty water and its thick tangle of roots protect the shore by mitigating erosion from cyclones and waves.
Marine pollution from human activities not only has a deadly impact on the marine wildlife but also on humans. “Plastic gets into the ocean, into marine species and into us”. Research has found that phytoplankton eaten by fish took up plastic from the ocean. And when humans consume those fish, deadly toxins enter our body. ("Marine debris: biodiversity impacts and potential solutions", 2020).
Our blue lagoon is home to a huge variety of plant and animal species. Throughout all these years we have already lost a significant number of marine wildlife due to ignorance and pollution. Many species are already facing the risk of extinction and if nothing is done in time, we might lose them. Here are how we can contribute to save and restore our marine ecosystem:
Raise awareness and educate through campaigns the contribution of our ocean to the global economy and the impacts of marine pollution. Educating our children at a younger age will create a better tomorrow and a better environmental conscious generation. Recycling plastic bottles is an excellent example to start with.
Respecting marine wildlife by practicing safe tourism will allow the protection of our marine ecosystem. Any kind of activity that disrupts the aquatic ecosystem should be punished by law.
Organize beach clean ups, invite everyone to participate and most importantly spread the word.
Our Mauritian waters are among the few waters left around the world with a rich biodiversity. Victim of severe ignorance and immediate action, our beautiful southeastern lagoon has been severely damaged. Damage from oil spills like these take years to heal. Around the world, oceans are degrading due to rising coastal pollution. Land-based pollution, ship emissions and other hazards are contributing to the destruction of many vital habitats. Many are unaware of the importance of our marine ecosystem and its contribution to our daily lives.
Many people make a living from the ocean but they often end up exploiting mother nature, unaware they will eventually face serious repercussions when all resources are exhausted. It is our duty to stop polluting, conserve and educate others about the few resources left around us.
Please donate generously to local NGOs that are working hard to save our lagoon or volunteer to help. Any kind of contribution matters.
“If man doesn’t learn to treat the oceans and the rain forest with respect, man will become extinct.” – Peter Benchley.
Together towards reducing marine degradation.
Author: Yashvinee Bowan
Degree holder in BA Mass Communication at Curtin University
References: Editors, B. (2020). Marine Ecosystem Facts - Retrieved from https://biologydictionary.net/marine-ecosystem-facts/ | Greenhouse gas regulation - Coastal Wiki. (2020) - Retrieved from http://www.coastalwiki.org/wiki/Greenhouse_gas_regulation | Value of Corals | Coral Reef Systems (2020) - Retrieved from https://scripps.ucsd.edu/projects/coralreefsystems/about-coral-reefs/value-of-corals/#:~:text=Coral%20ecosystems%20are%20a%20source,medicines%2C%20and%20are%20hotspots%20of | Marine debris: biodiversity impacts and potential solutions. (2020). Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/marine-debris-biodiversity-impacts-and-potential-solutions-2131 | 7 reasons why we need to act now to #SaveOurOcean (2020) - Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/zhc/detail-events/en/c/846698/