Oceans and Seas

Edit Article

Oceans and Seas



Oceans and seas are the main components of the Earth’s hydrosphere. They cover about 70.9 per cent of the earth's surface and represent the greater natural reserves among  ecosystems.[1]

The importance of oceans and seas is related to fisheries and shipping routes, but also to the creation of oxygen and several chemical equilibrium conditions.

Oceans and seas represent a public good for society and also, a specific ecosystem - the marine ecosystem. Human activities, such as pollutant discharges and fishing, influence its health and marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs.[2] Conversely, human health depends on the functions, products and services of the marine ecosystem.
The study of oceans, seas and human health is in part a social and economic problem because it commits scarce resources to improve societal well-being.

The most important problem related to oceans and coastal seas is pollution, which is generated by human activities run in our continents. Human actions and activities continually disturb the marine environment. The pollution generated causes massive impacts on the flora and fauna of oceans and it could represent a negative externality for the present well-being of societies and for future generations.

The Marine Ecosystem

The marine environment is important to society and the economy. It represents a form of natural capital providing value in stocks and flows of goods and services, directly as seafood, pharmaceuticals, oils and additivies.

It also supplies many services, some of which are critical to human health, such as ecosystem resilience, genetic diversity and aesthetic appreciation. Indirect benefits (e.g. biological support and water and air purification) and passive-use benefits (e.g. the satisfaction that we get from knowing that the environment has been preserved for future generations) influence our decisions to exploit or to conserve marine resources.

Waste assimilation represents one of the most important services that oceans and seas can provide. Indeed, they serve as the ultimate repository of many waste products. However, they have only a limited capacity to absorb waste and convert it into biologically benign material.[3] If the oceans and seas’ assimilative capacity exceeds the volume of waste receveid, the environment remains unharmed. Unfortunately, the volume of waste often exceeds the assimilative capacity and damage occurs. Environmental damage reduces the future productive capacity of marine ecosystem and adversely affects indirect use and amenity values, including human health. Thus, the waste has an adverse impact on individuals and on societal utility.


Measures and Indicators


The Ecosystem Indicator Partnership (ESIP) is a committee of the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment. ESIP is developing indicators for the Gulf of Maine and integrating regional data to monitor marine ecosystem. See more about the ESIP Monitoring Map.

The Northwest Fisheries Science Center - NOAA Fisheries Center  has developed a climate index based upon patterns of variation in sea surface temperature of the North Pacific from 1900 to the present: the Pacific Decadal Oscillation - PDO.


The Marine EnvoRonment and Security for the European Area - MERSEA  is an Integrated Project to monitor oceans at global and regional level in support of safe offshore activities, environmental management, security and sustainable use of marine resources. The MERSEA is supported by the European Union (Sixth Framework programme of research and development, FP6) to contribute to the development of the ocean and marine application component of the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security system (GMES).

The RAMOGE Agreement is the instrument adopted by the Governments of France, Monaco and Italy to ensure that the coastal areas of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Region, the Principality of Monaco and the Ligurian Region should constitute a pilot zone for preventing and combating pollution of the marine environment.

Marine-related progress events

See also


Measuring Australia's Progress, Dennis Trewin, Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS), April 2002

  1. Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook
  2. Coral reefs around the world
  3. Marine Litter: An Analystical Overview;Plastic's poisoning World Seas

External links