Just as the overall environment and it’s ecosystems are important to humans for a number of different reasons, there’s a number of reasons the ocean specifically is important to humans
These reasons can range from health/survival based, to social, economic, environmental, cultural, and more.
Below is a list of 14 different reasons that cover each of these areas.
This guide is a complimentary guide to our other ocean related guides on the biggest problems facing oceans worldwide, along with potential solutions to protect and conserve oceans.
Summary – Why The Ocean Is Important To Humans
A summary of the 14 main reasons why the ocean might be important:
1. Oxygen production
2. Carbon dioxide absorption and regulating the carbon cycle
3. Regulating climate and weather
4. We use the ocean for transportation and trade
5. We use the ocean for recreation
6. Value of the ocean to the economy and GDP
7. The ocean helps employ millions of people worldwide
8. We use the ocean for food production (and nutrients)
9. We use the ocean for ingredients or materials in other products
10. The ocean is home to a lot of biodiversity, animals and organisms (coral reefs in particular have a high % of marine biodiversity)
11. A % of the world’s population lives on ocean coastlines
12. Potential health and therapeutic benefits of the ocean for humans
13. Cultural and community significance of the ocean for some cultures and communities around the world
14. The ocean is the biggest source of water in the world
1. It helps produce a % of the oxygen we breathe
Some of the oxygen on Earth is produced by trees and other land based plants and vegetation
The majority of the rest of the oxygen is produced in the ocean
The ocean produces around half of the world’s oxygen (oceanservice.noaa.gov)
Sea plants, like Posidonia, produce 70% of the oxygen we breathe … [compared to rainforests at 28%] (theoceanpreneur.com)
… the ocean provides more than half of the oxygen in the atmosphere … (protectplanetocean.org)
2. It helps absorb carbon dioxide
Vegetation/plants, soil and the ocean are three of the biggest carbon sinks on Earth – i.e. they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The ocean absorbs roughly 50% more CO2 than what the atmosphere does (oceanservice.noaa.gov)
… the ocean … absorbs the most carbon from the atmosphere (protectplanetocean.org)
Phytoplankton [found in the ocean] absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen … (theoceanpreneur.com)
3. Helps regulate the climate and weather
With this being the case, the ocean can act as a large, deep, reservoir, that can continuously exchange heat, moisture, and carbon with the atmosphere and help regulate climate and weather.
The ocean helps transport heat from the equator to the poles (oceanservice.noaa.gov)
[The ocean] soaks up the heat and transports warm water from the equator to the poles.
[These currents make weather less extreme and make some regions more habitable.]
They also help regulate rain and droughts with most of the rain we have on land coming from the sea, and when the ocean absorbs carbon, it helps balance the carbon cycle]
4. We use the ocean for transportation (and trade)
Along with other forms of transportation like road, rail, and air, we use the ocean to export and import goods internationally and domestically.
The ocean plays an important part in economic activity.
Roughly 76% of all US trade involves ocean ocean transportation (oceanservice.noaa.gov)
In 2017, the U.S. maritime transportation system carried $1.6 trillion of cargo through U.S. seaports to and from … international trading partners
[About] 90% of world trade is made by the sea (theoceanpreneur.com)
5. We use the ocean for recreational activities
Recreation is an important part of people’s lives, and we use the ocean for recreational fishing, swimming, boating, and many other recreational activities
6. Value of the ocean to the economy
The estimated economic value of the ocean to the world economy varies from billions to trillions per year.
Transportation for economic trade, tourism and recreation, open fishing, fish farming and aquaculture, and mineral extraction are just some of the ways that the ocean adds value to the world economy.
… ocean-based businesses … contribute more than $500 billion to the world’s economy (protectplanetocean.org).
[Some estimates of global economic contribution to human welfare of both the open ocean, and coastal and shelf systems, go into the trillions per year] (sciencedirect.com)
Tourism and recreation account for 73 percent of the ocean economy’s total employment and 42 percent of its GDP [and] Offshore mineral extraction accounts for another 25 percent of the ocean economy’s GDP
The U.S. ocean economy produces $282 billion in goods and services
oceanpolicy.com has some important statistics and information that outlines how important the ocean is to the US economy specifically
7. Number of people the ocean helps employ
Ocean based industries are responsible for the employment of millions of people worldwide.
For some people in some parts of the world, the ocean is their entire livelihood.
Ocean-dependent businesses employ almost three million people (oceanservice.noaa.gov)
59.6 million people in the world were engaged in fisheries and aquaculture in 2016.
[Overall] The ocean gives jobs to fishers, lifeguards, surf instructors, harbours, (free)diving schools, marine-based tour operators, water sports businesses, holiday accommodations, and, of course, ocean nomads!
By 2030, ocean-based industries will employ more than 40 million people worldwide (weforum.org)
8. We use the ocean for food production (and for nutrients)
In terms of food production, the ocean is used for open ocean fishing, and fish farming and aquaculture, amongst other food productions methods.
People in some parts of the world even use algae and sea plants for cooking and eating
Additionally, we source specific ingredients from the ocean, and also specific nutrients.
A % of the world’s protein comes from the ocean.
Even farmed fish use a % of wild caught fish from the ocean in their feed – so, the ocean feeds other animals too.
Not only do we use the ocean for the production of seafood, but, we also use it for ingredients found in peanut butter and soymilk (oceanservice.noaa.gov)
[The ocean] is the number one source of protein for more than a billion people on Earth (oceanservice.noaa.gov)
[Seaweed contains several important nutrients] (weforum.org)
Potential For Future Sustainable Food Production
… [In the future we may look to the ocean for a more sustainable form of food production over beef production] (weforum.org)
9. We use the ocean for other products
Apart from food products, other products source their ingredients from the ocean.
We use the ocean for ingredients found in medicinal products used to fight cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease (oceanservice.noaa.gov)
10. It is home to many of the Earth’s animal species and organisms (and has a lot of biodiversity)
Along with the world’s soils and the world’s tropical rainforests, the world’s oceans have some of the highest concentrations of biodiversity.
Species in the ocean range from fish, to sharks, to whales, to algae, to coral, to many micro organisms, and more.
All these species and organisms play important roles in the ocean’s ecosystems.
Some estimates say there is more than 300,000 different species underwater, [and they] play an essential role in the trophic chain of the ecosystems (theoceanpreneur.com)
While estimates on the number of species that live in the sea exist, no one knows with absolute certainty what that number is (weforum.org)
11. A large % of the world’s population lives near the ocean coastline
People living near the ocean may depend on the ocean for their livelihood in some instances.
In the instances they don’t, they may still use the ocean for various things.
Ocean pollution might be an issue for those living within close vicinity to the ocean, and also those that use the ocean frequently.
60% of the world’s population [is] living on the coastline (theoceanpreneur.com)
12. The ocean may have health and therapeutic benefits for humans
Many people derive happiness and fulfilment from the ocean and it’s associated shorelines and beaches.
Some people get a lot of happiness from observing or interacting with the ocean and it’s inhabitants.
Others get joy from recreation activities associated with the ocean, or working activities that depend on the ocean.
theoceanpreneur.com lists a few potential health and therapeutic benefits of the ocean such as the ‘mammalian diving reflex’, and reducing psychological stress and improving mood
13. There’s a cultural significance of the ocean in some cultures and communities
The ocean is very important or significant to some cultures and communities around the world
14. The ocean is the biggest source of water in the world
Not only is this of significance for all the reasons listed above, but, it is significant for another reason too
Some parts of the world are using desalination technology to turn saline water into fresh water
The sheer quantity of water in the ocean makes technology and practices like this possible
Problems Facing The World’s Oceans, & Potential Solutions To These Problems
These two guides outline potentially some of the main problems facing the world’s oceans, and also potentially what might be done to address issues facing the oceans.