With so much focus on climate change as of late, it’s easy to forget that there is another environmental crisis brewing just beneath the surface.
The world’s oceans are in trouble. A growing population and increased demand for seafood have put immense pressure on marine ecosystems, leading to dwindling fish populations, declining water quality, and habitat loss.
But there is hope. Thanks to advances in technology, we now have new tools and methods for combating these threats and helping to protect our oceans. Let’s take a look at six of the most promising ways that tech is being used to save our oceans—and the planet.
1. Sustainable Seafood Tracking
One of the biggest problems facing our oceans is overfishing. Commercial fishing operations often target specific species to the point of depletion, and this has devastating effects on the ecosystems that those fish populations support.
By tracking seafood from “boat to plate,” we can help to ensure that fish are being harvested sustainably and that consumers are making informed choices about the seafood they purchase.
Combined with smart fishing nets that can reduce bycatch (the accidental capture of non-targeted fish), sustainable seafood tracking has the potential to make a big difference in ocean conservation.
2. Smart Tags to Monitor Marine Animals
The widespread use of smart tags has revolutionized the study of marine animals.
These tags can be attached to animals ranging from fish and turtles to whales and sharks, and they collect valuable data about the movements and behaviours of these creatures.
You might think these tags are nothing more than high-tech GPS devices, but they can do much more. Some smart tags are equipped with accelerometers that track an animal’s swimming patterns, while others contain sensors that measure water temperature and depth.
This data is then transmitted to researchers in near-real time, providing them with unprecedented insights into the lives of marine animals.
All this data is helping us to better understand how marine animals interact with their environment and how human activities are affecting them. By understanding the respective roles that animals play in ecosystems, we can develop better management strategies for preserving them.
3. Drones to Collect Ocean Data
Drones are being used in a variety of ways to help protect our oceans. Often equipped with artificial intelligence, semi-autonomous drones can be used to track illegal fishing activity, map coral reefs, and spot marine animals in distress. By providing a bird’s-eye view of the ocean without risking the safety of human observers, drones are giving us a new way to monitor and study the health of our oceans.
From studying the effects of storm surges on coastal communities to mapping the best surfing locations for local tourists, drones are providing us with a wealth of new information to help us protect our oceans and the people who rely on them.
4. Measures to Control Invasive Species
Invasive species are one of the leading causes of habitat destruction and decline in native fish populations. These non-native species can often out-compete native species for food and space, and they can introduce new diseases to local ecosystems.
New DNA-based technologies are being developed that can help to identify and track invasive species. By using such techniques, we can more easily identify and track invasive species. This information can be used to develop strategies for controlling these species and preventing them from causing further damage to our oceans.
5. Probiotics for Healthier Oyster Reefs
Oysters play a crucial role in maintaining the health of marine ecosystems; they filter water, provide homes for other creatures, and help stabilize sediments. Unfortunately, oyster populations have declined sharply in recent years due to overfishing, disease, and habitat loss.
Sad news for gourmets, perhaps, but the decline of oysters has severe consequences for the health of our oceans. To help replenish oyster populations, scientists are experimenting with using probiotics to promote the growth of baby oysters.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that can have beneficial effects on the health of their hosts. By adding probiotic bacteria to oyster larvae, scientists hope to make them more resistant to disease and better able to survive in polluted waters—giving these resilient creatures more time to do their part in keeping our oceans healthy.
6. Easier Trash Cleanup
There’s a lot of trash in the ocean—roughly 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic are currently in the water, and that number is only increasing.
This trash not only looks unsightly, but it’s also dangerous for marine life; animals often mistake it for food and either choke on it or become entangled in it, which can lead to injuries or death.
Thankfully, several new technologies are emerging that aim to make ocean trash cleanup easier, including autonomous boats equipped with nets and sensors that can identify and collect floating debris. It will still take a concerted effort to reduce the amount of trash entering the ocean in the first place, but these new technologies offer a promising way to clean up what’s already there.
The tech world often gets a bad rap for its negative impact on the environment. But as this list shows, there are plenty of ways that technology can be used to help protect our oceans. From drones that collect data to new probiotics for oysters, these innovations offer hope in the fight to keep our oceans clean and safe for everyone.