Renewable Resources

October 7, 2006
By Damond Benningfield

The oceans are like big pantries. Every year, people harvest around 80 million tons of marine organisms from them. If this harvest is managed properly, the oceans can continue to feed us year after year after year.

If managed properly, life in the oceans is a renewable resource. Photo: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / Department of Commerce

That’s because life in the oceans is a renewable resource. Unlike oil or other mineral resources, which come in limited supplies, ocean life renews itself.

The oceans contain a staggering variety and quantity of life - far more life than on the land. That’s especially true along the coastlines; cold, nutrient-rich water from the bottom pushes up near the surface, where there’s more energy from sunlight. This combination produces an explosion of life.

But maintaining the oceans’ resources is a challenge. More than 70 percent of coastal and deep-sea fisheries are being fished out. At the same time, other species suffer because their members are caught accidentally and then discarded. In fact, 82 marine species are at risk of extinction in North America alone. Coastal population growth and pollution also contribute to the demise of coastal fisheries.

Several international laws limit how much fish can be taken from given areas each year. Others restrict the types of equipment that can be used by commercial fishing operations. These restrictions may help ease the pressure on coastal fisheries, allowing them to continue to supply the world’s population for centuries to come.

copyright: Damond Benningfield