Understanding the Threats to Our Marine Ecosystems

The Heinrich Böll Foundation published the Ocean Atlas 2017. Get informed now.

by Maggie Koontz, January 4, 2018

The Ocean Atlas is an updated guide on how our lives are currently affecting the ocean and what might happen in the future. It includes the benefits of the ocean and how it helps us, but it also discusses how humans are quickly destroying this natural resource.

The ocean plays an important role in our lives for travel, transport and regulating climate. This atlas highlights some of the work that the ocean does for us that we may not even be aware of and it does that so that people might be educated about this huge body of water.

The true purpose of this atlas is to teach others so that they will be more inclined to protect the ocean whether that is through political activism or intelligent discussion. The ocean is vital for humanity’s survival and we must fight to protect it.

In the atlas, you will find sections about different problems that the ocean is facing:


  • Overfishing: Fisheries are overused and areas of the ocean are being overfished, legally and illegally, which hurts local fishermen and native species.
  • Fish Farms: Although fish farms were supposed to be the solution to the high demand of seafood, they are harmful to the environment and don't reduce overfishing.
  • Fertilizer: Run-off that contains fertilizer causes algae to grow on the surface of the water which leads to dead zones in the ocean underneath it because of a lack of sunlight.
  • Garbage: More than just your everyday trash is being thrown into the ocean which has detrimental effects on marine life.
  • (Micro)Plastic: A huge amount of plastic ends up in the ocean and over time, it becomes microplastic which is impossible to remove from the ocean and marine life often mistakes it for food.
  • Loss of Diversity: Native species are being eradicated by loss of habitat and because of invasive species.
  • Climate Change: The ocean helps control climate change by absorbing a lot of carbon dioxide, but there are some negative effects such as acidification and increased temperature.
  • Sea Level is Rising: Because the water is becoming warmer, the sea levels are rising as the ice melts.
  • Coastal Cities: Much of the population lives on the coast and these cities face a variety of threats such as the rising sea levels and natural disasters.
  • Acidic Water: The more carbon dioxide the ocean absorbs, the more acidic it becomes, resulting in a change of pH and the death of marine life.
  • Exploitation: Very little of the ocean is protected and this has led to a loss of biodiversity and lower populations.
  • Ownership: There is a lot of conflict among countries about owning certain parts of the ocean for resources, but this only fosters exploitation.
  • Greed: Countries are eager to find resources that the ocean has because it is cheaper and easier than looking on land, but the mining in the ocean destroys habitats.
  • Renewable Energy: The ocean and its surrounding area could be used as a source of renewable energy, but many still choose the damaging nonrenewable energy sources.
  • Tourism: Tourism via cruise ship pollutes the ocean and places a burden on the native people of the coastal cities that are visited.
  • International Shipping: Anything can be transported over the ocean nowadays, but since laws aren't that strict, companies are essentially using slave labor and often have horrible conditions on the ship.
  • Cohabitation: To live sustainably with the ocean, compromises must be made for the sake of the environment.
  • Activism: The ocean doesn't have a voice, but we do. Use it.

If you are working on environmental issue, or would like to take part in the political discussion or even start something yourself, check out the full Ocean Atlas here.

Originally published June 8, 2017