Oceans constitute major reservoirs of biodiversity similar to the biodiversity in tropical rain forests and coral reefs. There is a wealth of diverse oceanic habitats, including seamounts, hydrothermal vents, cold seeps, submarine canyons, abyssal plains, oceanic trenches and asphalt volcanoes. The oceans contain a wide assortment of ecosystems and endemic species. Although the magnitude of oceanic diversity is has not been studied intensively because only a miniscule proportion of the ocean seabed has been investigated, scientists estimate that the number of species may be in the order of several million. It is thought that the deep ocean floor supports more species than all other marine environments. However, aquatic biodiversity and ecosystems are threatened by fishing, pollution, shipping, military activities and climate change. As new fishing technologies and markets for fish products expand, fishing vessels are capable of harvesting these diverse ecosystems.
Deep Sea Fishing
The prime concern in the deep ocean is bottom trawling. This form of oceanic fishing damages seamounts and associated coldwater corals. Several bottom dwelling fish species exist in coldwater coral habitats. They include the spawning and feeding grounds for species such as marine mammals, sharks and tuna that make them very attractive fishing grounds. The long life cycles and slow maturation of deep-sea fish make them vulnerable to large-scale fishing activities. Moreover, the lack of scientific information about deep-sea ecosystems and biodiversity makes it impossible to predict the impact of human activities. Certainly, current levels of bottom trawling in the oceans is probably not sustainable and may not be sustainable at significantly reduced levels.
Management measures for deep-sea fisheries and biodiversity need to be implemented. Conservation of marine ecosystems has been extended to the deep sea commencing with the 2003 designation of the Juan de Fuca Ridge system and associated Endeavour Hydrothermal Vents south of Vancouver Island in Canada as a marine protected area. There are several instruments which may be drawn upon in order to protect deep oceanic regions, including the 1982 UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA), 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), among others. These authorities require implementation measures in order to properly conserve deep-sea ecosystems on a sustainable basis.
In coastal areas, mangroves and other wetlands provide shoreline stability, reducing erosion, catching sediments, toxins and nutrients, and providing wind and wave breaks and buffers against storms. Inland wetlands store water and regulate stream flow due to their vegetative structure that maintains soil structure and their gentle slopes.
In coastal ecosystems, restoring mangroves in hurricane-prone areas increases protection from storms, creates a reservoir for carbon sequestration and increases economic options by generating income for local communities. Communities hit by the 2004 Southeast Asian tsunami reported less damage in areas with healthy mangrove forests compared to those lacking natural sea defenses. India recognizes the value of the Sunderbans mangrove forest in the Gulf of Bengal as a source of revenue for fishing communities, but also as a means of coastal protection. Viet Nam is restoring its mangrove forest as a method of coastal protection. Similar benefits can be derived from coral reefs