OCEAN BLUE Importance of the Sea

Importance of the Sea

Oceans, seas, islands and coastal areas form an integrated and essential component of the Earth's ecosystem and are critical for global food security and for sustaining economic prosperity and well-being of many national economies, particularly in developing countries.[1]

THE enormous size, diversity and complexity of the marine environment over which Ireland claims jurisdiction presents government and civil society with many challenges regarding its protection and management.

In order to responsibly and effectively manage the health of the marine environment, we must first understand its character and recognise that "the environment" is not itself an entity that we can manage — it is a dynamic and diverse system that changes naturally, heedless of our desire to manipulate and control its behaviour. Only the impact of human influence on the marine environment can be managed, and that usually requires us to modify our behaviour.

In the marine environment, everything interconnects

The marine environment is a complex entity comprising distinct but interconnected components, many of which are of enormous physical dimension: the coastline, seabed, its subsoil, the water column, sea surface and overlying atmosphere, the abundance and variety of marine life, habitats and ecosystems[2] within the marine environment, the substances, energy, objects and constructions we introduce to it, and the human activities that take place on, in, over and around it.

Oceans and seas cover over 70 per cent of the Earth's surface. They have a large influence on global heat transport and precipitation (climate and weather patterns). They provide a large proportion of the oxygen we breathe and are a major source of biodiversity[3] and natural resources.

The protection and management of the natural resource base are of fundamental importance to achieving ecologically sustainable economic and social development. Nearly one billion people worldwide already rely on oceans and seas as a major source of nutrition. This dependence will continue to grow as human populations increase. The degradation of the oceans and seas seriously threatens food security and the eradication of poverty across the globe.

In addition to food, oceans and seas provide us with a wide variety of goods, services and other benefits, including oil and gas, renewable energy generation potential, transportation corridors and recreational opportunities.

A healthy society depends on healthy seas and coasts.


1. Paragraph 29, Plan of Implementation, World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, September 2002.

2. The 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (Article 2) defines "ecosystem" as a dynamic complex of plant, animal and micro-organism communities and their non-living environment interacting as a functional unit.

3. The 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (Article 2) defines "biodiversity" (biological diversity) as the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part: this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.