by Barb Eller
I spend a few months of the summer in Ohio. Usually I work at New Wave Dive Center teaching scuba diving and helping out other instructors when needed. This summer Rod, the owner of the shop, signed himself and me up for "Kids College." The local Community College was putting on a week of fun classes for boys and girls from first to eighth grade. They could choose from a list of classes such as cake baking, dog training, dinosaurs, brain games, cooking, art, and many more. Our class was "Oceans Alive."
We talked about how the oceans, the fish, and coral reefs affect our life on land. It's amazing that more than 70% of our earth is covered by water and how little we really know about our oceans and what lives there. The information I found as I was doing my research for this class was amazing—actually overwhelming at times. I would like to share some of my findings with you.
Oceans provide billions of homes to billions of organisms. Without these marine creatures the human race would fail. For example, statistics state that the coral reefs will be completely destroyed within 50 years from now. If that occurs, numerous other marine species will also be killed. If those species become extinct, then land creatures that prey on them will also become extinct. The food chain continues until it finally reaches humans. Man cannot live without the oceans but the oceans can survive without man.
So, other than food, what do we get from the ocean? With less than 10% of the oceans explored, researchers are just beginning to discover how useful ocean life really is. They are finding many biomedical compounds including anti-cancer agents, anti-HIV agents and antibiotics. A coral, porites, is being experimented with to repair human bone. The structure of this coral is close to human bone, so nerves and blood vessels can grow through it as the bone mends, then is absorbed into the body. Fish such as eel, shark, skate, and many others are also being studied to help fight infections, vision loss, bacterial contamination, Alzheimer's disease, pain in cancer patients, and more.
Man needs coral reefs to survive and the reefs are dying. We don't think about how our daily habits affect life in the oceans. Deforestation, mining, and poor land use cause erosion and sedimentation that cover the reefs. Chemical fertilizers and parking lots with runoff oil and other fluids poison fish and their reef. The fact is that of the 5 million tons of oil that enters the oceans each year, spills from tankers and oil platforms account for only about 5% of the total. Twice that amount comes from sewage treatment plants, like the one down the street from you. We need to start thinking and changing the way we live.
OK, enough lecturing; I get carried away when it comes to caring for our oceans.
We did have lots of fun in the class. There were videos on whales, fish behavior, how coral grow and what gives them color, and, of course, we had to watch one on sharks. Rod went on a trip to Fiji and did a shark dive that was recorded, so we watched as the shark swam around them and were fed. Rod brought in a container full of sharks' teeth he collected while diving off North Carolina and everyone got to take some teeth home with them. We talked about scuba diving and everyone tried on some scuba gear. I showed pieces of coral and sponge that washed up onto our beach in Mahahual. Of course, these pieces were dead so I also had photos of how they looked when living on the ocean floor. On the last day we all made fish windsocks; each one was a "new species" of fish never seen before.
It was a great week where we all not only had lots of fun but learned something too. I think I learned as much as our "students" and there were times when I was the "student," which was fine because I love learning.
Until next time ...