The ocean has some of the most plentiful and untapped natural resources still left on Earth. In addition to the billions of fish and other edible animals harvested each year, there are plenty of other products from the ocean that make it a prime spot for all sorts of activities, including dwelling, aquaculture and mining. With improvements in technology, these resources are now only becoming capable of being reached. However, in reaching these resources, there are also a number of challenges.
Human beings have used the oceans throughout recorded history. For thousands of years, since before history began being recorded, man has used the ocean for food, transportation and commerce. As more discoveries are made, it has become clear that man's use of the ocean in prehistorical times was more extensive than anyone ever imagined possible, opening up the possibility of commerce, fishing and other commercial exploits.
The ocean functions as the lifeline for the entire world. It stabilizes the atmosphere, provides sustenance for all the Earth's creatures and facilitates commerce between nations. As such, the products from the ocean not only include the tangible things we see but also the invaluable services we do not see.
The products of the ocean are varied and plentiful. From food to energy, it is all there for the taking. The key is being at the right place at the right time and knowing how to get at these products. For example, fishermen study the patterns of fish to anticipate where they will be. Oil companies do extensive studies of the ocean floor and underneath the ocean to determine where the best place to drill would be.
Because the oceans take up nearly 75 percent of the Earth's surface, they are prime locations for harvesting natural resources. In fact, sometimes the resources may seem limitless. Consider the fact that 86 million tons of fish are harvested, on average, from the ocean each year. For more information, see the resources below.
Despite what it may seem, however, the ocean's resources are not limitless. They do have a point at which harvesting, or exploitation, can lead to severe depletion hardship of natural species. Thus, while the ocean can provide products invaluable to the human species, it also must be protected, and those resources conserved and harvested at a sustainable rate.
The products in the ocean can be substantially harmed in a number of different ways. Exploitation in a non-sustainable way can harm the oceans' ability to provide. Pollution, either through unintentional spills or purposeful dumping, is harmful to the oceans, especially on a local, but significant, scale.
To mitigate these dangers, many of the world's foremost biologists and environmentalists are working together for solutions that will help maintain the sustainability of the ocean's resources. Though there is still much disagreement about the problem and solutions, one thing is clear: People are concerned. However, because the ocean and its resources are shared by all people, any solution must have broad international support.