The State of Our Seas: Fast Facts About Today’s Oceans

The ocean is much more than just our playground. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

The State of Our Seas: Fast Facts About Today’s Oceans

For many paddlers, the ocean is our sanctuary.

It gives us a place to escape the pressures of everyday life and connect with the forces of raw, natural energy. Whether riding a wave at Malibu, downwinding across a Hawaiian channel or paddling along a local coastline, the ocean provides us healing and joy like no other place. Beyond its recreational offerings, all paddlers and human beings rely on it for a livable ecosystem and a thriving global economy. Without it, humans simply wouldn’t be.

As a worldwide community unites to celebrate World Ocean Day, we put together a few key stats about the current state of our seas.

The ocean is filled with unique species worth protecting. This whale sharks spotted during a SUP mag staff downwinder on Maui’s historic Maliko Run is among them. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

The Good

The Bad

  • Sea level continues to rise at a rate of about one-eighth of an inch per year due to warmer ocean temperatures and melting ice.
  • 80% of all pollution in the seas comes from land-based activities.
  • Increased CO2 output has led to ocean acidification, causing coral structures to become weaker.
  • Coral bleaching–caused by increased water temperatures–has devastated more than 900 miles of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef since 2016.
  • Scientists estimate there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean.
  • 1.4 billion pounds of trash enter the ocean each year.
  • Industrial fishing has reduced the number of large ocean fish to just 10 percent of their pre-industrial population.
  • More than one-third of the shellfish-growing waters of the United States are adversely affected by coastal pollution.
  • Of the 29 million gallons of petroleum that enter North American ocean waters each year, 85% comes from land-based runoff.
We like it when the ocean takes on an oily sheen, just not when that sheen is actually oil. A paddler opts for clean line where the sheen is somewhere between. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

What can we do to help?

The National Ocean Service has a full list of solutions that each of us can use to prevent pollution from reaching the ocean. Check it out; there may be some easy ways for you to help improve the situation. Regarding the overfishing epidemic, we can help by making more responsible seafood choices. Visit for a full database of sustainable seafood and learn more about making better choices for the environment.

Earlier this year, Kai Lenny crossed all connected the islands of the Hawaiian chain in a Statewide Beach Cleanup to raise awareness for pollution in the islands. We thank him for that. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

Finally, take the time to educate yourself on issues that impact our oceans. Look to science-driven resources such as NOAA and the Marine Conservation Institute to make true assessments of the ocean’s state. And most importantly, when you make note an injustice involving the ocean, speak up and do what you can to take action against it. Because really, what would we—paddlers and humans—be without the ocean?

The article was originally published on Standup Paddling

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