Humans get many things from the oceans such as seafood, medicines, oil and even diamonds. However, ocean resources are more dilute, harder to reach and more difficult to recover. The resources obtained from the ocean can be classified in one of two categories: Living resources and non-living resources.
How many different kinds of seafood have you tasted? Have you tasted tuna, shrimp, seaweed, flounder, herring, sardines, cod, lobster, clams, or oysters? These are just a few of the living resources that humans use from the ocean. In those examples, the resource was obtained to use for food. 4% of human food comes from the sea. There are fisheries located all along the world’s coasts. There are specific areas that are used because the waters contain high levels of nutrients and plankton which yield healthy fish. However, over-fishing has become a problem and fish are caught faster than they can reproduce. If the fisheries are not used wisely, certain species of fish may be lost forever.
“Just six species make up the majority of fishes harvested for eating: herring, sardine, anchovy, cod, pollack, and mackerel.”
Other products are also obtained from living ocean resources. Humans harvest ocean organisms for many other purposes besides food. For example, algae have a gelatin like texture that is utilized in many household products. Algae are ideal for detergents, paints, ice cream, shampoos, and cosmetics. Diatoms are small organisms that are used as abrasives in toothpastes and polishes.
Also, some organisms have special adaptations that can be beneficial for humans. Humans examine the chemical makeup of plants and animals in the oceans to develop a guideline for developing new drugs. Chemists may extract substances from organisms. Biologists and pharmaceutical specialists test and purify the substances and researchers perform clinical trials to test the substances.
Outside of the living organisms, there are numerous nonliving resources in the ocean. The most obvious being water. There are several methods of desalination that can be used to obtain freshwater from salt water. Furthermore, the salt and magnesium that are left behind from this process can be valuable resources as well. Other mineral can precipitate from seawater as well. These minerals include manganese and phosphorus.
There are also many resources found within the ocean floor. Many minerals can be found within the continental shelf and the deep ocean floor. High organic activity occurs in the water above the continental shelf and sediment accumulates on the ocean floor. The continental shelf contains several resources such as oil, phosphorite, manganese, gold, tin, diamonds, and titanium.
Deep water deposits are found along mid-ocean ridges where superheated water is released into the ocean. Mineral deposits form producing concentrations of sulfur, iron, copper, zinc, and silver. Metals such as manganese also accumulate on the ocean floor and concentrate around pieces of shell to form black lumps called nodules. However, these nodules are often found in waters as deep as 5,000 meters which makes gathering them difficult.
Natural gas and oil are also considered ocean resources. As marine organisms die, their remains sink to the bottom of the ocean and become buried by sediment. As the sediment accumulates, the remains decompose and the heat and pressure from the layers of sediment gradually transforms the remains into oil and natural gas. This process takes thousands of years. Oil rigs drill into the continental shelf to obtain these fuels. However, the most profitable resource recovered from the ocean is sand and gravel. Who would have imagined that?