AWS Public Sector Blog

Four reasons why you should care about the ocean in 2018

The health of our oceans is vital to a sustainable future on Earth. However, due to the impact of climate change and other damaging human interactions, such as overfishing and land-based pollution, our oceans are in danger of failing to perform their critical functions.

World leaders, international NGOs, educational institutions, government agencies, and individuals are all sounding the alarm on this global issue. Below are just a few of the many reasons why we should do more than just listen. 2018 is the year of ocean action and AWS, along with nonprofit organizations dedicated to this cause, are employing innovative technologies to help tackle this challenge.

More than three billion people depend on the ocean for food.

Ocean Conservancy understands that that a dramatic change in any one variable of the ocean could wipe out an entire marine population, erasing a vital source of protein as well as the economic livelihoods of many of the planet’s poorest. That is why they are utilizing big data and sophisticated modeling run on AWS to better understand the risk factors and possible interventions to prevent a catastrophic failure in the ocean’s ability to provide essential services to humanity.

Ocean Conservancy’s CEO Andreas Merkl shares more about how data and AWS High Performance Computing have transformed their response, providing insights into the health of our oceans.

Oceans regulate our climate. 

The ocean absorbs approximately 50% of the carbon dioxide produced by humans. At the same time that it protects us from climate change, it is also vulnerable to it. We rely on the ocean to absorb carbon pollution, but it can only absorb so much. The ocean is already experiencing adverse impacts from these emissions, such as ocean acidification, warming, and the emergence of extreme weather events.

To collect vital data on the health and status of our oceans, Blue Water Metrics will equip marine vessels with advanced oceanographic sensors that will transmit ocean data to their database. Blue Water Metrics is in the process of developing cloud-based software that will house this data, making it available to researchers, scientists, and other stakeholders to access in one location. This approach will help to eliminate information silos across industries and better identify a corrective course of action. With AWS at the center, Blue Water Metrics will engage both industry and conservation around a common goal.

Oceans are home to nearly a million species, though only a quarter have been formally identified.

Coral reefs are home to 25% of marine species. They are also critical in protecting shorelines as well as supporting the fishing industry, medical researchers, and tourists. However, coral bleaching is one of the ways in which the marine environment is already feeling the impact of climate change. Coral bleaching occurs when water gets too warm, causing coral to turn white and expel the algae living in their tissue. Although the coral does not die immediately, if the stress is prolonged, it will not be able to recover.

To help us better connect with the ocean and the amazing species that live within (and nature more broadly), the nonprofit has created the world’s largest network of live nature and wildlife cameras, with over 130 streaming around the globe. The streams are ingested and processed on AWS. See a coral reef habitat in action via’s live feed of the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA.

Oceans cover three quarters of the Earth’s surface, and approximately 44% of the world’s population lives within 93 miles of the ocean.

Ocean governance spans beyond national borders. Progress on maintaining and improving the health of our oceans will require cooperation among multiple partners and stakeholders. Conservation International is dedicated to equipping those decision-makers with evidence-based tools to weigh the benefits and consequences of decisions regarding the ocean.

A collaborative initiative of Conservational International and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), the Ocean Health Index is the first scientific assessment tool to comprehensively measure and track the health of the world’s oceans. It combines the best available physical, biological, economic, and social information from over a hundred sources into scores that can be used by decision-makers. It does this using transparent and repeatable data science methods.

The Ocean Health Index is used both regionally and at a global scale to inform policymakers regarding the sustainable and productive use of the ocean. By using the interactive map, you can see how your region is performing in the areas of coastal protection, clean water, carbon storage, food provision, and other categories. The Index provides year-to-year comparisons of these different factors to provide stakeholders with the most up-to-date information regarding ocean health.

Inspired by these organizations’ innovative approaches to conservation? Get started with AWS services that can help you scale to solve ocean-scale problems.