Oceans Resources - Ocean Minerals and Resources

Oceans are sources of a number of useful resources and as the resources available on the continents are being utilized at a high rate and the demand for various resources is increasing rapidly due to the ever-increasing population, in future, it is the oceans towards which mankind is going to look for supply of various types of resources.

The marine resources are of various types and they can be classified into the categories of food resources, mineral resources and energy resources.

Food Resources

Oceans are an important source of a number of food stuffs and it is believed that they can meet the food requirements of the mankind for a long time. Fish are the most important component of the food resources of the oceans. They constitute not only a major economic activity in a number of countries but also provide millions of tonnes of food. The most important fishing regions are the shallow sea areas of the temperate latitudes. Such shallow sea areas are often found on the submarine platforms called the banks. Grand Banks and Dogger Banks in the Atlantic Ocean are two such important fishing grounds. The leading countries of the world in terms of the fish catch are Japan, China, Norway and Peru. The areas of mixing of warm and cold currents in the oceans are the other important areas for fishing and the regions such as New Found-land coastal area are important due to this factor. The fishing in the tropical seas is less developed due to the climatic restraints. Fish being perishable, can not be stored for long in the tropical latitudes. However, these days with the advent of the refrigeration technology, this activity is picking up in tropical seas also.

Besides fish the oceans have a large potential of other food resources also such as plankton. However till now the fish are the most important marine food source utilized at the commercial scale. Other sources such as crabs and shrimps etc. are used in relatively small major. Utilization of the plankton resources has also made a beginning in countries like Japan but the level of utilization of this resource is rather low. However, it is believed that the dependence of mankind on the oceans as a source of food resources will increase in future and they will meet the increasingly large proportions of the protein requirements of the world.

Mineral Resources

Oceans are an important source of a number of minerals. The mineral resources of the marine regions occur in various forms, such as in solution in the water, as precipitates on the bottom and also below the ocean bed. The most important mineral resource obtained from the dissolved oceanic resources is the common salt. Bulk of the world requirements of the common salt are met from the seas. Tropical regions with high temperatures are the ideal areas for production of salt from the sea water. Besides common salt, a large number of minerals occur in the dissolved form in sea water. They include substances like chlorine, bromine and iodine. The sea water contains even the rare substances like uranium. Some of these resources are currently utilized. Bulk of the production of iodine in a number of countries including USA is obtained from this source. However, the level of utilization of these substances is rather low. Fresh water is a very important resource which can be obtained from the sea. It is already being done in a number of countries in the Middle East. However due to the lack of a sufficiently low cost technology, even this utilization of the sea water is being made only on a small scale. Development of a low cost technology is bound to increase the level of utilization of this marine resource in a number of water deficit areas.

The minerals found in the precipitated form include the deposits of substances such as iron, copper, aluminum and lime etc. in the marine deposits. Red clay found very extensively on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean is specially rich in iron. Besides these a large area of the ocean bed is covered by poly-metallic nodules. These nodules vary in size from vary small to a diameter of several centimeters and they contain a number of metals such as copper, manganese, iron and chromium etc. Due to a high proportion of manganese in these nodules, they are often called manganese nodules. Another term referring to these nodules is the potato ores, so called due to their irregular shape. It is estimated that the amount of various metals available in these nodules is enough to meet the global requirements for many centuries. However, at present these nodules are not being mined as it is a costly proposition in comparison to the cost of production of the minerals from the continental sources. However, in many areas, their utilization is contemplated if a suitable and low cost mining technology is developed.

Among the mineral resources found in the rocks of the ocean bed, the most important ones and currently utilized resources are the deposits of coal and oil. Most of the coal deposits occurring in the rocks of the sea bottom in fact are extensions of the coal deposits on land and they are being worked in a number of regions including the European region. The oil deposits occurring under the sea bed, in both shallow and deeper waters are being utilized most extensively the world over. Even in India, a large proportion of the domestic crude and gas production is being obtained from the marine areas such as Bombay High. Exploration and development of oil reserves in the oceanic areas is receiving a high priority.

Energy Resources

The energy resources of the oceans are almost as varied as the food and mineral resources. In fact some of the energy resources are the mineral resources and oil and coal reserves found in the rocks of the ocean beds are examples of these. As has been stated already they are among the most extensively used energy resources of the oceans. Besides these the waves and tides also hold a large potential of energy and both these sources are being used to varying levels in different parts of the world. France, USA, Canada and Japan are the leading countries who have developed the tidal and wave energy resources. In India also both these resources are being developed at an experimental basis. The project for harnessing the tidal energy has been developed in the Kutch region of Gujarat and a project for development of wave energy has been taken up in Kerala coastal region at Vizhingam.

Another very important source of energy in the oceans is the thermal gradient energy of the ocean waters. OTEC (Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion) is one of the potential areas in the field of energy. However, this source is a potential source and technology for harnessing this source is being perfected and the utilization is only in the early stages. A project to utilize the OTEC energy is coming up at the Tamilnadu coast.

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