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From the Winter 2012 Conservationist for Kids

An illustration of the marine food chain using a mako shark, bluefish,menhaden,plankton and sunlight

We Depend on Marine Waters

By Gina Jack

People depend upon and enjoy our marine waters in many ways:

A boy with a boogie board steps out into the surf

Food: We eat fish, shellfish, and seaweeds. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation inspects and certifies many kinds of fish and shellfish to make sure they are safe for people to eat.
Recreation: Many people participate in boating, fishing, swimming, wildlife viewing, picnicking and sightseeing on and near the ocean.
Transportation: Huge cargo ships carry goods around the world. Smaller ships carry people from place to place.
Climate: Ocean currents affect our climate. For those living close to coastal waters, winters aren't as cold and summers aren't as hot compared to their inland neighbors.
Oxygen Production: Phytoplankton-the microscopic plants in the upper level of the ocean-produce their own food through photosynthesis, as land-based plants do. During this process, they release the oxygen we depend upon. More than 50% of the oxygen in our atmosphere is produced in the world's oceans.

A New York Marine Food Chain

Animals get energy from the food they eat. A food chain shows how energy flows from one organism to the next.

Sunlight > Plankton > Menhaden > Bluefish > Mako

Where do people fit? We eat everything in this food chain, except plankton and sunlight. Though plankton may not be important to people at first glance, it's essential in marine ecosystems that we depend upon. It's the foundation of the food chain-food for many different animals. Phytoplankton (plants) are a major producer of oxygen worldwide.