Marine Resources – UPSC World Geography Notes

This article provides insights into Marine Resources, covering both Biotic and Abiotic elements, specifically focusing on marine mineral resources. The content delves into the Earth’s structural composition, making it relevant for UPSC Geography enthusiasts.

Ocean Resources

Earth’s oceans stand as one of its most precious natural assets, offering sustenance in the form of fish and shellfish, with an annual catch reaching approximately 200 billion pounds.

The significance of ocean resources extends beyond mere sustenance, providing employment opportunities, essential goods, and services to billions globally, thereby holding substantial economic value. These resources encompass a diverse array, including food, fuel, renewable energy, minerals, sand and gravel, and tourism.

The ocean is actively exploited for its mineral wealth, with salt, sand, gravel, and various valuable elements such as manganese, copper, nickel, iron, and cobalt found in the deep sea. Additionally, it serves as a crucial source for crude oil through drilling operations.

The ocean performs a vital function by extracting carbon from the atmosphere and supplying oxygen, serving as a crucial regulator of Earth’s climate.

Ocean resources are generally categorized into two main groups:

Biotic Resources:

  • Planktons
  • Nektons
  • Benthos

Abiotic Resources:

  • Minerals
  • Energy

Biotic Resources

“Biotic” refers to living organisms, while “Abiotic” pertains to nonliving elements. Within the realm of ocean resources, biotic components encompass a variety of life forms such as fishes, crustaceans, mollusks, corals, reptiles, mammals, and more.


Plankton constitute a diverse array of organisms present in water, lacking the ability to move against a current.

Phytoplankton, comprising floating and drifting microplants, are autotrophs, including examples such as algae and diatoms. On the other hand, zooplankton consists of floating and drifting microanimals.


Nekton, also known as swimmers, refers to living organisms capable of independent swimming at different depths in seas and oceans.

Nektons include:

  • Fishes
    • Pelagic
    • Demersal
  • Mammals
    • Dolphin
    • Blue whale

Pelagic fish inhabit the pelagic zone of ocean or lake waters, residing neither in proximity to the bottom nor near the shore.

Demersal fish, on the other hand, live either on or close to the bottom.


Benthos refers to the collective organisms residing on, in, or in close proximity to the seabed, constituting the benthic zone. This community spans from tidal pools along the foreshore to the continental shelf and extends down to the abyssal depths.

Benthos can be categorized as:

  • Mobile
  • Immobile

Mineral Reserves

  • Minerals in solution within seawater
  • Deposits on the continental shelf and slope
  • Deposits on the deep ocean floor

Minerals in solution within seawater

  • Salt
  • Bromine
  • Magnesium
  • Gold
  • Zinc
  • Uranium
  • Thorium

Deposits on the continental shelf and slope

  • Sulfur is associated with marine volcanism (e.g., Gulf of Mexico is a rich source).
  • Magnetite reserves are found along the circum-Pacific volcanic belt.
  • Monazite sand, a source of thorium, is present on the Kerala coast.
  • Gold is abundant in Alaska.
  • Zircon deposits are found in Brazil and Australia.
  • Diamonds are sourced from South Africa.
  • The Peruvian coast has rich deposits of calcium and phosphate.
  • Sand and gravel, significant building materials, are widely found on the beds of continental shelves.
  • Fishes are rich in nitrate and phosphate, offering high protein content with medicinal uses.
  • Pearls are among the diverse marine resources.

Deposits on the deep ocean floor

  • Manganese nodules consist of various minerals such as nickel, copper, cobalt, lead, zinc, etc.
  • They contain a significant proportion of iron and manganese.
  • Cobalt-rich marine deposits are linked to seamounts and guyots.
  • Phosphate is found in the form of phosphoritic modules on shallow seabeds.
  • Polymetallic nodules are rounded formations comprised of manganese and iron hydroxides, covering extensive areas of the seafloor, with the highest abundance observed on abyssal plains.

Energy reserves

  • Renewable
    • OTEC
    • Wave
    • Tidal
    • Wind
  • Non-Renewable
    • Gas hydrates
    • Mineral oil
    • Natural gas

Ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC)

  • Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) harnesses the temperature contrast between cooler deep seawater and warmer shallow or surface seawater to operate a heat engine, generating useful work, often in the form of electricity.
  • Despite its potential, the small temperature differential poses a challenge to OTEC’s economic feasibility due to its low thermal efficiency.

Wave Energy

  • The generation of wave energy occurs by situating electricity generators on the ocean’s surface. This energy is predominantly utilized in desalination plants, power plants, and water pumps. The amount of energy produced is influenced by factors such as wave height, wave speed, wavelength, and water density.

Tidal Energy

  • Tidal energy is generated using tidal energy generators, which involve the installation of large underwater turbines in regions characterized by substantial tidal movements. These turbines are specifically designed to harness the kinetic energy from ocean tides and convert it into electricity.

Offshore Wind Energy

  • Offshore wind power, also known as offshore wind energy, involves the establishment of wind farms in water bodies to generate electricity from wind. The higher wind speeds offshore, as opposed to on land, contribute to a greater electricity output from offshore wind power installations.

Blue Economy

The concept was first introduced by Gunter Pauli in his 2010 book, “The Blue Economy: 10 years, 100 innovations, 100 million jobs.” It focuses on the sustainable utilization of ocean resources to promote economic growth, enhance livelihoods, foster job creation, and maintain the health of ocean ecosystems.

The Blue Economy advocates for eco-friendly ocean development strategies to increase productivity and conserve the health of the ocean. It encompasses several key areas:

  1. Renewable Energy: Sustainable marine energy is crucial for social and economic development.
  2. Fisheries: Sustainable fisheries can generate increased revenue, enhance fish populations, and contribute to the restoration of fish stocks.
  3. Maritime Transport: Over 80% of international goods are transported by sea.
  4. Tourism: Ocean and coastal tourism have the potential to create jobs and stimulate economic growth.
  5. Climate Change: Oceans serve as vital carbon sinks (blue carbon) and play a role in mitigating climate change.
  6. Waste Management: Improved waste management on land is essential for the recovery of oceans.

The Blue Economy underscores the integration of ocean economic development with social inclusion, environmental sustainability, and an innovative business model. This philosophy aligns with Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14), which emphasizes the need to conserve and sustainably use oceans, seas, and marine resources for overall sustainable development.

Need for Blue Economy

  • Oceans cover 75% of Earth’s surface, containing 97% of its water and representing 99% of the planet’s habitable area.
  • Oceans safeguard biodiversity, regulate global temperature, and absorb approximately 30% of worldwide CO2 emissions.
  • 3-5% of the global GDP is associated with ocean-related activities.
  • The blue economy, focusing on sustainable ocean use, has significant potential for economic growth, offering opportunities for income generation and job creation.
  • It can contribute to food security and diversification, exploring new resources for energy, valuable drugs, chemicals, protein-rich food, deep-sea minerals, and security.
  • Referred to as the “next sunrise sector,” the blue economy signifies promising prospects for future growth and development.


The challenges in the maritime domain include:

  • Sea-Borne Threats: This encompasses piracy, armed robbery, maritime terrorism, and the illicit trade of crude oil, arms, drugs, and human trafficking, along with contraband smuggling.
  • Natural Disasters: Annually, tsunamis, cyclones, hurricanes, and typhoons strand thousands of people and cause the destruction of millions of dollars’ worth of property.
  • Man-Made Issues: Oil spills and climate change pose ongoing risks to the stability of the maritime domain.
  • Impact of Climate Change: Changes in sea temperature and acidity pose threats to marine life, habitats, and the communities reliant on them.
  • Marine Pollution: Excess nutrients from untreated sewage, agricultural runoff, and marine debris, including plastics, contribute to environmental degradation.
  • Overexploitation of Marine Resources: The illegal, unreported, and unregulated extraction of marine resources adds to the challenges faced in sustaining marine ecosystems.

Blue Economy for India

  • The blue economy provides India with a unique opportunity to achieve national socio-economic objectives and enhance connectivity with neighboring countries.
  • It can contribute to livelihood generation, energy security, ecological resilience, and improved health and living standards for coastal communities.
  • Alignment with the Indian government’s SDG efforts, particularly in eradicating hunger and poverty, is a key aspect of the blue economy’s potential impact by 2030.
  • India’s extensive coastline of 7,517 km and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 2.02 million sq. km offer a significant platform for blue economy initiatives.
  • The marine services sector, as a cornerstone of the blue economy, has the potential to propel India toward its goal of becoming a 5 trillion-dollar economy by 2025.
  • The Indian Ocean, a major trade conduit, handles approximately 80% of the global oil trade.
  • Enhanced connectivity in the region can substantially reduce transport costs and maritime resource wastage, fostering sustainable and cost-effective trade.

Developments Initiated by India

  • The Sagarmala project strategically utilizes IT-enabled services to facilitate port-led development and modernization.
  • Objectives of the project include the development of inland waterways and coastal shipping to revolutionize maritime logistics, generate millions of new jobs, and reduce logistics costs.
  • The project emphasizes the sustainable use of ocean resources, modern fishing techniques, and coastal tourism to enhance the development of coastal communities and their residents.
  • O-SMART, an umbrella scheme in India, is dedicated to the regulated use of oceans and marine resources for sustainable development.
  • Integrated Coastal Zone Management focuses on conserving coastal and marine resources while enhancing livelihood opportunities for coastal communities.
  • Development of Coastal Economic Zones (CEZ) under Sagarmala aims to create a microcosm of the blue economy, where sea-dependent industries and townships contribute to global trade.
  • India’s National Fisheries policy promotes the ‘Blue Growth Initiative,’ concentrating on the sustainable utilization of fisheries wealth from marine and other aquatic resources.

FAQs on Marine Resources

Q1. What is the primary origin of minerals in the ocean?

Ans. The oceans harbor a wealth of valuable resources, including sand, gravel, oil, and gas, extracted over numerous years. Moreover, minerals carried by erosion from continents to coastal regions are mined from the shallow shelf and beach areas.

Q2. What characterizes Marine Minerals?

Ans. Marine mineral resources are deposits of minerals that develop at or beneath the seabed, offering the potential for extracting metals, minerals, elements, or aggregates as valuable resources.

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