On this Earth Day, take a moment to appreciate the vastness and intricacies of our world’s oceans. Allow yourself to be mesmerized by the swirling currents continuously circulating the globe. It is amazing that science can meticulously catalog natural systems and present them to those without the ability to see what our Earth looks like from space. What this stunning NASA visualization does not show, are the numerous challenges facing the oceans such as overfishing, ocean acidification, oil spill contamination and plastic waste. While these challenges are largely hidden beneath the waves, increasing awareness, education, scientific research and advocacy have illuminated them. These challenges impact not only the fish and other creatures that live in the ocean, but the billions of people worldwide who depend on clean, healthy oceans for food and eco-tourism.
Fortunately, a growing momentum to save our oceans is emanating from all corners of the world as people see the value and imminent need to preserve marine resources for future generations. The World Bank announced a Global Partnership for Oceans last February 2012, which brings together governments, international organizations, civil society groups and members of the private sector with the common goal of assembling knowledge and financial resources to solve the threats facing ocean health and productivity. This partnership represents a concrete collaboration between global stakeholders to restore the oceans to health, and we are proud to be a part of this effort.
Here at EDF Oceans, we are working hard to conduct on the ground work with scientists, fishermen, governments and non-profits to ensure that there will be fish for future generations to enjoy. One project we have launched in the past year is a partnership with Rare and University of California, Santa Barbara, called “Fish Forever” which will “equip hundreds of coastal communities with the ability to boost the productivity of their fisheries while protecting the natural resources upon which they depend.” Our skills combined produce a unique and scalable model for coastal communities around the world by empowering local fishermen to protect their ocean resources from illegal fishing and overexploitation. We are proud to partner with Rare and UCSB and look forward to continued collaboration and hard work to ensure a sizeable increase in sustainably managed fisheries around the world in the next five years.
There is hope for the oceans. Restoring them to clean, abundant waters will take years of research, hard work and dedication from stakeholders globally, but if we all take part in this marine awareness revolution this goal will become a reality.
Stetson Bank Coral and Sponges. Photo credit: Frank and Joyce Burek
No matter what happens at the polls today, the ocean and the fish that live in it will still require our attention and conservation efforts. With all the politics and rhetoric circulating throughout the media, the fact that oceans and other vital ecosystems provide invaluable resources and benefits to the billions of people on this planet tends to go unnoticed. Even worse, there is a tendency to paint the environment as a partisan issue, when regardless of your political beliefs—ensuring we have a healthy natural world is essential to your survival and happiness for the future.
The oceans cover 71% of the Earth’s surface and contain 97% of the world’s water. An estimated 20,000 species of marine fish swim beneath the largely unexplored waters, along with complex plant and animal life including coral reefs, sea grasses, whales and sharks. Billions of people globally depend on fish as their primary source of protein, and the economic value of fishing for their livelihood. Many of these people live in poor, undeveloped countries and will rely more heavily on the ocean as populations increase and global warming impacts their ability to cultivate food on land. The reality of our global dependence on the ecosystem services that the ocean provides becomes more evident with studies such one which recently came out in Science, citing that 80% of the world’s un-assessed fisheries are in worse shape than previously thought. But there is hope if we act now to align the right incentives and increase the economic value of fisheries, while putting fishermen at the forefront of conservation. Ensuring that the world’s fish stocks are replenished is a human imperative, not a political talking point. Read More »
A spawning aggregation of the bigeye trevally, Caranx sexfasciatus, Cabo Pulmo National Park, Mexico. Photo Credit: Octavio Aburto-Oropeza/Marine Photobank
“Unleashing the self-interest of local fishermen to advance both conservation and economic development can create one of those rare win-win scenarios.” This powerful quote from a recent op-ed, beautifully describes what is at the core of EDF’s mission to save fisheries.
The authors of that op-ed, Carl Safina, founding president of the Blue Ocean Institute at Stony Brook University, and Brett Jenks, chief executive of Rare, called attention to both the global depletion of fisheries AND the solution. They discuss how despite growing concern about the dire state of global fish populations, there is hope to rebuild them. “Why are we hopeful? They write, “It’s because the analysis of global fisheries has a silver lining. We have not reached a point of no return. We have time. Solutions exist.”
They draw from the first comprehensive analysis of more than 10,000 fisheries in the journal Science which finds that, "When sustainably managed, marine fisheries provide food and livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people worldwide.” Fisheries and food security for future generations are a challenge that we believe can be solved by partnering with fishermen to find common solutions, but we must act now.
The United States has made great progress in fisheries management. Almost two-thirds of fish landed in the United States are done so under a catch share. However, the United States is just one piece of the puzzle, Safina and Jenks point out that, “small-scale fishers — who fish within 10 miles of their coast — account for nearly half of the world’s global catch and employ 33 million of the world’s 36 million fishermen, while also creating jobs for 107 million people in fish processing and selling [pdf]. Mostly poor, they live mainly in areas lacking fisheries management, monitoring and enforcement.” Read More »