Our ocean is the beating heart of our planet; its home to an unbelievable range of wildlife and supports us, as well as our way of life and our industries (and thousands of jobs and economies too). Our oceans produce most of our oxygen and capture the majority of heat energy as well as a significant amount of our CO2, they’re essential in the fight against climate change.
The impacts of climate change, coupled with pollution and destructive marine industries places increasing pressure on our ocean’s ecosystems and is jeopardising their future. The interaction between these forces is currently unsustainable and will lead to significant loss if we fail to intervene. Our coastal habitats, like seagrass meadows, saltmarshes and kelp forests store carbon, and provide direct benefits like coastal defences, improved water quality and recreational and health benefits. These coastal ecosystems also play a critical role in absorbing and storing carbon from the atmosphere but their continued loss and degradation undermines their ability to provide these vital services.
The ocean has an exponential role in influencing the World’s climate. Marine habitats capture up to 20 times more carbon per hectare than forests on land but they are currently under two main stresses; their natural response to changing conditions as temperatures and sea levels rise, as well as habitat destruction, for development or due to fishing. If fully restored, our coastal ecosystems could capture almost a third of the UK’s emissions, preventing the loss of over 40 millions of tons of CO2, while storing hundreds of millions more. This capacity would only increase as protected and restored habitats continue to expand.
An effectively managed network of marine protected areas isn’t just important for wildlife, it supports key sectors like tourism and recreation, safeguards carbon storing habitats and enables fish stock to replenish. Though supposedly we currently have protected zones, their effectiveness is limited and allows even the most destructive types of fishing. It seems in many countries across the world have a complete lack of economic and political motivation to uphold the laws, treaties and regulations that protect the oceans and the life within them. That’s where Sea Shepherd come in.
Since 2005, Sea Shepherd’s UK foundation has supported the Sea Shepherd fleet of conservation vessels on campaigns around the world. Over the last five years, they have concentrated on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Their research has shown that it is clear that mankind is killing all life in the ocean, and for some reason it has been largely unnoticed. Despite the evidential benefits the ocean provides, there is something fundamentally wrong with the way we look at the natural world and the way we have separated ourselves from the very ecosystem we are part of, particularly with the ocean. Enforcing regulations and expanding the areas under protection against illegal and large-scale industrial fishing are the base of Sea Shepherd’s current campaigns, fighting on behalf of our oceans where others will not.