World Oceans Day – are we doing enough?

Our oceans are in danger, but the UK and Europe aren’t doing enough to protect them

For a long time it was believed that oceans were too large to be impacted by human activities, sadly this isn’t true, and in fact the oceans are being massively negatively impacted by our actions.

There are 3 main impacts on the marine environment due to climate change, which are;

  1. Acidification,
  2. Warming Temperatures, and
  3. Decreasing Oxygen Levels.

When these are combined with interrupted oceanic currents, biodiversity loss, and plastic pollution, it creates a rapidly changing environment that is becoming increasingly hostile to marine life.

The 3 big impacts from climate change are all interlinked – increasing the temperature leads to the acidification of the waters, and it leads to the depletion of oxygen.

But one of the single, main actions we can take to improve the condition of the oceans is to reduce fishing. Fish in a sustainable way. Norway, Iceland, Spain, United Kingdom, and Denmark, catch the most fish in Europe. Spain alone catches 70% of all fish in the EU. Norway catches 4 million tons of fish each year.

Fish are over-exploited globally at unsustainable levels – the huge drop in biodiversity makes it much harder for marine life to recover and to grow in a healthy way, so any other impact from climate change will put far more pressure and stress of the fish populations that do remain.

We also need to consider bans on trawling and dredging – massively damaging to the sea floor, often fragile ecosystems that take a long time to repair from damage and to initially grow, which are decimated. It is also indiscriminate, and fishing any target species, and everything else with it.

Fishing more sustainably has other benefits. Lost and abandoned fishing gear accounts for an estimated 70% of macro-plastic pollution (over 20cm in size), and over 80% of sea-floor pollution, so fishing reduction and stricter regulations on repairing and abandoning fishing gear, will also remove this threat. Abandoned gear such as nets also creates ‘ghost fishing’ – species that get entangled and die, without being fished purposefully at all. This impacts 66% of marine mammal species, including all species of sea turtle, and around 50% of all sea birds. 

Fishing sustainably doesn’t mean preventing access to seafood – it means reducing waste, reducing by-catch, reducing harm to the surrounding environment. Fishing with more care, time, and effort. Investing time & money into biodegrabale fishing gear, as there will always be damaged, lost, or abandoned gear.

Fishing is not just a job, but often a heritage/family/lifestyle, and so limited fishing puts economic pressure on people who are unable to cope – there are ways to mitigate the impact on fishing communities, and help them engage positively with marine protection. One is to pay to have them use their boating skills in conservation efforts, such as undertaking biodiversity studies, or locating & removing the unwanted fishing gear. Or, as is now the case in many countries – offering eco-tourism activities for whales and shark species.

But we can’t solve the ocean’s problems alone, we can only fix these issues by working together and putting political pressure on governments all over the world. Working together with international efforts and cooperation – this is what we stand for at Volt.

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