Healthy oceans are our planet’s lifeblood
More than half of Earth’s oxygen is produced in the ocean; carbon dioxide is absorbed here as well, wherever air meets water. Three billion people rely on the ocean for their livelihoods – most in poorer countries – with ocean-based industries like tourism and fisheries as key sources of income. And, there is more biodiversity in the ocean than anywhere else on the planet.
Imagine all of that disappearing.
Visualize several million tonnes of plastic garbage blanketing the water, ocean-dwelling animals going extinct from climate change and overfishing, and coral reefs – which protect coastlines from storms and erosion – dying from acidification.
This is already underway now, and as it accelerates our air will fill with toxic carbon dioxide. There will be food shortages across the planet. Our species will struggle to survive.
Thankfully, there are companies and individuals around the world who are standing up for our oceans and urging others to swiftly do the same.
One of these is SeaLegacy, with offices in BC, a collective of renowned photographers, filmmakers and storytellers – among them founders Cristina Mittermeier, a pioneering conservation photographer, and Paul Nicklen, whose National Geographic shots capture an underwater realm witnessed by very few people – whose powerful stories are intended to spark global conversation and compel action. The SeaLegacy website is populated by striking – and often heartbreaking – images: a starving polar bear, a sea dragon wrapped around a discarded Q-tip, a swordfish caught in a fishing net… all reminding us that we are responsible for the devastation happening in our oceans.
Over at the University of British Columbia, the Ocean Leaders program is solely focused on training the next generation of marine researchers. Offered to graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, the program branches into marine law and governance, community engagement, entrepreneurship and environmental impact assessment. The non-profit Ocean Ambassadors Canada likewise offers ocean education, targeted to younger students through school programs and summer camps. The program starts by helping kids forge relationships with the ocean while understanding ocean pollution, then shares tangible ways they can take action towards conservation.
Plastic Bank is a Vancouver-headquartered for-profit social enterprise with a global impact. Their aim is to to recover plastic from the ocean while helping improve the lives of those who help collect it. So far, they have recovered tens of millions of kilograms of ocean plastic while helping thousands of underserved peoples every month. This ocean plastic is then reborn as Social Plastic®, which is reintegrated into products and packaging to create a closed-loop supply chain.
Meanwhile, BC-based Skipper Otto is a beloved household name that supports Canadian fishing families by selling shares of catches. Skipper Otto Community Supported Fishery was founded to keep independent small-scale fishing alive in BC, combining responsible stewardship of ocean resources and consumer education around important issues related to fisheries and food systems.
New initiatives are always on the horizon.
On May 19, SeaLegacy launched Good Ocean in partnership with 10 small- and medium-sized businesses in BC and internationally that have united to turn the tide in favour of the world’s oceans. Guided by a commitment to offering sustainable alternatives to consumption and encouraging other companies, including suppliers, to follow suit, these businesses aim to disrupt the retail industry and shift consumer culture towards conservation and responsible purchasing.
Many consumers are already demonstrating their willingness to safeguard our waters, with research by the Marine Stewardship Council showing nearly 60 percent of shoppers making conscious choices to protect marine life. The study, conducted across 23 countries, found that 23 percent of consumers are switching to brands or products that help protect the oceans, and 83 percent are prepared to take further action in the future.
While initiatives like OceanWise have been championing responsible seafood choices for years, more retail brands, distilleries and breweries, sustainable investors and other companies not directly related to ocean consumption are using their platforms to raise awareness, donate to marine conservation programs, and challenge consumers to choose responsible, sustainable and regenerative alternatives to… well, everything. After all, waste makes its way to our oceans – and, when our oceans suffocate, so do we.
Photo credit: SeaLegacy Good Ocean, Cristina Mittermeier, @SeaLegacy.