Oceans in Deep Trouble: No Oceans, No Us

Dr. Sylvia Earle Image by Snodgrass

Dr. Sylvia Earle Image by Snodgrass

The ocean is dying.” So says Dr. Sylvia Earle, internationally known oceanographer and advocate who is spearheading Mission Blue —  a 90-minute documentary film on NetFlix, a book and new nonprofit advocacy organization– that underscores her deep concern for what is happening to the oceans, and in turn, is affecting all life on our planet. (See below for several important links)

Courtesy of Mission Blue

Courtesy of Mission Blue

In her 60-year career, Dr. Earle has mounted 100 marine expeditions – and personally spent almost a year (that’s 7000 hours) below water in ocean dives, including the scary minutes deep in the Marianas Trench when she commanded her filmmaking team to “shut off the lights.” There she found still unsurpassed beauty and diversity among the creatures that swirled around her.

I speak for the oceans,” she says and her tone lets you know how serious this situation is. Her mantra: “No oceans, no us.” Listen to Sylvia Earle on Science Friday (18 min audio)

Sylvia Earle with Leonardo Di Caprio who has gone on dives with Mission Blue's founder

Sylvia Earle with Leonardo Di Caprio who has gone on dives with Mission Blue’s founder

No Oceans, No Life: Take action

Dr. Earle is on a mission: to build a global network of marine protected areas – Hope Spots, the underwater version of national parks– to protect the natural systems that keep humans alive. That’s what her organization Mission Blue ™ Sylvia Earle Alliance has set out to do. Check out the Mission Blue web site 

The facts she cites are stunning:

  • 90% of the earth’s big fish are gone
  • Half of coral reefs are gone or in decline
  • Millions of sharks are killed every year, mostly for their fins – a tasteless luxury soup in China
  • Breeding and feeding grounds are overfished

“We regard fish as free goods – we need to account for them differently,” says Earle. ” They aren’t free. We all pay the cost…” for what humans are taking out, and also putting in (sewage, trash, carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels).

“People should know that lives depend upon the ocean,” she says on Science Friday. “ We take not just our livelihood but our lives from the ocean.” She is urging you to make better choices about buying seafood, support regulation of the high seas, and to use your voice to do what you can with your power.

Royal Star Fish -Astropecten articulatus, Daytona Beach Shores, Fla. Copyright Marc Walz. (Posted on the Encyclopedia of Life)

Royal Star Fish -Astropecten articulatus, Daytona Beach Shores, Fla. Copyright Marc Walz. (Posted on the Encyclopedia of Life)

Watch the trailer for Mission Blue(NetFlix) co-directed by Robert Nixon  and Fisher Stevens, an Oscar-winning producer of The Cove

Learn about the book BLUE HOPE: Exploring and Caring for Earth’s Magnificent Ocean (National Geographic Books, hardcover $35) insights from Earle and other ocean advocates with photographs of oceans’ abundant gifts )

Read Sylvia Earle’s article The Sweet Spot in Time about what she experienced living underwater!

Ridley turtle. Image by Kip Evans for Cocos Bay Mission Blue

Ridley turtle. Image by Kip Evans for Cocos Bay Mission Blue

Miles and Miles of Ocean Trash

Capt. Charles Moore with ocean trash

Capt. Charles Moore with ocean trash

Piloting the Algalita – the ocean-going vessel of the Algalita Marine Research Institute — on its recent 10th two-month voyage into the Great Pacific Garbage Gyre, Capt. Charles Moore is a man on a mission. With a film crew onboard, as well as a biology team, Moore went into the teeming vortex of plastic, junk and materials hundreds of miles long – double the size of Texas, he says – and found an island of trash thick enough that he could actually stand on it. Watch the NBC Nightly News video 

“Huge swaths of the ocean are completely trashed,” says Moore, and you know he’s not kidding when you see the detritus that he has pulled onboard. Piles of stuff are washing onto beaches from Alaska to Hawaii, the detritus from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Floating pile of trash — buoys and line. Courtesy of the Algalita Foundation.

Scientists are looking at the impacts of ocean debris fields on the food chain that feeds us – as well as supports other ocean life. They are finding “nibbles” taken out of pieces of plastic, says biologist Jesus Reyes, evidence that fish are ingesting the plastics.

JUST ADDED!  New York Times (8/26/2014) Charles Moore’s OPED Choking the Ocean with Plastic

Capt Moores TED talk  and  Capt Moore’s Facebook Page

Don’t feel helpless – do something!

Go to Oceana  a scientific-activist organization that can get you engaged

Use Seafood Watch as a guide to your food buying

Support sustainable seafood companies and restaurants

Stop using plastics, especially bags, bottles and containers – be sure to recycle anything you do use!!

UPCOMING: Come back to Green News Update for a selection of terrific books on oceans, marine mammals, fish, aquatic life, and harvesting the seas