Thanksgiving is almost upon us and not far beyond that Christmas and the end of another year on our Blue Planet. With all the dreadful news that has piled up on the threshold of our doorstep this year, there is some good news about the oceans for which we should indeed be grateful. Let me just cite a few things; they appear in no particular order.
… Incidents in piracy has dropped dramatically off the coast of Somalia. While it’s true, it has increased in other areas of the world such as the coast of West Africa and Malaysia, vigilance and cooperation are key to stunting its growth.
… One of the worst offenders of overfishing was caught earlier this year by the environmental group The Sea Shepherd. This after a 110 day chase on the high seas. When they were finally brought to justice, they were given hefty fines and even heftier jail sentences.
… The Suez Canal opened its second lane in September. The eight billion dollar project, done in just one year, is intended to speed up the trip for thousands of ships a year.
… Populations of fish are continuing to make a come-back according to PEW charitable trusts. Include among these groups the Goliath grouper. No-take reserves help fish come back more quickly. Support these areas whenever you can. We have a long ways to go, but it should buoy our hopes.
… The United States and Cuba after many years of acrimonious feelings have agreed to share scientific data and cooperate in marine conservation. Affected are the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the Flower Garden Banks in the Gulf of Mexico, the Dry Tortugas, the Dry Tortugas and Biscayne National Parks, and the Guanahacabibes National Park. Sharks have also been targeted for protection. Put simply, without sharks, the rest of the marine ecosystem collapses pretty quickly.
… Both Chile and New Zealand have established marine sanctuaries, making them off limits to fishing. Chile’s is the Desventuradas Islands; New Zealand’s is a 239,000 square mile reserve in the Kermadec region.
…The Paris Climate Talks begin November 30, only a few days from now. Many countries have already prepared goals to reduce their carbon footprint and thus reduce global warming. The rising seas is an incredible threat to millions of peoples living on islands and coasts around the world. If they get displaced by rising seas, the refugee problem we have today will be but an inconvenience compared to what will come.
… The public has awakened to the dangers of micro-beads in thousands of beauty products. These beads are not only a threat to coral reefs and the creatures that feed off them but to larger fish, and eventually to humans who eat those fish. Furthermore, companies are listening to consumers and some have already pledged to phase out their use. Be part of the solution and let companies know you want healthier alternatives.
… Big oil has withdrawn its bid to drill in the Arctic. Because of its lust for huge profits, the prohibitive cost of doing business sent them packing, not a love for the pristine environment.
… Reefs around the world have been dying off for a wide variety of reasons over the years, but some are actually showing signs of rebounding. The reefs of the Florida Keys are the beneficiary of improved sanitation systems and more boater awareness. But I must serve up a caveat to go along with your turkey this Thanksgiving. The reefs are still a fragile system and need lots of love, respect, and monitoring. Scientists are even going so far as to grow baby coral in nurseries and transplanting them offshore. Everglades projects aimed at filtering fertilizers headed to the reefs will be a huge next step.
… The Navy agreed in September, after suits filed by environmental groups, to restrict the use of sonar and explosives around Hawaii and California. Sonar impacts whales, dolphins, and other sea life so detrimentally that they have difficulty communicating. Even worse deafness and death occur when they are too close.
As you can see while we still face very serious and complicated problems out on the seas, there is cause for hope and thanksgiving. Our problems are far, far from over, but if we stay focused on what we want to accomplish this coming year and give support in any way we can, we’ll have even more to be thankful for next year.
How about you? It’s not too early to start building on this past year’s successes. How far are you willing to go this coming year to support healthier, safer seas? What are you willing to do to support our mariners around the world who see that you have the necessities and luxuries you need. Know someone who belongs to an environmental group? Know a mariner who spends many long, lonely months at sea? Call them, email them, or give them a hug. It’s the least you can do to show your gratitude.