I am fortunate to spend my working day searching for insight and knowledge that will help improve the health and welfare of fish and other species in aquaculture. However, sometimes I wonder if we’re doing enough to actually save the oceans.
I’m a bit of a data geek, so I believe it is important to gather all the information — or all the data — before making decisions, based on careful analysis of the facts.
This works well within the fish farming sector, where we have been able to facilitate change that has helped farmers improve the health and welfare of their fish, while simultaneously cutting cost and reducing food waste, thus cutting both pollution and emissions.
Behavioral analysis is being used to understand the needs of the fish.
The oceans are obviously much bigger than individual fish farms, and so are the problems facing them. These range from overfishing to plastic waste to ocean acidification to climate change, along with a host of other challenges.
My colleagues and I realize that we simply do not understand the complexities of these challenges well enough to come up with the right solutions on our own, so it has dawned on us that we must deepen our engagement, both with the oceans and with all the people who care about them.
We’ve been thinking about this for some time, and in the end, we decided to launch a solutions-based ocean support initiative to collect and share knowledge about the sea.
We’ve called it #EngageWithOceans and we’re still working out what it should become in the future, but we have started with a few universally held agreements. Most people accept that the oceans are under threat, and most people agree that if we are to save them, we must first make sure we understand the challenges that are facing us.
We must understand currents and temperatures, we must understand the animals and plants and the entire ocean ecology, and we must understand the communities that depend on them. To build this understanding, we must engage — both with oceans and with each other.
Learn, connect and engage
We want the #EngageWithOceans initiative to provide everyone who cares about the oceans an opportunity to contribute to their revival and survival, and we want to make it easier for everyone to learn from each other.
We will start by collecting insight and information, which will be shared widely via a video podcast series, articles and other content. A dedicated website and social media will be used to spread the information to as many people as possible. In time, we will also introduce additional interactive elements.
As aquatech experts, we will contribute as best as we can, but we will also encourage others to take part, whether aquaculture and commercial fishing companies, academics and researchers, politicians and policy makers, or campaigners, coastal people and consumers.
We want to facilitate debates that are inclusive and we expect them to be lively.
We live on a planet where resources are finite. Harvesting both the oceans and the land has helped balance our impact on the environment. This process has supported us as we have evolved from hunter-gatherers to become members of an industrial society.
At a time when the world’s population has continued to grow at a high pace, the oceans have played an important part in improving the lives of many:
- The oceans are a source of food; coastal people have always eaten fish and other sea species, and over time it’s become possible to also transport this to people living further inland.
- The oceans are a source of oxygen.
- The oceans are a source of medicine, developed from both sea plants and marine species.
- The oceans are a source of joy and inspiration, beneficial for both physical and mental health.
- The oceans are a source of energy, whether oil and gas mined from the sea bed or renewable power sources such as wave and tidal power or offshore wind farms.
- The oceans have evolved as conduits for cultural exchanges and for trade, as a result of adventurous explorers crossing the seas to discover people and continents that they previously didn’t know existed.
- The oceans are a source of poverty reduction and economic growth.
Many of these benefits are worth preserving for the future, but this will not be possible unless we change our ways. If we carry on at the current rate of exploitation, we will soon run out of resources. It is not sustainable.
We must discover ways in which we can coexist with the oceans.
We read about it every day. Deforestation. Water shortages. Species extinction both on land and at sea. Pollution, waste, and harmful emissions — also on land, but the sad truth is that they all have a tendency to end up in the oceans. Sewage and industrial chemicals are mixed with plastic and other waste. Carbon dioxide emissions are absorbed by the oceans and this causes acidification, which threatens the lives of fish and other sea species. Climate change poses a serious threat both to the oceans and to coastal populations.
The #EngageWithOceans initiative will set out to understand all these challenges and problems properly, with the aim to identify real-world solutions. Next, we will create a mission statement, which will be developed in partnership with engaged parties. This mission statement will include an action plan that we can all adopt and commit to, whether fully or in part. By securing commitments to act, the initiative will help create real change.
We already share a single goal — to save the oceans from destruction. I really believe in the power of people working together. That can make a huge impact. We can make a difference here. It is not enough to simply leave the oceans alone.