One organisation has a stellar list of supporters to help turn the tide to protect our seas. Sarah Gibbons reports on why the A-List all want Oceana to make a global conservation splash
One glance at the list of celebrities and you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the VIP guest line-up for a star-studded party in Hollywood. But one very large group of A-listers has swapped the red carpet for green issues to support the largest international advocacy organisation focused solely on saving our oceans.
Star Wars legend Harrison Ford, a dedicated conservationist, says we have to protect our seas from an environmental crisis and believes in the latest Oceana campaign— that if we can save the oceans we can feed the world.
‘We are totally dependent on the oceans for our survival,’ he said at a recent Oceana event. ‘Protecting the oceans is one of the biggest policy challenges we have faced. We must battle against environmental ignorance. Let’s work for fundamental transformation – a real sea change in ocean policy.’
He’s supported by award-winning actor Morgan Freeman who says: ‘Our oceans have been pushed so close to the brink because too many people don’t understand the connection between life on earth and life in the sea.’
Other celebrities – bringing the grand total to 39 – who endorse the work of this international conservation powerhouse, launched with the help of Cheers star Ted Danson in 2001, include former James Bond hero Pierce Brosnan; actor Jeff Goldblum, Titanic director James Cameron, and Mad Men lead January Jones, now spokesperson for the campaign to save sharks.
Jason Priestley, of Beverly Hills 90210 fame, music legend Sting and his wife Trudie Styler, singer Barbra Streisand, actress Elsa Pataky, who featured in The Fast and the Furious franchise; Olympic triple gold medal winning swimmer, Aaron Peirsol, and Seth MacFarlane, creator of acclaimed TV series Family Guy, are also fierce supporters.
But why does Oceana attract such star power support? Simple – it’s making waves the world over to turn the tide on policies to preserve our seas and their inhabitants.
From putting pressure on the European parliament to vote for a sustainable fishing management plan in the North Sea to keeping the US West Coast Pacific sardine fishery closed for the season as the sardine population was too low, to campaigning against offshore drilling in the north and mid Atlantic Ocean, Oceana has already made a vast difference.
‘Oceans cover 71 per cent of the globe, and they are as important to us as they are vast,’ Oceana writes on its website. ‘Our oceans are home to most of the life on our planet and play a central role in the world’s natural systems, like regulating our climate and absorbing carbon dioxide.
Oceans cover 71 per cent of the globe, and they are as important to us as they are vast. They are home to most of the life on our planet and play a central role in the world’s natural systems, like regulating our climate and absorbing carbon dioxide.
‘They provide livelihoods to countless fishermen and others around the world. They also feed hundreds of millions of people and have the capacity to provide a healthy seafood meal to a billion people, every day.’
There’s no doubt that our oceans are in trouble. Plastic debris is degrading marine habitats and killing marine life. The UN Environment Agency predicts 33 billion tonnes of plastic will be produced by 2050 while the current cost of marine litter stands at $8 billion a year in America alone.
And around 75 per cent of the world’s fisheries are now overexploited, significantly depleted and are set to collapse without urgent intervention, warns the United Nations.
Already, Oceana has won policy victories in the 10 countries that control most of the world’s wild catch, managing to protect more than a million square miles of ocean with their three key goals: to stop over fishing, prevent bycatch (species caught unintentionally while fishing for a specific target) and protect nurseries.
Oceana believes that by restoring the world’s oceans a billion people each day could be fed a healthy seafood meal. A spokesman said: ‘What animal protein requires no fresh water, produces little carbon dioxide, doesn’t require arable land and provides healthy protein at a cost per pound lower than beef, chicken, lamb or pork, making it accessible to the world’s poor? The answer: wild fish.
‘Unfortunately, studies show that irresponsible fishing has reduced many wild fish populations to historically low levels right at the moment when the world needs its oceans more than ever.
‘There are already seven billion people on Earth, and this figure is expected to grow to a staggering nine billion people by 2050.
‘The planet must produce 70 per cent more food to meet the coming hunger needs, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Right now, 795 million people on this planet suffer from hunger, and we don’t have enough arable land and fresh water to feed two billion more without incurring severe losses to the natural world.
‘But there is a solution. Studies show that by implementing better and proven management measures we can potentially increase the global fish catch by up to 15 per cent from current levels. We can rebuild ocean biodiversity and abundance and be able to feed a billion people a healthy seafood meal each day.’
An Oceana spokesman said: ‘The oceans are vast, but they are not immune to human influence. We have already altered or destroyed marine ecosystems and driven million-year-old species to the brink of extinction. Fortunately, we know how to fix things.’