Like many people who grew up and regularly holidayed on the British coast I have spent hundreds of days walking beaches, collecting shells, rockpooling and swimming in British waters. A few years ago I worked for Essex Wildlife Trust on a coastal reserve, and thanks to the enthusiasm of the Trust’s Living Seas Coordinator, Sarah Allison, who incidentally has written an article for this series, my interest intensified, and for a time I made it my mission to learn to identify at least some of the species along my local stretch of coast. As conservationists we tend to focus our efforts on the land and on saving terrestrial species, yet 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water. Perhaps up to a million species call the oceans home, and we know very little about most of them.
Recently, I read Ocean of Life (Allen Lane, 2012) by the marine biologist Callum Roberts ; a book that I would recommend to everyone. It was a real eye opener to the severity of the issues faced by the oceans and marine wildlife. I felt desperately ignorant to have been so unaware of the devastation that has been going on, and critically the impact climate change is having on some of the planet’s most fragile ecosystems, such as environments dominated and reliant on corals. Roberts is comprehensive in his approach and analysis and compelling in his storytelling. As the Guardian has put it in their official testimonial, ‘Roberts is that precious pearl: a practising scientist who not only knows his field inside out, but also understands how to write’. For me, Ocean of Life should be as widely known and read as An Inconvenient Truth. From overfishing to climate change, ocean acidification and sea level rise, the problems currently faced by the marine environment will eventually result in problems for the land, as climate change feedback systems click into action, flooding of coastal areas becomes common place and the fishing industry struggles to remain sustainable.
Roberts’ incredible book got me thinking about what I could do to raise awareness of the issues on thinkingcountry. Fortunately there are some seriously dedicated people out there working to conserve the oceans and marine species. However, it is up to all of us to take action to improve the situation. For example, plastic is a serious issue for the marine environment (as explained by Ryan Cope in the series) which I have blogged about previously on thinkingcountry and elsewhere. We can all cut the amount we use and boycott plastic wrapped goods. The next fortnight is therefore dedicated to publishing posts about marine conservation and marine wildlife, hopefully triggering us all to think more deeply about the oceans and the wildlife that calls them home. I want to thank everyone who has contributed an article for the series and I hope you enjoy reading them. I would really appreciate if you could publicise them through your social media channels and encourage others to start talking about marine conservation.
Again, I would seriously recommend you also read Ocean of Life by Callum Roberts.
The series of posts will be published over the next fortnight:
Mon 13th March: Introduction from Ben and reflection on Ocean of Life by Callum Roberts
Weds 15th March: ‘How Conservationists and Fishermen can work together to save species’ by Sarah Allison
Fri 17th March: ‘Pembrokeshire’s Marine Wildlife’ by Dan E. Rouse
Mon 20th March: ‘Dive in to Marine Protected Areas’ by Jessica Mead
Weds 22nd March: ‘Taking Marine Conservation Inland: The Oceans are Downhill from Everywhere’ by Ryan Cope
Fri 24th March: ‘The Hidden Depth of Effort in Marine Conservation’ by Thea Powell
Sun 26th March: ‘Diversity on your doorstep’ by Elizabeth Mills