“Not for the faint-hearted” – Living Blue Planet Report 2015

Step Up For The Sea

Here’s a snapshot from the opening pages of the WWF-ZSL ‘Living Blue Planet Report, 2015’. Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International, warned readers of the 2014 Report that it was “not for the faint-hearted”. This one isn’t either, but it’s important that we fully appreciate the state of the ocean so we can understand our role in its conservation.

You can find the whole report here.

Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 18.12.54

Source: WWF-ZSL Living Blue Planet Report 2015 Page 2

Art Meets Oceans: Luke Jerram

Art Meets Oceans

A redundant fleet in the forest

I came across this article recently which features a slightly different art installation, ‘Withdrawn’, made up of redundant fishing vessels placed in the forest near Bristol in South-West England.

The artist, Luke Jerram, has created a way for the public to appreciate the current state of the oceans and fast-dwindling fish stocks by bringing a world which not many people know a lot about, the fishing industry, to them.

The hope is that people will start to think about the reason why these fishing boats are no longer needed, and reflect on what this indicates about ocean health.

Coast article: A Forest of Fishing Boats

Luke Jerram: Withdrawn

Speaking in schools: what I’ve learnt so far

Ocean Optimism, Step Up For The Sea

Towards the end of my first year at University I joined the Royal Geographical Society Geography Ambassadors Scheme, and it’s one of the best things I’ve done at Uni.

At school I had attended lots of talks by visiting speakers or students who had done exciting things during or after their school years. These talks were on expeditions or interesting potential careers, and I often left feeling inspired. Their passion for their topic was infectious. Hearing from older students made me apply for an expedition to the Amazon jungle in 2011, after which I came home and started to give talks about my experience. It was an easy thing to ramble on about because I had such incredible memories to share, and I started to get a taste of what public speaking is about.

During A levels I developed a drive to learn more about the state of the ocean, and pursued this further during my gap year. As I learnt more about the issues, I also became involved in some research looking at the public perceptions of the marine environment and realised that a lot of the public don’t know about the issues, or really care. So since then I have combined my passion for marine conservation, and the desire to tell everyone I meet loads about fish, with the buzz I get from standing up and giving a talk and the need to help fill this gap in public knowledge about the sea. The aim is to try to inspire some love and concern for the oceans.

That’s where the RGS Ambassadors Scheme comes in. When I got to Uni I wasn’t sure what the platform would be to continue with this, as I didn’t fancy the Debating Society, and standing on the street chatting to anyone who will listen about the state of the ocean didn’t seem like the way forward either. A friend told me about the Scheme and I signed up and went along to the training day. Since then I have given an A level fisheries management lecture, a Year 7 lunchtime talk to an Inner London school about why we need the sea, a couple of conservation expedition talks and lots of interactive classroom sessions, all marine conservation based.

A washing line full of fishy thoughts

A washing line full of fishy thoughts

I’ve learnt from every talk or session I have done and these are some of the things I’ve realised.

What I’ve learnt about speaking

  • Passion about a topic is cool. Not to all teenagers, but I’ve found a surprising number have approached me after a talk or lesson to ask how I got into it, what subjects I took etc. By not being afraid to show you love the fish you’ll definitely get through to some of them, and encourage them to speak up about interests that may be forming in their school lessons and pursue them further.
  • It’s scary, but that’s what makes it so great. I have been nervous before every talk or session, but also buzzing after every single one.
  • Science communication is about making the information accessible to everyone. Start with simpler background info, then be sure to link closely to what the teacher has taught, and then include some more challenging elements to push the brightest students.

What I’ve learnt about students

  • Kids can come out with some great answers. One task was to complete the sentence ‘we should look after the sea because…’ to which one child scrawled ‘they iz anmls’.
  • Up to a certain age, kids are not afraid to ask questions. I did a lunchtime talk to about 100 Year 7s, and was bombarded with questions about why we can’t build walls under the sea to protect certain areas, why turtles eat plastic bags and what do squid eat. Ask an A level class if they have any questions and most of them will sheepishly avoid your eye.
  • Pencils are a better reward for answering questions than you might think. ‘I love Geography’ pencils = golddust.
'They iz anmls'

‘We should look after the sea because…They iz Anmls’

I haven’t got a particular career plan just yet, but I hope that talks will feature in it somewhere. Planning a talk, standing up to present it, taking questions and chatting to people afterwards gives me such a buzz, and it seems like that’s not something I should ignore.

Who doesn’t want to tweet a shark?

Fisheries, Step Up For The Sea, Uncategorized

I’ve recently discovered the great white shark research being done by the scientists at OCEARCH, and keeping up with the great whites of the world has become a bit addictive.

Global data on mature great whites is lacking and this project is helping to fill the knowledge gap. Sharks are tagged, measured and assessed on a specially adapted research vessel, then released to do their thing in the ocean. Every time they surface for lScreen Shot 2015-09-14 at 20.06.41ong enough their tracker will ping and update their location.

This is important research because learning more about these vulnerable individuals gives us a lot more to work with in terms of deciding the most appropriate conservation strategies. The Shark Tracker can also be integrated into the curriculum to get kids learning more about sharks, whilst live-tracking some real ones at the same time.

Turns out, Mary Lee, Carl, Katharine and others are keen on social media and are frequently active on Twitter.

You can also get the Shark Tracker for
your phone, which is definitely going to make the next queue I’m in more interesting.


Marine litter

Marine Pollution

I’ve sailed past tyres floating in the Solent, fished plastic bottles out of the sea and even had to swerve around a park bench floating in the estuary where I learnt to sail. Marine litter is everywhere: on beaches, near shore and even hundreds of kilometres offshore. You can hear from the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race sailors in this video as they describe the shocking amount of marine debris they have seen as they have raced around the world in the last year.

What is marine litter?
Essentially, anything non-natural in the oceans which circulates with the currents or sinks to the sea bed, taking a long time to break down. Plastic bags, bottles, cans, rope, different materials and fibres, hooks, tyres, oil drums, cotton buds, wet wipes, nets, lines, shopping trolleys, traffic cones, lunch boxes, shoes, rubber ducks…Just about anything you can think of, it is highly likely that some has found its way into the sea, and once it is there it is very difficult to remove. Microplastics are tiny fragments of plastic, less than 5 mm across, which can be the remnants of broken down larger plastic items, or microbeads which are common in cosmetics and toothpaste.

How it gets there
All sorts of reasons. Often it is dropped by us and then washed into drains or rivers which eventually lead to the sea. Flushing wet wipes and other cosmetic items down the toilet also takes them out to sea. Fishing-related litter such as nets, pots and lines can all become detached or be discarded at sea. Containers washed overboard from the ships can empty their contents, leaving them to drift freely, or sink to the seabed.

What it does
Ingestion by, and entanglement of, marine life

Swirls together into vast gyres in the oceans

Works its way up the food chain into our food – Guardian 2015

Breaks down into harmful chemicals

Ghost fishing

Clean up efforts and campaigns – here are just a few

The Marine Conservation Society collected 2457 pieces of litter for every kilometre of beach they cleaned as part of their 2014 ‘Great British Beach Clean’ . They have cleaned and surveyed 301 beaches and continue to raise awareness and involve volunteers in their efforts to rescue our beaches and seas.

The 5 Gyres project is working to study the extent of the plastic pollution, campaign to remove microbeads from cosmetics and educate people on its effects.

Technology is also being developed to try to remove the plastic which is already in the oceans, such as ‘The Ocean Cleanup’ which is developing huge floating barriers to help concentrate the floating plastic into smaller areas using natural ocean currents.

The MCS launched the ‘Scrub it out’ campaign to encourage consumers to choose their toiletries more wisely, selecting only those which do not contain microbeads.

Pangaea Exploration works with 5 Gyres to assess the amount of plastic in the ocean. Their 2014 expedition, ‘eXXpedition’, was an all-female voyage across the Atlantic, raising awareness about the link between the health of the seas and our health.

What you can do

Check if your face wash and other toiletries contain plastics – you can check here. Try not to buy those that do contain them, it’s one of the easiest things you can do to minimise the amount of plastic reaching the ocean.
Use fewer plastic bags/ more reusable bags.
Don’t flush wet wipes/cotton buds etc.
Always take your litter home with you, or deposit in a bin at the beach.

If you see litter on the beach, pick it up and throw it in the bin.
Don’t try to burn litter on the beach to dispose of it – it won’t fully break down and will be washed out to sea when the tide comes in.

Making these small daily or weekly changes will contribute to reducing the amount of litter which finds its way into the oceans, helping to prevent damage which is very hard to reverse.