SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH MY VIEW
The legendary naturalist on the important message in Blue Planet II
The oceans have undergone great changes in my lifetime. Blue Planet II, the underwater natural history series which begins tomorrow on BBC1, celebrates and marvels at the diversity of life below the waves. But it cannot ignore the terrible damage that is being done to our seas, and the appalling consequences to us all if this damage is left unchecked.
For years we thought that the oceans were so vast and their inhabitants so numerous that nothing we could do would have an effect upon them. Now we know that was wrong. The oceans are under threat as never before in our history, from many things. One is a rise in temperatures: according to the World Meteorological Organization, using data collected from 80 national weather services, 2016 was the hottest year on record.
In the last programme in the series, Our Blue Planet, to be screened in December, we illustrate what happens when the temperature goes up by 1.5ºC. In the last three years over two-thirds of the ocean’s coral reefs are thought to have suffered from rises in ocean temperatures.
Another serious risk is plastic. Every year some eight million tonnes of it ends up in the ocean, where it can be lethal. While filming Blue Planet II crews found plastic in every ocean, even in the most remote locations, such as on the shores of South Georgia near Antarctica. This is a problem we could tackle, right now, and I wish we would.
I hope that the spectacular pictures and stories in Blue Planet II will encourage viewers to understand why these small tragedies are so important. We are all dependent on our oceans. If one species is in danger, it could be that we all are.
Take shellfish, which are affected by increased acidity in seawater. As we researched the show, we learned that shells collected by Native Americans 1,000 years ago, and which today are in museums, are about 28 per cent thicker than modern shells. Acid oceans have a disastrous effect on animals with shells, from mussels to turtles.
We can turn things round. We’ve done so once before. For centuries the sea-going nations of the world hunted the great whales until they were close to extinction. And then in 1986 those nations got together and agreed to put a stop to it. Now, some of the whales are making a recovery.
We are at a unique stage in our history. Never before have we had such an awareness of what we’re doing to our planet – but never before have we had the power to do something about it. Surely we have a responsibility to care for our blue planet. The future of humanity and, indeed, all life on Earth, depends on us.