Every June 8, divers celebrate World Oceans Day and vow to be better stewards. There are daunting challenges (Read Alien Invasion on page 11), but there is also hopeful progress (3D Printing Might Be the Answer to Saving Coral Reefs, page 13).
Don’t just dive there — do something! What are your plans for World Oceans Day?
It’s the proverbial pessimistic versus optimistic worldview, and divers witness both sides. When we drop below the ocean’s surface, it’s possible to experience incredible highs — a sea teeming with schools of fish, or an unexpected whale-shark encounter — and depressing lows: acres of bleached coral, or a hawksbill turtle entangled in fishing gear. But how many of us surface and vow to do something about it?
“As firsthand observers of the ocean’s wonders, divers are well-positioned to be powerful, passionate advocates for the ocean,” says Andrew Sharpless, CEO of the conservation group Oceana, based in Washington, D.C. “If coral reefs are damaged by
ocean acidification or shark populations are decimated by cruel practices like finning, that’s a loss for both ocean ecosystems and the divers who explore them.”
Oceana is fighting for policies that protect marine animals and their habitats, and it does so with the understanding that the solutions are complex and must take into consideration a number of stakeholders. “Our oceans are unique: They are the one place where two competing imperatives — protecting our environment and feeding people — can coexist,” says Sharpless. Oceana is waging war on a number of fronts — fighting to protect Belize’s seven World Heritage Sites and its barrier reef; campaigning for the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, a bill that would ban the buying and selling of shark fins in the U.S.; and urging responsible fisheries-management policies. “A responsibly managed ocean could provide a nutritious seafood meal every day for a billion people,” says Sharpless.
For my part, I had given up using many plastics, from bags to water bottles, except for one small item: the drinking straws routinely placed on the table at restaurants I frequent. To honor this World Ocean Day, I bought a reusable glass drinking straw. You can join the #stopsucking movement or find your own cause at oceana .org. Whatever you do, don’t make it nothing — the future depends on us. — PATRICIA WUEST,