On February 4th 1990, an image taken of Planet Earth from Voyager 1 at a distance of 6.4 billion kilometers awed astronomers around the world, in particular Carl Sagan who wrote a book titled Pale Blue Dot. From the distance in space, Earth could be seen as a tiny pinprick of shimmering blue. Observed Sagan “Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you have ever heard of, every human being who ever was lived out their lives.” He goes on, “the Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life.”
What spectacular life has blossomed on our blue planet, which appears blue from space because the ocean. The ocean, our life support system, covers 71% of the Earth’s surface. It provides every second breath you take, and forms the clouds that make rain and snow to give us fresh water to drink and the beautiful forests and plants to thrive. In fact, without the ocean, our planet would look like Mars. But while 100% of Mars has been mapped, merely 5% of our home planet’s ocean has been.
We still know so little about the very system that keeps us alive. The sea was once a spectacular Eden teaming with incredible life. Then, in the 1950’s we started industrial, large-scale fishing, plastic appeared in the marketplace, mangroves were pulled up for beachfront hotels and houses, and industrial pollution was at an all time high. The effects have been disastrous.
Today the ocean is in crisis. Overfishing, climate change, pollution, and coastal development have created havoc in our planet’s life support system. Industrial super trawlers have nets so big that they could hold 16 jumbo jets. These and other trawlers decimate sea floors and coral reefs, leaving behind a wasteland. Even worse, 40% of the global fisheries catch is “bycatch” – fish that are discarded back into the water, usually dead, combining to the decline of this precious ecosystem.
Sharks too have been mercilessly hunted for their fins. Five hundred million are killed each year, often in the most heartless and barbaric ways, their fins sheered off and bodies tossed back into the water where, unable to swim, they drown. Shark fins are used for soup around the world...Soup! This is also concerning because sharks are apex predators, and we need sharks to keep the ecosystem healthy and balanced.
Plastic has poisoned the ocean and is reported that unless we change, that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by weight. Today all five ocean gyres contain huge masses of plastic waste. This waste is often not visible to the naked eye, but if you were to scoop up a glass full and hold it to the light you would see water full of plastic debris.
The ocean food web has been contaminated with plastic, even down to microscopic animals known as zooplankton. Zooplankton, food for whales and other species, eat this and plastic microbeads, found in facial scrubs and toothpaste. The plastic crowds out the nucleus of these creatures, and makes them less nutritious for the species that rely on them for food. Humpback whales eat 1.5% of their body weight in krill and zooplankton every day, which means they ingest 300,000 microplastic particles on a daily basis. What does this mean to the fish on your plate? We are not sure yet, but combined with the mercury caused by pollution, it isn’t good.
Despite all of this grim news, there is hope. We still have 10% of the big fish and half the coral reefs. We can work together to put more of the ocean under protection, and we can all pitch in and make an effort.
I’m happy to let you know too that my son Tyrone is on a mission to save the ocean. Ty is working with Project 0, an incredible organization that aims to raise global awareness and open up new revenue streams to finish ocean conservation projects all over the world. Ty’s one of the founding board members and together with an incredible team of a new generation of passionate, influential people, he’s making a big impact.
Today only 4% of the ocean is under protection. Project 0 aims to raise global awareness and open up new revenue streams to get 30% of the ocean under protection by 2030, restore mangroves and coral reefs, and inspires change that helps to clean up the mess in the ocean. Having more of the ocean under protection means that there will be healthy ecosystems in the ocean that support ocean health overall and make it more resistant to climate change. It also means that fisheries can be restored to secure food and jobs for billions of people on the planet.
Most recently Ty and Project 0 created a beautiful exhibit of wave sculptures that ran across New York City. Each wave was a uniform shape, and different artists customized their individual waves with their work. All together, 54 waves formed a breathtaking trail throughout New York City. The effort got huge amounts of press and people used social media to take photos of themselves and spread the word. I was in New York for the live auction at Sotheby’s where a great crowd gathered to raise their hands to bid to support the ocean. It was an enormous success. Funds raised are going to support a chain of marine protected areas in the Azores, restore mangroves in the Caribbean, and create a sustainability study in the East China Sea.
Ty and his team at Project 0 are working hard now behind the scenes on some exciting new projects in 2018. Their mantra is “together we can fix this,” a philosophy I so admire and support. If we each make conscious choices about the fish we eat and reduce our plastic and carbon foot prints, we can make a huge, huge difference. I was so pleased to become an Ambassador of Project 0, and have made changes in my own life to have less impact on our beautiful planet. Join us to help restore the ocean. Start by following Project 0 on Instagram @weareprojectzero, or @weareproject0 on Twitter, and stay tuned. There are some great happenings on the horizon to participate in, and I hope you’ll join us. Together we can turn the ship around and leave the world a better place for our grandchildren – and theirs. Visit www.weareprojectzero.org to learn more.