People think a sea is a sea is a sea, but they are all different. The Arctic is the black ocean – literally like an inkpot. You put your arm in and your hand disappears. The Pacific is a rich, royal blue. The Indian Ocean is the most benevolent, it’s warm and kind and turquoise. The Atlantic can be rough and cold.
And the Southern Ocean gives you a glimpse of what oceans must have been like before man touched them.
When you swim down there you see thousands of penguins and seals and killer whales – it’s like an aquatic Garden of Eden.
But the one thing the oceans have in common is that they are all under threat. I’ll never forget the beach of plastic debris in the middle of the Arctic. Thousands of kilometres from the nearest town, there were sheets of red plastic, pieces of rope, plastic this and plastic that. Wherever you are in the world you will find evidence that we have impacted our oceans.
Marine Protected Areas, the “National Parks” in our oceans are a way to ensure that the beautiful biodiversity of our oceans is restored. They are geographically defined area that is regulated and managed to achieve specific conservation objectives. We must act now to protect and restore our marine ecosystems, so that they once again team with abundant wildlife and are able to survive and withstand whatever challenges the future holds.
Here’s what you, me, and every ordinary concerned citizen can do to make MPAs a priority for policy makers around the world:
1. Raise your voice. The more we talk about MPAs, the more we educate ourselves and others about the issues and the urgency, the more governments know that we want them, the more they will happen.
2. Knowledge is power, so read up as much as you can about MPAs and related marine conservation issues both globally and in your area.
3. Watch and share speeches on protecting our oceans
4. Share what you know – write about MPAs on your blogs, on Twitter, and Facebook.
5. Create a future by creating a bond with nature – take your children, nephews, nieces and friends to ocean shores and National Parks. We only protect what we love.
6. Take someone out to sea – especially if they’ve never been on a boat ride. Take pictures and share your experiences on Instagram.
7. Encourage your local schools to visit seas and oceans , and incorporate MPAs into their life sciences projects.
9. If you eat fish please make sure it’s sustainably sourced. For more info, go to http://www.fishonline.org/.
10. The only people who can declare MPAs are policy makers. They need to know that you care about our oceans. Write to your local politician and your minister of the environment and tell them that you want more MPAs.
11. Shout it out! Share good news and celebrate the creation of MPAs as and when they happen. Recently Scotland declared 30 new MPAs – that’s a big win for Scotland, and for marine life around the world. When Yellowstone was created in 1872 it made international headlines. But few heard about Scotland’s MPAs. There’s nothing as encouraging as praise where it is due.
12. Make ‘MPAs’ an everyday acronym. Three years ago, nobody knew what ‘fracking’ was, now it’s a buzzword. Let’s do the same for Marine Protected Areas.
13. Finally , please follow Lewis on Social Media to get regular updates on what you can do. Let’s make MPAs happen!