We Reap What We Sow…

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We Reap What We Sow… It’s an old saying, but one that has not lost its legitimacy over the years.

This morning I watched a BBC interview with Ross Edgely who aims to be the first person to swim the 2,000 miles around the UK coastline to help raise the awareness of our dying seas due to overfishing, plastic waste and pollution. It’s an amazing thing to do and at the same time such a tragedy that someone has to go to these lengths to try and raise such awareness. I was dismayed and not surprised, yet again, by the reporter’s lack of understanding or even care about marine issues. There was more interest in stories of stinging jellyfish than the facts of marine devastation.

When Ross was asked what he had seen on his epic journey, he replied that it was not so much what he had seen but what he had NOT seen that was so upsetting. Only a few fish, a few dolphins and sea birds but little else, except that is for jellyfish.

We clamber to the seaside and coast each summer for our holidays and complain about dangerous jellyfish ruining the sea. Well, really it’s mostly down to us that they are there in such great numbers. Jellyfish have no ‘mean streak’ and are not there solely to spoil our summer break. They are simple marine life forms that fill an ecological void when it is created. As we remove fish, crustaceans, cetaceans and sea birds from our oceans, the jellyfish are able to thrive.

We have decimated their main predators such as tuna, sharks, swordfish, turtles and salmon. One species of jellyfish may well eat another but this is not enough to control numbers. We have now tipped the balance in favour of these simple, gelatinous animals. We are rapidly returning our seas to their primordial state.

Do we care? Possibly. Enough to do something about it? Possibly not.

We can certainly talk the talk, but that’s as far as it goes. There are a few protected areas in the world. There is some legislation for over fishing. Is it enough? No. Year after year our seas decline in health and species.

Yet we still love to go the sea, to swim, to surf, and to dive. We are thrilled to see dolphins or a turtle, sharks and fish. But if we don’t see them, are we heartbroken? No. For divers, a shark or whale encounter is wonderful, but so is a rust-ridden wreck of a long forgotten ship.

We complain about plastic waste. Who is to blame for it all? The manufactures, the supermarkets, the disposal companies? Or us, you and me. Most of the plastic we use is simply for convenience and, just as conveniently, we throw it away. Everywhere I go  -be it in the car, boat, walking, swimming – I see plastic thrown away by some lazy person who has no care at all for the world in which we all live.

Every beach, hedgerow, roadside, mountain, field and town has its share of discarded waste from people who are too ignorant to take it home or take a few moments to dispose of it sensibly.

Healthy oceans give us the air we breathe, our atmosphere and our climates. They also give us a sense of wonder, they excite our imaginations and are the foundation of all life on this planet. They are where we came from. We can’t afford to lose them.

There are still people on this earth who depend on sea life for survival but they are also in great trouble as fish disappear. While these people struggle to feed themselves much of the rest of humanity live in a world of excess. Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted – www.fao.org/save-food/resources/keyfindings/en/

Where is the sense or reasoning behind that?

Some people do care… but most don’t. Are our lives too busy to worry about the sea? There are mortgages to pay, children to school and bring up. But what kind of world are we bringing these kids up to live in? When your children and grandchildren ask you one day where all the marine life went you can tell them, with shameful pride, that we, human beings, killed it all. First, by systematically hunting it for food and then for money, ultimately polluting and destroying the marine food chain causing mass starvation.

What a tragic legacy. Is it too late to do anything about this? Possibly. Is it worth trying? Yes.

So what am I doing personally. Well for a start I will continue to not eat any produce from the sea until perhaps one day it truly becomes sustainable. As a family we will continue to recycle and minimize our use of plastic. We will continue to support marine conservation groups. I would love to know what you are doing or what you would like to do.

Write to me at jeff@scubaverse.com

Jeff Goodman

Jeff Goodman

Jeff Goodman is the Conservation editor and also the Underwater Videography Editor for Scubaverse.com. Jeff is an award winning TV wildlife and underwater cameraman and film maker. With over 10,000 dives to his credit he has dived in many different environments around the world.

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