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Marine Life & Conservation

Oceans Campaign Director – Greenpeace USA

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jh-blogJohn Hocevar is a trained marine biologist and an accomplished campaigner, explorer, and diver. John has helped win several major victories for marine conservation since becoming the director of Greenpeace’s oceans campaign in 2004.

Prior to joining Greenpeace, John was involved in several environmental projects including the Sea Turtle Nesting Project in Florida, Coral Cay Conservation in Belize, and as an environmental educator for Marine Science Under Sails in Florida. He is a graduate of the Green Corps organizing fellowship, a program dedicated to training the next generation of environmental leaders and previously worked at Corporate Accountability International. He is a co-founder and former executive director of Students for a Free Tibet.

I asked John if he remembered the defining moment when he knew conservation would play such a large part of his life.

 

John:

When I was about 11, I found copies of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and “The Sea Around Us” on a visit to my grandparents in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I’m not sure what made me pick them up, but those books changed my life. As for the ocean, it was love at first sight. I grew up in eastern Connecticut, so my first trip to the beach was Rocky Neck State Park.

Jeff:

What do you feel are the most important issues facing our oceans today?

John:

Unsustainable fishing, global warming, and ocean acidification are at the top of the list. We have come a long way in addressing pollution, but there are more plastic bags, bottles, and other throw away disposable items washing into the ocean than ever before.

Jeff:

For the past 40 years of my career as a wildlife filmmaker I have watched the oceans around me being polluted and over fished. Coral reefs have disappeared and other marine habitats ploughed up under the heavy weight of trawl nets. What realistic future do you see for our marine world?

John:

To some extent, it is still up to us, but our window of opportunity is closing quickly. The scientific predictions are extremely grim: one of the largest waves of species extinctions in the history of our planet, the end of coral reefs as functional ecosystems by the end of the century, the total disappearance of sea ice in the Arctic in the summer, collapse of most commercial fisheries, and what Dr. Jeremy Jackson has referred to as “the rise of slime” – surges in populations of jellyfish, algae, and bacteria.

Some of these changes are going to be extremely hard to prevent at this stage, but these forecasts all assume that current trends continue. The sooner we act to reduce carbon emissions, end overfishing, and create large scale parks which can help increase the resilience of marine populations, the more hopeful our future will be.

Jeff:

I personally find that the majority of people I meet have little or no comprehension of the depleted state of our seas. It’s difficult for the majority to become involved while at the same time struggling to make a living, raise a family and pay the bills. What do you feel is the best way of addressing this?

John:

We need to do a better job with showing people how the health of the oceans is connected to the fate of humanity. We live on a water planet; the oxygen in every second breath we take comes from phytoplankton in the ocean. Healthy fish populations feed a billion people and provide hundreds of thousands of jobs. Healthy mangrove forests and coral reefs help protect coastal communities from hurricanes and tsunamis. Tourism – beach vacations, diving, whale watching, and recreational fishing – is a multi-billion dollar industry.

Personal experience can be very powerful. The changes taking place in the ocean are invisible to people who don’t have a chance to look below the surface, so divers have a special responsibility to serve as ambassadors and share what we have seen – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Jeff:

Greenpeace is a household name and I remember in my teenage years Greenpeace always being in the world news fighting for the protection of the great whales. There was a passion there we could get behind and support. I rarely hear any news these days unless of course I look for it. Having done that, it is obvious that Greenpeace is still a great force for world conservation. Do you think people know enough about what Greenpeace are doing now?

John:

Greenpeace is doing much more work than when we started back in the early seventies; we now have three ships operating year round and offices in 40 countries. On any given day, we are issuing press releases, providing technical advice to policy makers, supporting scientific research, exposing illegal activities, challenging governments, and confronting destructive corporations.

That said, we rarely reach the level of media saturation we did in our early years. The biggest change is in the media environment itself. Instead of just three channels in the US, for example, cable and satellite TV provides people with hundreds of options. News is tailored to niche audiences, so people tend to seek out what they want to hear. Newspapers are in serious decline, with many closing their doors and nearly all of them laying off their environmental and investigative reporters. We still regularly get covered by major news outlets, but the effect is not the same as it once was.

This has made social media much more important, with conservationists and ocean lovers playing a key role in sharing our news with friends and family.

Jeff:

Can you recall your most successful campaign and tell us why it worked?

John:

Some of my favourite victories took place before I started with Greenpeace: an end to incineration at sea, dumping nuclear waste, raw sewage, and industrial waste, and a ban on high seas drift nets, which killed tens of millions of birds, marine mammals, sharks, and other marine life each year. As with our work today, we achieved these victories by putting people at the scene of the crime and risking their lives to bring back stories and images that helped change the world.

In 2008, we put out our first report on the sustainability of the seafood sold at US supermarkets. All twenty we surveyed failed. In our latest edition, eighteen of those twenty retailers have now achieved passing marks. The most important part was just exposing the problem. Supermarkets competed with each other, either to get to the top of the ranking or at least to get off the bottom. Sometimes, as with Costco or Trader Joe’s, we made a more focused example out of the laggards, leading to improvements in those companies as well as in others who were watching nervously from the sidelines. And as is usually the case, it wasn’t just Greenpeace – other organizations were involved in this transition too, as were countless individuals who demanded change.

Jeff:

As commercial fisheries have nearly reached the end of profitability what and who do you feel is the biggest threat now?

John:

Our hope is that we can learn from past mistakes in time to prevent the collapse of commercial fisheries. Policy makers in many countries are getting better about managing fisheries, but they are much too slow in shifting to the precautionary, ecosystem-based approach we need. To make sure we not only stop the decline but rebuild fish populations, we need a network of fully protected marine reserves.

In the meantime, unsustainable fishing remains the biggest threat. We are suffering from a combination of overfishing, destructive fishing, and pirate fishing. We are making progress on overfishing and pirate fishing, but unfortunately a large portion of seafood is caught with gear that either damages the habitat which sustains the fish or kills large numbers of other creatures as bycatch.

Jeff:

Could you sum up for us why it is so important to preserve our oceans and tell us how to best support its conservation in our daily lives?

John:

As citizens of a water planet, we do not have the luxury of trashing our oceans without it coming back to haunt us. There is a very real cost – economic, cultural, and ecological – in going on with business as usual while we damage habitats, overfish stocks from the Arctic to the Southern Ocean, overheat the planet, acidify the ocean, and rely on unnecessary disposable plastic bags and water bottles.

Each of us can take small but important steps to help. Here are a few examples:

Switch to reusable shopping bags and water bottles, and energy efficient light bulbs and appliances.

If you drive, drive less – and make your next car a more fuel efficient model.

Seek out options to switch to renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Depending on where you are, it may be cost effective to install solar panels; you may also have the option to sign up with renewable energy providers.

At this stage, though, it is going to take more than the kind of changes we can make individually. We need to elect politicians who share our values, and hold them accountable, and we need to demand that corporations shift to more sustainable practices. We need new laws and regulations that reflect the scientific reality of our times.

That is no small feat, and getting there will require a little help from all of us. Join Greenpeace, or other environmental organizations that fit your values. Tell your elected officials what is important to you, and let your supermarkets and restaurants know that you want your seafood to be sustainable.

If you would like to know more about the work Greenpeace is doing, visit http://www.greenpeace.org

Jeff is a multiple award winning, freelance TV cameraman/film maker and author. Having made both terrestrial and marine films, it is the world's oceans and their conservation that hold his passion with over 10.000 dives in his career. Having filmed for international television companies around the world and author of two books on underwater filming, Jeff is Author/Programme Specialist for the 'Underwater Action Camera' course for the RAID training agency. Jeff has experienced the rapid advances in technology for diving as well as camera equipment and has also experienced much of our planet’s marine life, witnessing, first hand, many of the changes that have occurred to the wildlife and environment during that time. Jeff runs bespoke underwater video and editing workshops for the complete beginner up to the budding professional.

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Smart Shark Diving: The Importance of Awareness Below the Surface

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By: Wael Bakr

Introduction to Shark Diving Awareness‍

In the realm of marine life, few creatures captivate our interest, and sometimes our fear, like the shark. This fascination often finds a home in the hearts of those who venture beneath the waves, particularly scuba divers who love shark diving. It’s here that shark awareness takes the spotlight. Shark awareness is not just about understanding these magnificent creatures; it’s about fostering respect, dispelling fear, and promoting conservation. As Jacques Cousteau once said, “People protect what they love.” And to love something, one must first understand it.

Shark awareness is not a mere fascination; it’s a responsibility that we owe to our oceans and their inhabitants. From the smallest reef shark to the colossal great white, each species plays a crucial role in the underwater ecosystem. Our understanding and appreciation of these creatures can help ensure their survival.

However, shark awareness isn’t just about protecting the sharks; it’s also about protecting ourselves. As scuba divers, we share the underwater world with these magnificent creatures. Understanding them allows us to dive safely and responsibly, enhancing our experiences beneath the waves.

Importance of Shark Awareness in Scuba Diving

The relevance of shark awareness in scuba diving cannot be overstated. Sharks, like all marine life, are an integral part of the underwater ecosystem. Their presence and behavior directly influence our experiences as divers. By understanding sharks, we can better appreciate their role in the ocean, anticipate their actions, and reduce potential risks.

Awareness is crucial for safety when shark diving. Despite their often-misunderstood reputation, sharks are generally not a threat to humans. However, like any wild animal, they can pose risks if provoked or threatened. By understanding shark behavior, we can identify signs of stress or aggression and adjust our actions accordingly. This not only protects us but also respects the sharks and their natural behaviors.

Moreover, shark awareness enriches our diving experiences. Observing sharks in their natural habitat is a thrilling experience. Understanding them allows us to appreciate this spectacle fully. It’s not just about seeing a shark; it’s about understanding its role in the ecosystem, its behavior, and its interaction with other marine life. This depth of knowledge adds a new dimension to our diving experiences.

Understanding Shark Behavior: The Basics

The first step in shark awareness is understanding shark behavior. Sharks are not the mindless predators they are often portrayed to be. They are complex creatures with unique behaviors and communication methods. Understanding these basics can significantly enhance our interactions with them.

Sharks communicate primarily through body language. By observing their movements, we can gain insights into their mood and intentions. For example, a relaxed shark swims with slow, fluid movements. In contrast, a stressed or agitated shark may exhibit rapid, jerky movements or other signs of discomfort such as gill flaring.

Sharks also use their bodies to express dominance or assertiveness. A dominant shark may swim with its pectoral fins pointed downwards, while a submissive shark may swim with its fins flattened against its body. Understanding these signals can help us interpret shark behavior accurately and respond appropriately.

How Shark Awareness Enhances Scuba Diving Experiences

Shark awareness significantly enhances our scuba diving experiences. It transforms encounters with sharks from mere sightings into meaningful interactions. Knowledge is power, and in this case, it’s the power to appreciate, respect, and safely interact with one of the ocean’s most fascinating inhabitants.

A thorough understanding of behavior when shark diving allows us to interpret their actions and responses accurately. It enables us to recognize signs of stress or aggression and adjust our behavior accordingly. This not only ensures our safety but also promotes responsible interactions that respect the sharks and their natural behaviors.

Furthermore, shark awareness adds a new layer of depth to our diving experiences. It’s one thing to see a shark; it’s another to understand its behavior, its role in the ecosystem, and its interactions with other marine life. This depth of understanding enriches our experiences and fosters a deeper appreciation for our underwater world.

Misconceptions About Sharks: Busting the Myths

Unfortunately, sharks are often misunderstood, feared, and even demonized. These misconceptions can be detrimental, not only to our experiences as divers but also to shark conservation efforts. As part of shark awareness, it’s important to debunk these myths and present sharks in their true light.

First and foremost, sharks are not mindless killing machines. They are complex creatures with unique behaviors and communication methods. They are not interested in humans as prey and, in most cases, prefer to avoid us.

Secondly, not all sharks are dangerous. Out of over 500 species of sharks, only a handful are considered potentially harmful to humans. Most sharks are harmless, and even those that can pose a threat are unlikely to attack unless provoked.

Lastly, sharks are not invincible. They are vulnerable to a host of threats, most notably human activities such as overfishing and habitat destruction. They need our understanding and protection, not our fear and persecution.

Shark Behavior: What to Expect When Scuba Diving

When scuba diving, it’s important to know what to expect from sharks. Most encounters with sharks are peaceful and awe-inspiring. However, as with any wild animal, it’s essential to be prepared and understand their behavior.

Most sharks are shy and cautious creatures. They are likely to observe you from a distance, often circling around to get a better look. This is normal behavior and not a sign of aggression.

However, if a shark becomes agitated or feels threatened, it may exhibit signs of stress such as rapid, jerky movements or gill flaring. In such cases, it’s essential to remain calm, avoid sudden movements, and slowly retreat if possible.

Remember, every encounter with a shark is an opportunity to observe and learn. With understanding and respect, these encounters can be safe, enriching, and truly unforgettable experiences.

Practical Tips for Shark Awareness During Scuba Diving

Being aware of sharks during scuba diving is about more than just understanding their behavior. It’s about applying this knowledge in practical ways to ensure safe and respectful interactions. Here are a few tips for shark awareness during scuba diving.

Firstly, always observe sharks from a safe distance. Avoid approaching them directly or making sudden movements, as this can startle or threaten them.

Secondly, never attempt to touch or feed sharks. This can disrupt their natural behavior and potentially put you at risk.

Lastly, always respect the sharks and their environment. Avoid disturbing their habitat or interfering with their natural behaviors. Remember, we are visitors in their world.

Promoting Shark Conservation through Scuba Diving

Scuba diving offers a unique platform for promoting shark conservation. As divers, we have the privilege of witnessing the beauty and complexity of sharks firsthand. We can share these experiences with others, fostering understanding and appreciation for these magnificent creatures.

Moreover, we can actively contribute to shark conservation. Many diving operators offer opportunities to participate in shark research and conservation initiatives. By participating in these programs, we can help ensure the survival of sharks for future generations.

Lastly, we can advocate for sharks. By sharing our knowledge and experiences, we can help dispel misconceptions about sharks and promote their protection. Every voice counts in the fight for shark conservation.

Courses and Resources for Shark Awareness and Behavior

There are many resources available for those interested in shark awareness and behavior. Scuba Diving International as well as numerous conservation-based organizations offer courses and workshops on shark biology, behavior, and conservation. These courses provide in-depth knowledge and practical skills for interacting with sharks responsibly and safely. From courses like our Marine Ecosystems Awareness Specialty and our Advanced Adventure Certification provide you with the information you need to tackle this new challenge!

Additionally, there are many online resources available, including websites, blogs, and forums dedicated to shark awareness and conservation. These platforms offer a wealth of information and a community of like-minded individuals passionate about sharks.

I encourage anyone interested in sharks to explore these resources, to sign up for one of SDI’s courses call your local dive center or instructor or reach out to your regional representative/ World HQ to find where the class is being taught near you. Knowledge is the first step towards understanding, appreciation, and conservation.

Conclusion: The Role of Shark Awareness in Future Scuba Diving Experiences

As we look to the future, the role of shark awareness in scuba diving will only continue to grow. As our understanding of these magnificent creatures deepens, so too will our appreciation and respect for them. This knowledge will shape our interactions with sharks, enhancing our experiences and promoting responsible and respectful behavior.

Shark awareness is more than just an interest; it’s a responsibility. It’s a commitment to understanding, respecting, and protecting one of the ocean’s most fascinating inhabitants. And it’s a journey that I invite all divers to embark on.

As we dive into the blue, let’s dive with awareness. Let’s dive with respect. And let’s dive with a commitment to understand and protect our underwater world. For in the end, the ocean’s health is our health, and every creature within it, including the sharks, plays a crucial role in maintaining this delicate balance.

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The Ocean Cleanup & Coldplay announce limited edition LP made using river plastic

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  • Limited ‘Notebook Edition’ LP release of new Coldplay album ‘Moon Music’ made using river plastic removed from the Rio Las Vacas, Guatemala by The Ocean Cleanup

  • First collaborative product the latest step in Coldplay’s support for global non-profit

  • Innovative product partnerships essential for long-term success of The Ocean Cleanup’s mission to rid the oceans of plastic

The Ocean Cleanup and Coldplay have confirmed that a limited ‘Notebook Edition’ LP release of the band’s album ‘Moon Music’ will be manufactured using plastic intercepted by The Ocean Cleanup from the Rio Las Vacas, Guatemala.

The mission of The Ocean Cleanup is to rid the oceans of plastic. To achieve this, the non-profit operates a dual strategy: cleaning up legacy plastic in the oceans and deploying Interceptors to capture trash in rivers and stop it entering the oceans.

Today’s announcement with Coldplay of this Notebook Edition LP is an example of the innovative product partnerships The Ocean Cleanup creates to give this plastic a new life in sustainable and durable products, ensuring the plastic never re-enters the marine environment.

coldplay

The Ocean Cleanup project deployed Interceptor 006 in the Rio Las Vacas in 2023 to prevent plastic emissions into the Gulf of Honduras. Interceptor 006 made significant impact and captured large quantities of plastic – which has now been sorted, blended, tested and used to manufacture Coldplay’s limited edition physical release. The final product consists of 70% river plastic intercepted by The Ocean Cleanup and 30% recycled waste plastic bottles from other sources.The successful production of the Notebook Edition LP using intercepted river plastic marks an exciting new phase in Coldplay’s broad and long-standing support for The Ocean Cleanup. Coldplay provide financial support for the non-profit’s cleaning operations, sponsor Interceptor 005 in the Klang River, Malaysia (which the band named ‘Neon Moon I’) and share The Ocean Cleanup’s mission with millions of their fans during their record-breaking Music of the Spheres tour.Coldplay and The Ocean Cleanup collaborated closely during the intensive testing and quality control process, alongside processing and manufacturing partners Biosfera GT, Compuestos y Derivados S.A., Morssinkhof and Sonopress.Having proven the potential of their partnership, The Ocean Cleanup and Coldplay will continue to explore new and innovative ways to combine their impact and accelerate progress in the largest cleanup in history.

coldplay

“Coldplay is an incredible partner for us and I’m thrilled that our plastic catch has helped bring Moon Music to life.” said Boyan Slat, Founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup. “Ensuring the plastic we catch never re-enters the marine environment is essential to our mission, and I’m excited to see how we’ll continue innovating with Coldplay and our other partners to rid the oceans of plastic – together.”

coldplay

About the Ocean Cleanup

The Ocean Cleanup is an international non-profit that develops and scales technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. They aim to achieve this goal through a dual strategy: intercepting in rivers to stop the flow and cleaning up what has already accumulated in the ocean. For the latter, The Ocean Cleanup develops and deploys large-scale systems to efficiently concentrate the plastic for periodic removal. This plastic is tracked and traced to certify claims of origin when recycling it into new products. To curb the tide via rivers, The Ocean Cleanup has developed Interceptor™ Solutions to halt and extract riverine plastic before it reaches the ocean. As of June 2024, the non-profit has collected over 12 million kilograms (26.4 million pounds) of plastic from aquatic ecosystems around the world. Founded in 2013 by Boyan Slat, The Ocean Cleanup now employs a broadly multi-disciplined team of approximately 140. 

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