Plastic Oceans has assembled a team of the world’s top scientists and leading filmmakers to produce a powerful, high-end documentary in high definition. This will play a key role in sending out the message.
The team is headed up by producer Jo Ruxton who was involved in some epic programmes with the BBC Natural History Unit, including groundbreaking productions such as Blue Planet and Pacific Abyss. She brings years of experience of working within the BBC Natural History Unit on wildlife documentaries to the Plastic Oceans programme.
During the filming, the team travelled to some of the most remote parts of the planet, documenting the environmental issues associated with plastic and its impact on mankind as well as some of the most spectacular animals in the world.
Plastic Oceans will:
- Raise global awareness to the problems of plastic pollution
- Highlight and promote positive solutions
- Empower people to become part of the solution
- Provide a chance for the audience to make a difference through social networking
- Be the foundation for campaigns, focused on increasing the rate of change in behaviour and attitudes to plastic consumption
- Provide an effective and entertaining educational tool.
Plastic waste anywhere is a causing us environmental as well as health problems all around the globe. Nowhere is this more so than in our seas and oceans. On land we see the effects right in front of us and usually, not always, try to manage the problems it causes. At sea, the story is very different. Hidden from view, this insidious form of human waste is having dramatic effects on the health of our planet. As divers and being at sea much of the time, if we look beyond our contents gauges, we can see this ‘plastic waste’ effect more than most.
I wrote to Jo Ruxton, the Producer of Plastic Oceans to ask of some of her experiences while making this film.
Jeff: Hi Jo. Before getting involved in the making of this crucial film, had you any idea of the full scale of problems caused by our plastic waste?
Jo: No – I had heard talk of the so-called ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ and wanted to find out more. I managed to join a research trip out to the middle of the North Pacific Gyre in 2009, to find out just how bad the problem was, but it was nothing like I had imagined. We were fifteen hundred miles offshore and spent a month looking for the ‘continent-sized island of plastic’ we had read about but the water was as clear as the most pristine seas I have ever seen. It wasn’t until we dragged plankton nets across the surface that we realised just how much more insidious the problem really is. Every trawl was full of tiny plastic pieces, and the closer we travelled to the centre of the gyre the more plastic we found. It was plankton-sized and the scientists on board were convinced it far out-numbered any plankton that should have been there.
The worrying thing is that the size and amount of plastic that we found, confirmed that it could enter the food chain at the lowest level, whether it was direct plankton feeders, including baleen whales, manta rays or fish, but anything that feeds on plankton feeders and of course that ultimately includes humans. Unfortunately we found the same problem in the middle of the north Atlantic, the Mediterranean, South Pacific and our scientists have confirmed that every ocean is the same.
Jeff: Is it possible for you to single out one issue or event that has most affected you?
Jo: There were so many as we discovered the sheer extent of the plastic, it made me realise just how addicted we are and how we still consider plastic to be disposable – which is crazy because it is indestructible. I have visited places where there are no facilities at all for disposing of plastic waste and communities that are drowning in the stuff. But perhaps the most shocking thing I witnessed was when our scientist in Australia cut open a 90-day-old Shearwater chick and its distended stomach was packed with plastic. Its parents had fed it with shiny objects they had seen on the sea surface and they mistook them for food. The chick’s stomach was full and yet it had died from starvation. When the plastic was weighed it made up 15% of its body weight, which is equivalent to our stomachs being full of 6 – 8 kg of plastic!
Jeff: Plastic is now well embedded into the marine food chain and taking a horrible toll on the world’s wildlife. Is this reversible?
Jo: I would like to think that we are not too late to do something about this. The new science is telling us exactly how toxins are attracted to plastic once it reached the ocean. These are toxins that have entered the ocean from industry, sewage, agricultural run-off, and toxic spills and they don’t particularly like water. They stick to plastic pieces, which continue to attract them like magnets because toxins floating around in the ocean treat the plastic like vehicles they can hitch a lift on. This allows them to travel up the food chain from the tiniest animals to the top predators and as they go on their journey, they magnify in intensity. On top of this, once they are consumed, they leave their plastic transport and lodge in the fat layers of their new host and when we eat fish, it is those succulent fatty layers just below the skin that we love best. The first thing we need to do is stem the tide of plastic reaching the ocean. That is the easiest thing to address, we just need determination, infrastructure and a change of behaviour, every single person can make a difference by changing their attitude to plastic and the way we use it.
Jeff: In terms of the way you see the use of plastic in our day to day lives, what is the most important thing we can do as consumers to minimise or even stop the continuing practice of carelessly discarding plastic into our environment?
Jo: We need to understand that plastic is not disposable. Yes, it is convenient, but when we throw it ‘away’ we need to realise that when it comes to plastic, there is no ‘away’. The best thing we can do is go back to the way we were before we became so addicted to disposables. When did we become too lazy to wash up our cutlery and crockery, refill lighters, wash out flasks, carry shopping bags etc? I am not saying all plastic is bad, it is an amazing durable, light, cheap product, but we have taken this convenience too far.
We need to redesign our products by considering the end of their useful lives, we need to reduce the amount of disposables we use and as a last resort we must at least recycle where we can and minimise how much plastic we send to landfill. If you put aside all of the plastic you use in just one week and look at how much you consume in any 7 day period, I think it would be a real wake-up call. Then consider where plastic comes from – it’s our precious oil reserves, if you take a one litre drinks bottle, it has taken a quarter of a litre to manufacture that bottle, in components and energy. There can’t be many of us who haven’t noticed the increasing cost of fuel and yet here we are burying oil-products in the ground after using them for just a few minutes. That should be a wake-up call – even for people who aren’t that interested in the environment.
Jeff: If we managed to stop all plastic waste tomorrow, would it be too late or is irreparable damage already done?
Jo: I don’t have the definitive answer to that question but I do know that if we carry on the way we are doing, then we will gradually poison our environment and everything that lives in it. The toxins I mentioned before are linked to many of the diseases that are on the increase now – everything from cancer, autoimmune diseases (diabetes, arthritis, etc) and infertility, to cognitive problems and even obesity. Many of the world’s community rely on fish as their main source of protein, so the consequences could be catastrophic if we don’t address this now.
Jeff: I would assume that in the making of this film, you have talked with many world leaders, politicians, industrialists, celebrities. Are they listening, or is commercialism still taking full control of the way we run our lives?
Jo: I have not talked to many yet, but I hope that the film and its message will reach them, I can say that when I do talk to people whether it is through presentations or face-to-face discussion, the realisation dawns and I know they see just how serious this issue is but at the same time how easy it would be to make simple effective change.
Jeff: Is any one listening?
Jo: Yes for sure, but it is hard to reach everyone, that is why we want the film to spread the word. We humans are very influenced by what we see, what we see has much more impact than what we hear. I know for a fact that even during the making of this film, I have changed peoples’ behaviour. I have talked at schools and other educational institutions and at public talks, and I know it has a profound affect on how they look at their own plastic consumption. The teachers have reported back to me, as have parents and members of other audiences. Once they are made aware, they want to do something, and unlike climate change, acid oceans and other pressing environmental problems, this is one we can tackle on all levels.
Jeff: As divers, what is the most important thing we can do?
Jo: Look at how plastic affects our lives on land as well as at sea. Talk to boat operators. Discourage them from providing endless bottles of water on trips, bring their own re-fillable bottles. Talk to other divers, organise beach clean-ups and underwater clean ups and publicise them. Sort the waste to see who the main offenders are and follow up with them. Make sure that anything collected is taken for recycling. Never let any plastic go into the sea. Ask dive operators where they put their waste – I have seen them dump bin liners full of trash over the side of the boat, and I’m sure it still happens. But that is because we have grown up believing you can throw plastic ‘away’!
Jeff: Is there any good news at the end of all this…?
Jo: There is always hope. Every individual can make a difference. There is new technology to deal cleanly with plastic waste, and there are alternatives to every type of plastic packaging. It’s all about spreading the message because people who don’t know there is a problem cannot care enough to do something about it. Thanks for giving me a chance to have my say here!
If you would like to know more about the ‘Plastic Oceans’ project please visit www.plasticoceans.org
Reef-World Launches New Partnerships to Accelerate Sustainability in the Dive Industry
The Reef-World Foundation, DiveAssure, and ZuBlu are launching a new collaboration to champion marine conservation while promoting sustainable diving practices. The symbiotic partnerships aim to increase awareness and implementation of environmental standards in the marine tourism industry through the Green Fins initiative, spearheaded by Reef-World in partnership with the UN Environment Programme.
Businesses have a unique opportunity to create a long-lasting impact through partnerships with conservation organisations. These partnerships show how tourism can go hand in hand with sustainability when businesses join forces with conservation organisations. By working together, these organisations and companies demonstrate their dedication towards sustainability and open doors to endless opportunities for growth and success in the tourism industry that benefit the people and the planet.
As the number of divers continues to grow and make a comeback post-pandemic, studies have shown that there’s a strong demand for sustainability education from dive tourists. This resulted in the partnership between Reef-World, DiveAssure and ZuBlu to promote sustainable diving practices through one of Green Fins tools, the Green Fins Diver e-Course. The course is designed for recreational divers to build on their existing scuba diving knowledge and provide them with the skills and confidence to conduct environmentally friendly diving trips. This, in return, empowers them to use their consumer power to demand more sustainable practices.
Chloe Harvey, Executive Director at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “We’re thrilled to be taking this step with these two wonderful companies. This is a truly symbiotic partnership, one that furthers the business priorities of DiveAssure and ZuBlu, as well as delivering on our conservation objectives. Reef-World has a long history of working with sustainability leaders in the diving industry, and with their support, we look forward to diving into a future where sustainability is at the heart of every dive adventure.”
What the partnerships entail for divers who have completed the Green Fins Diver e-Course:
- Get 20% off worldwide diving accident and dive-travel insurance from DiveAssure.
- Get 5% off scuba diving holidays booked with ZuBlu, a dive travel agency which has over 800 carefully chosen resort and liveaboard partners across 100 dive destinations worldwide.
- Reef-World to provide 10% off on Green Fins Diver e-Course for all DiveAssure and ZuBlu customers and members.
Besides offering a discount on their diving accident and travel plans, DiveAssure proudly supports top Green Fins Members across the globe with grants to fulfil their sustainability and conservation goals. Founded in 1999, DiveAssure has a goal of not only providing scuba divers with everything they might need in terms of safety and medical assistance, they are also committed to sustainability and the protection of our ocean. They champion responsible diving, endorse marine conservation, and continuously strive to minimise environmental footprints. Every quarter, DiveAssure evaluates initiatives proposed by Green Fins members — be it beach or reef cleanups, coral propagation, or setting up marine life nurseries. Dive centres keen to collaborate on such impactful endeavours are encouraged to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
Tal Tamir, Business Development & Community Chief at DiveAssure, said: “We are thrilled about our new partnership with The Reef-World Foundation. We believe that sustainable diving is a key factor in preserving the beauty and biodiversity of our ocean. And that through education, we can raise awareness and drive positive change. The Green Fins courses empower divers and operators with knowledge about marine conservation, sustainable diving practices and the importance of protecting the ocean and its ecosystems — knowledge we encourage all our members to have. Green Fins Members are welcome to apply for funding for their blue-green initiatives, which are considered quarterly. Let’s do good together!”
With the “Explore the blue. Dive green.” tagline, ZuBlu celebrates sustainable businesses and encourages divers to be more environmentally conscious while on their adventures to contribute to a healthier ocean. Reef-World has proudly collaborated with ZuBlu since 2018, and this new partnership model represents a transformation in the impact they can have together. Their mission centres around improving the way travellers engage with the ocean. They believe every dive starts at home, and every decision made in planning a holiday can make a difference to the marine environment. With access to information on the sustainable practices implemented by their featured resort and liveaboard partners, they can ensure their customers find sustainable operators to book their ocean adventures with.
Adam Broadbent, co-founder and CEO at ZuBlu, said: “We are delighted to be deepening our collaboration with The Reef-World Foundation to further encourage more conscious divers. At ZuBlu, we want to empower our guests to be a force for good on their scuba diving adventures. And we are delighted to be rewarding Green Fins Divers with a 5% discount to acknowledge their commitment to the ocean.”
Join the movement to protect our ocean by taking the Green Fins Diver e-Course and receiving all the rewards that come from the partnerships.
The Reef-World Foundation is a registered UK charity which delivers practical solutions for marine conservation around the world. The charity promotes the wise use of natural resources – particularly coral reefs and related ecosystems – for the benefit of local communities, visitors and future generations. It is dedicated to supporting, inspiring and empowering governments, businesses, communities and individuals around the world to act in conserving and sustainably developing coastal resources.
Reef-World leads the global implementation of the UN Environment Programme’s Green Fins initiative, which focuses on driving environmentally friendly scuba diving and snorkelling practices across the industry globally. As such, the charity provides low-cost and practical solutions to local and industry-wide environmental challenges associated with the marine tourism industry. It provides education and capacity-building assistance to empower environmental champions (within the diving industry, local communities, authorities and governments) to implement proven coastal resource management approaches.
About Green Fins
Green Fins is a proven conservation management approach – spearheaded by The Reef-World Foundation in partnership with the UN Environment Programme – which leads to a measurable reduction in the negative environmental impacts associated with the marine tourism industry. The initiative aims to protect and conserve coral reefs through environmentally friendly guidelines that promote a sustainable diving and snorkelling tourism industry. It provides the only internationally recognised environmental standards for the diving and snorkelling industry and has a robust assessment system to measure compliance.
Green Fins encourages and empowers members of the diving industry to act to reduce the pressures on coral reefs by offering dive and snorkel companies practical, low-cost alternatives to harmful practices – such as anchoring, fish feeding and chemical pollution – as well as providing strategic training, support and resources. By reducing the local direct and indirect pressures tourism puts on coral reefs, it helps make corals healthier and more resilient to other stresses such as the effects of climate change. Look for the Green Fins logo when booking your next dive trip.
DiveAssure goes beyond being just another member association. DiveAssure is your steadfast companion and passport to extraordinary underwater adventures. Their membership provides medical, rescue and evacuation services in case divers and travellers have an accident, become injured, sick or if their safety is threatened.
Whatever the emergency, wherever you are, DiveAssure has your back. So you can immerse yourself in the wonders of the deep, knowing their comprehensive benefits, global network, and unwavering commitment to your safety will ensure that every dive is an unforgettable and secure experience. Learn more at www.diveassure.com.
ZuBlu is the world’s leading dive travel agency for scuba diving and ocean experiences, with more than 800 partners in over 100 dive destinations around the world. Secure online booking, expert travel advisors and flexible booking terms mean you can discover, compare and book scuba diving holidays with ease. Discover and book your next diving adventure at www.zubludiving.com now.
Seahorse National Park announced on Eleuthera in The Bahamas
This week has seen the announcement of the designation of Seahorse National Park at Hatchet Bay Cave and Sweetings Pond on Eleuthera. This monumental announcement comes after years of efforts from the BNT and its partners in advocating for the protection of Sweetings Pond and its surrounding areas as an official national park under the BNT’s management.
Sweetings Pond is a large, land-locked saltwater pond in Hatchet Bay, Eleuthera. It has many unique natural features, but the most notable of them all is its incredible seahorse population, which is believed to be the densest population of seahorses in the world. The new 548-acre national park protects the entire one-mile-long pond and the surrounding terrestrial area. The land surrounding Sweetings Pond is a blend of intact coppice, mangroves, and farmlands. In addition, the new national park includes the extensive Hatchet Bay Caves system. This historic cave system is a popular attraction and contains a number of impressive geological features. It is one of the longest dry cave systems in The Bahamas.
Since 2014, the BNT has been leading efforts to have the area declared as a national park. This included years of public outreach and stakeholder consultations in communities across Eleuthera; education presentations in local schools; science and research efforts; and engaging consecutive government administrations. In 2018, the BNT submitted the “20 by 20 Marine Protection Plan” to the government, which included the recommendation to declare Sweetings Pond and other areas in The Bahamas as protected areas.
During the lease signing ceremony for Seahorse National Park, Minister Clay Sweeting, said, “This lease agreement for Sweetings Pond has been a long time coming. It represents a milestone in our journey towards sustainable development. It symbolises our collective responsibility to safeguard our natural heritage and create a harmonious relationship between economic progress and environmental preservation.
“I would like to express my gratitude to all stakeholders in this process of drafting and finalising this lease agreement. Their dedication, expertise, and commitment has been crucial in ensuring that this agreement falls in line with our vision of creating a thriving ecosystem while promoting responsible usage. Let us continue to preserve the jewel that is Sweetings Pond for many generations to come.”
The BNT invites the public to stay tuned for more news about its plan for the country’s newest national park: Seahorse National Park at Hatchet Bay Cave and Sweetings Pond!
To learn more about the role the BNT plays in managing terrestrial and marine national parks, conserving wildlife, and informing environmental policy, please visit its website: www.bnt.bs
Banner Image: A lined seahorse (Hippocampus erectus), female, clining to algae in an alkaline pond in The Bahamas by Shane Gross
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