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Marine Life & Conservation

Sea Turtles – what will it take to save them?

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Staci-Lee Sherwood works at Sea Turtle Oversight Protection, Highland Beach Sea Turtle State-wide Morning Survey Program and Sea Turtle Rescue/Research & Ocean Conservation projects (USA)

Sea Turtles have been around about 150 million years and unlike the dinosaurs have managed to survive….so far. Their struggles begin in the nest, which is sometimes filled with trash and fishing line, and so many of the hatchlings are stuck and in need of rescue as newborns.  As they crawl to the top of the nest and attempt to make their way to the ocean they are often bombarded with bright artificial lights from the shore that confuse and disorientate, causing them to race toward the light instead of the ocean.  In Florida alone thousands of newborn sea turtles die each season because of light disorientation when they are only a few hours old and all of this is human caused and preventable. We are trying to change that.

If they manage to get to the ocean, a host of hungry predators are waiting to snack on them.  During their lives they must avoid becoming a meal while at the same staying clear of plastic, chemicals, oil, trash, boats, fishing hooks, fishing nets or killed for their shells and meat, etc.  Roughly 86% of all Sea Turtles have plastic in them which is more than any other marine animal.  Normally these animals can live as long as humans but their life is a constant 24/7 struggle.  As the ocean heats up and becomes more toxic not only are they effected directly but also indirectly as their food supply vanishes due to overfishing and disease. The increased ocean temperature creates a good host environment for bacteria and disease to spread. Then we have the oil spills, which coats them and causes them to die a slow death as they are suffocated by the oil or killed by the chemicals dumped into the ocean after a spill. Either way, Sea Turtles that swim into an oil spill rarely swim out and survive.

Unfortunately for the Sea Turtle they are a migrating species that travel and nest all over the globe. While this migrating can offer better feeding when an old feeding ground becomes depleted it also means more danger. Sea Turtles may have protection here in the U.S. but they don’t have much protection elsewhere in the world where they are still openly hunted for their meat and shell. Once they swim out of protected waters into international waters they become fair game to any fisherman. This problem is also true for other endangered marine animals like Sharks, Whales and Dolphins. Monitoring is abysmal at best and education is done piecemeal. As is the case with so many things, few step back to see the big picture, which is why truly affective conservation methods are few and far between.

Nesting females mature at about age 20 years, leatherbacks a bit sooner, and return to their natal beach to lay their eggs. Coastal development and beach erosion is destroying their habitat which further complicates their survival. These gentle endangered creatures will only continue to survive and share our world if we allow them space to live and nest. As we continue to develop the beaches, dump chemicals into the ocean and deplete the ocean of every fish, the sea turtle’s struggle for survival is questionable.

So what can someone do to help save them from what seems like an endless gauntlet of potential disasters? For starters stop using plastic. One of the biggest problems we are finding in dead post-mortem hatchlings is they have stomachs filled with plastic instead of food. This can also be said for most marine life including shorebirds. Not only is plastic polluting the ocean but the manufacturing of it is incredibly toxic and since it’s a by-product of fossil fuels the demand for plastic keeps us drilling for more oil. In fact more oil is used in the production of plastic than it is refined for gasoline for cars. That’s how serious a problem it is, but anyone can help by switching from plastic bags to reusable ones. Use a stainless steel thermos instead of plastic and never ever litter.  Giving up seafood to let the fish population try to recoup from the daily onslaught will really help because commercial fishing kills untold numbers of ‘non target’ species like Sea Turtles. Trawlers, long line hooks and nets that go on for miles have already devastated huge areas of the ocean which is in dire need of a break. Many ocean conservationists have made the choice to drop the plastic and give up seafood for the sake of the ocean, myself included. Beach cleanings are critical and very easy to arrange and in fact anyone can go out and pick up the trash, of which there is always a lot of. Supporting clean sustainable energy like wind and solar and moving away from oil and coal will help curb the acid rain created by coal fired power plants which is warming the ocean and making it very acidic and toxic. (Note on acid rain from Staci-lee – see below)

Just by doing these simple and not so simple things we can turn the tide not only for the Sea Turtle but also for the ocean. If we fail to act now it won’t just be the Sea Turtle we will be losing. For the past 6 years I have been researching and rescuing Sea Turtles so I speak from personal experience in the field and things are even worse than I’ve described. We really are at that tipping point. We hold their future in our hands and unless we get serious about global conservation of the species these living fossils will no longer be living, they will just be fossils….like the dinosaur.  For more information about how you can help save Sea Turtles here are a few noteworthy links:

http://seaturtleop.org/broward/ – Sea Turtle Oversight Protection, we rescue disorientated hatchlings and make sure they get into the ocean instead of dying in the road from light pollution.

http://sos-tobago.org/trinbago-turtles/leatherback – Save our Sea Turtles, volunteer program in Tobago working to save one of the biggest Leatherback nesting grounds in the world from poachers.

http://www.conserveturtles.org/ – Sea Turtle Conservancy, working in the U.S. and Costa Rica to save habitat.

http://www.seaturtlesforever.com/ – Sea Turtles Forever, a volunteer program in Costa Rica helping locals switch from poachers to protectors.

 

(Acid Rain) About acid rain and warming the ocean, I was referring to both oil and coal which contribute to the ocean’s problems differently. Acid rain is caused by the release of nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide from coal fired plants which causes the acidification of the ocean which has already happened. Burning fossil fuels and the entire process of drilling and refining oil creates heat in simple terms which warms the atmosphere and stratosphere and raises the core temperature of earth, including that of the ocean which is about 2 degrees warmer. It also releases carbon dioxide which further adds acid to the ocean. Acid rain also destroys forests and there is thinking that with fewer forests (which help shade and cool the earth) that too is causing ocean warming. The release of these chemicals from both coal and oil causes a thinning of the ozone layer and expansion of the 3 existing holes – this allows more UV rays to get through which causes a rise in the core temperature. Finally not only coal and oil but all pollutants we release hover around the earth like a layer of toxins, they don’t evaporate or disappear they just stay in the atmosphere forever which also creates warming. So yes, both coal and oil cause ocean acidification and warming… which is unfortunate since we are addicted to both.  

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.

Marine Life & Conservation

Review: David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet

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Regular contributors, CJ & Mike from Bimble in the Blue, review the Netlix documentary: David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet

David Attenborough’s latest and arguably most important documentary to date is now showing on Netflix.  It is, in his own words, his “witness statement” of a unique life exploring and documenting the wonders of the natural world.

Attenborough looks back and realizes that the previously gradual changes he witnessed (animal species becoming harder to find and fewer wild spaces) have now become vastly more widespread and noticeable. As the human population increased, so has the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide, while the amount of wilderness has decreased.  His conclusion: human activity and man-made climate change have accelerated the pace of biodiversity loss.  This not only imperils the majority of natural habitats and creatures on Earth, but also the very future of humankind.

From images of lush green landscapes we journey with him over time to revisit these places, now wastelands. One of the most haunting is the contrast between early footage of orangutans swinging through the rainforest, to recent images of an orangutan clinging onto a lone tree devoid of all but one branch in the wreckage of a deforested site. Attenborough then makes a statement that has stuck with me since watching “A Life On This Planet”: that though we undoubtably have an obligation to care for the natural world, it’s not just about saving other species.  It is about saving ourselves.  His drive and determination to advocate and spread this message as much as possible at the age of 94 is both impressive and humbling, yet Attenborough manages to make this serious subject an unexpectedly positive learning experience.

In the final chapter of the movie Attenborough turns from the bleak reality of the destruction of Earth’s biodiversity, and offers a lifeline of hope and positivity. We can, he tells us, reverse the damage we have caused, we can save our species and the wonders of the natural world, and it can be done with just a few conceptually simple actions.  It’s enough to enthuse even the most jaded and pessimistic of conservationists!  Attenborough has an amazing ability to awaken our love of the natural world and now he shows us our future is in our hands. It’s time to act.  But we must start now and it must be a united effort.

You don’t have to be a scuba diver to be impressed with the eloquence of David Attenborough’s words, or his powerful yet simple message. We are self-confessed Attenborough super fans, but I don’t think anyone could contest that this is a stunning 1 hour and 20 minutes of hard hitting brilliance. The film closes with the comment, “Who else needs to see it?” The answer is all of us.  We highly recommend this documentary to everyone. Put simply if you watch no other documentary this year, watch this one.

For more from CJ and Mike please visit their website here.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Join Reef-World’s sustainability webinar at the first ever Scuba.Digital

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Reef-WorldJoin Reef-World and a panel of industry experts at the first ever Scuba.Digital for an open discussion on green tourism and how this might be shaped by a post-corona world.

 The Reef-World Foundation – the international coordinator of the UN Environment Programme’s Green Fins initiative – is pleased to invite its supporters to its Sustainable Diving event on the main stage of Scuba.Digital 2020 (3pm BST on Friday 23 October 2020). At this virtual Q&A, members of the public will hear from industry leaders about the steps they’re taking towards sustainability, particularly in light of the current pandemic.

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed plans and caused uncertainty across the dive industry: not least when it comes to sustainability. It has also led to a surge in the volume of plastic waste – particularly from single-use and hard-to-recycle products – with masks and gloves being found washed up on beaches. So, what now for green tourism? In this session, attendees will discover the unexpected environmental challenges that have been caused by the pandemic, how sustainability leaders are overcoming those obstacles and the simple changes YOU can make to protect coral reefs for future generations.

Reef-World and the United Nations Environment Programme will host a lively virtual discussion with PADI, Explorer Ventures Liveaboard Fleet, Scuba.Digital, Paralenz, ZuBlu and Bubbles Dive Centre. Together, they will talk about how the sustainability of the diving industry has been impacted by Covid-19 and predictions for the future of green tourism. Attendees will learn:

  • Why is coral so important and how they can be protected through sustainable diving practices
  • What sustainability leaders across the industry are doing to protect coral reefs
  • And how they’ve adjusted their plans in light of the current pandemic
  • What the future of sustainable tourism might look like, according to the expert panel
  • & the simple changes YOU can make to protect coral reefs for future generations.

The panel discussion will be available to watch on the Scuba.Digital main stage at 3-3.30pm and 4-4.30pm BST (with a short break in between the two sessions) on Friday 23 October 2020. Attendees will be able to submit their own questions to the panel too.

Chloe Harvey, Director at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “Reef-World’s sustainable diving events have been gaining momentum in previous years so we’re delighted to be able to host this exciting panel event despite current travel restrictions. While the pandemic is causing challenges across the industry, it also offers the opportunity for us to pause, regroup and plan to build back better with a more sustainable tourism industry. We must act now to protect our coral reefs – the very asset upon which our industry depends – and we must work together. So, we’re thrilled to be shining a light on the future of sustainability and help both recreational and professional divers around the world understand how they can support the cause.”

Natalie Harms, Marine Litter Focal Point, COBSEA Secretariat, UNEP – who will be chairing the event – said: “This crisis is hitting marine tourism and the people who depend on it hard. It has showed us once more that our health and the health of our ecosystems are inextricably linked. There is no silver lining for nature – now more than ever the diving community can lead by example and join hands for a sound environmental response to the crisis.”

The 2020 panel represent a range of companies who are innovating when it comes to sustainability:

Reef-World – the leader in marine tourism sustainability – aims to make sustainable diving and snorkelling the social norm.

The UN Environment Programme – the leading authority setting the global environmental agenda, which provides technical advice, support and funding for Reef-World’s Green Fins programme

Scuba.Digital – run by the team at ScubaClick Ltd – was created to help the diving industry network, collaborate and innovate in a way that won’t be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

PADI – The world’s largest diving organisation made a proclamation for the planet in 2019: shifting its brand tagline to “Seek Adventure. Save the Ocean” in order to expand its mission to include a deeper commitment to taking action to protect people and planet.

Explorer Ventures Liveaboard Fleet – is enhancing environmental operations through a customised management strategy, starting with its Caribbean vessels. It is also helping The Reef-World Foundation establish targeted liveaboard protocols as part of the Green Fins initiative with the hope of improving dive operator and liveaboard policies worldwide.

ZuBlu – is a travel platform helping scuba divers and marine enthusiasts discover and book their next underwater adventure in Asia

Paralenz – has developed a camera that enable divers to capture and share the state and life of the Ocean as a seamless part of the dive

Bubbles Dive Centre – in Pulau Perhentian, Malaysia, is one of the global Top 10 Green Fins members.

This online panel event is relevant to representatives from all segments of the diving industry: recreational divers, dive professionals, dive operators, liveaboards, resorts, travel providers, diver training organisations, manufacturers, photographers, the media and more.

Jason Haiselden, Marketing & Sales Director at ScubaClick Ltd and Scuba.Digital, said: “It is great that Reef-World has grabbed the opportunity that Scuba.Digital presents to tell the industry and the diving and snorkelling public how they can make what we do more sustainable. Covid is forcing change upon us so why not take the opportunity to make sustainable changes.”

For more information, please visit www.reef-world.org / www.greenfins.net or come and meet The Reef-World Foundation team at Scuba.Digital.

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