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Marine experts urge people to protect ocean

The Senate Concurrent Resolution 44 acknowledged that climate change is a threat

April 22, 2021


By Sophia Compton

Hawai‘i recently became the first state to declare a climate emergency. Sea-level rise, pollution, overfishing and erosion have immediate impacts on Hawai‘i’s shores.

The Senate Concurrent Resolution 44 acknowledged that climate change is a threat and requested that organizations and the state work together to alleviate its effects. The climate emergency hopes to inspire other states to also take action.

Alan Friedlander, chief scientist at National Geographic’s Pristine Seas and former marine biologist at the University of Hawaiʻi, recognizes the importance of having a healthy ocean and he and his team have helped to create marine many protected areas around the globe.

“You can’t have healthy societies without healthy oceans,” Friedlander said. “People tend to think the ocean is limitless but it has its limits.”

National Geographic’s Pristine Seas carried out expeditions to protect some of the most beautiful and unexplored areas of the ocean. The team has worked in over 31 places and created 23 marine reserves so far from Greenland to Chile. Pristine Seas conducts scientific research, inspires marine reserves, and explores and documents the ocean.

By some estimates, the ocean will contain more plastic than fish by 2050. And over the last six decades, humans have produced 8.3 billion tons of plastic, with 90.5% of that plastic having not been recycled, according to a U.N. report.

“We have this basic problem called the shifting baseline where each generation has lower expectations of what is natural,” Friedlander said, “Without these wild places, we don’t know what natural is.”

Friedlander recently worked in different areas of Hawaiʻi like Molokini and Pupukea. Before the pandemic, Friedlander spent most of his time away from home working in locations such as Antarctica, Rapa Nui, and the Galapagos. Not only is the ocean important for the livelihood of people, but it is important for cultural connectivity, according to Friedlander.

Global warming has had immediate effects on Hawaii, with threats of rising sea levels and loss of our beautiful coral reefs and nature. Only 7% of the oceans are currently protected, and only 2.7% are completely protected from destructive activities like commercial fishing, oil drilling, and mining.

This low level of protection is due to conflicts with fisheries, but a recent report said that protecting the correct places could help conserve the world’s biodiversity and reduce carbon emissions while also benefiting fisheries by increasing marine life.

The marine life, especially sharks and rays, are being severely impacted by the fisheries according to a study published in Nature in January 2021. The population of cartilaginous fish has declined 71% since 1970 due to fishing pressure.

“This population decline is unprecedented in history and there is not one simple solution,” said Carl Meyer, University of Hawaiʻi Marine Biologist and professor. “Being aware as individuals of our consumption habits, creating areas that are off-limits to fishing and promoting education could be helpful.”

“I do not buy canned tuna because I know what it’s doing,” Meyer said. “But that’s not a solution for those who are economically dependent on it.”

There are ways to help the ocean according to NOAA. Around the house people can choose to conserve water, reduce pollutants such as choosing non-toxic chemicals, and reduce waste.

Around town, shopping sustainably by using reusable bags, reducing vehicle pollution by choosing to carpool or bike, and using less energy by opting for energy-efficient light bulbs are all ways to help.

On the water, fishing responsibly, respecting the habitat and practicing safe-boating are all ways that fishermen can help the ocean.

Sophia Compton believes that journalism is crucial to maintaining an informed...

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Sophia Compton

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