In an emotional article making waves on social media at the moment, yachtsman Ivan Macfadyen reports seeing no marine life at sea, only floating rubbish, while sailing across the Pacific. He concludes that “the ocean is broken”.
I understand Ivan’s feelings, as I too have sailed tens of thousands of miles onboard research vessels and on my sailboat, enjoying the slow and silent pace of life propelled by wind and waves.
The two issues Macfadyen raises – overfishing and plastic pollution – are real problems. More than three-quarters of the oceans’ fish stocks have been depleted, sometimes beyond recovery. The global tuna industry, particularly, is better portrayed as the War On Tuna than a fishery. And the world’s oceans are filled with large amounts of plastic debris, which are eaten or caught up in marine life or seabirds, or which break down into microscopic particles that are ingested and affect wildlife in ways we don’t yet know.
So yes, there are plenty of problems in the ocean. But it is not yet broken. I am increasingly upset about reports that say it is; we scientists are to some extent to blame, as we love being the bearer of bad news, composing an overly apocalyptic narrative.
Depicting the ocean as broken and suffering from a litany of plagues including climate change, hypoxia, eutrophication, ocean acidification, marine pests, spreading jellyfish blooms, and loss of valuable habitat, suggests a problem beyond repair. This eventually deters society from engaging. These plagues are certainly real, but their severity is sometimes exaggerated through a feedback loop involving, among others, the spinning of research headlines to compete for media attention …
Read the full article on theconversation.com
- The ocean is broken (stuff.co.nz)
- Yachtsman Describes Horror at ‘Dead’, Rubbish Strewn Pacific Ocean (readersupportednews.org)
- The high cost of ocean decline (eco-business.com)
- Sailor’s Discovery: ‘The Ocean Is Dead’ (newser.com)