The plight of the ocean. Plastic. Warming. Acidification. Biodiversity loss. It’s been the focus of the mainstream media for quite some time now, perhaps largely down to the “Blue Planet Effect”. Of course the mainstream media has its role to play, undoubtedly Sir Attenborough is a national treasure and my personal hero, but there are lots of other heroes working for the health of our oceans too – this my even include you! After all what better way to take stewardship of something than to be actively involved in it?
You may have seen in recently that Lewis Pugh endurance swimmer and UN patron for the oceans, completed his swim of the English Channel to raise awareness of the inadequate protection of UK waters. As part of the mammoth swim from Land’s End to Dover, Pugh participated in clean ups with charity Surfers Against Sewage and partnered with various organisations including scientific advisors and the UN Environment Programme. Pugh’s achievements are inspirational and the reason I admire his advocacy the most is because he recognises the bigger picture – it’s not just about plastic (something I’m increasingly starting to feel is hogging perhaps a little too much of the limelight?) – it’s about the wider protection of the oceans as a whole.
The Long Swim saw Pugh become the first person to swim the English Channel in its entirety – a distance of some 560 kilometres! The swim marked the beginning of a worldwide campaign that aims to ensure that 30% of our oceans are protected by 2030. Pugh faced various obstacles during The Long Swim, including that of “jellyfish paranoia”, he was stung multiple times and had to get the boat crew to look out for them.
This summer I too faced the jellyfish peril – I had every intention of doing some of the North West Highlands Snorkel Trail – only to make it all of fifteen minutes before wussing out due to the sheer amount of them – there must have been thousands! Of course the moon jellies (Aurelia aurita) are beautiful and relatively harmless but there were some lion’s mane (Cyanea capillata) and although I was in a 7mm wetsuit and not Speedos, they pack a powerful sting and I didn’t want to take the risk as I’m prone to allergic reactions. Cue huge disappointment for me (I wouldn’t say it ruined my holiday but there was some definite sulking going on) and the lack of a guest post that I had planned to write for my lovely friend Sarah’s blog Touching the Summit.
Many others actively involved in water sports are also taking the lead. I scuba dive and the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI®) are key partners with a charity called Project AWARE. Project AWARE is a global movement for ocean protection, powered by those who use the ocean for recreation, namely divers. Next week is AWARE Week (from the 15th to the 23rd of September) and there are a number of activities and courses that you can get involved in.
Let’s also not forget the tireless work of environmental charities and campaigners. In the UK alone marine based charities have been doing excellent work for years, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) for example has been hugely influential with their Stop the Plastic Tide campaign, which includes their annual beach clean event that takes place in September. In fact the Great British Beach Clean 2018 is coming up this weekend the 14th – 17th of September, with events taking place across the UK. You can find out what is happening in your area and how you can get involved here.
The more people are involved in something the more likely they are to effect change, everyone can help make a difference, be it picking up that bit of litter on the beach, not flushing that wet wipe, or even joining a shark conservation course. To borrow a slogan from a well know supermarket – every little helps! And as Lewis Pugh recently said “changing the world’s oceans for the better starts with us, and it starts at home”.