Making Progress in Ocean Conservation

The World Ocean Observatory has been producing a weekly radio broadcast — World Ocean Radio — since 2008. This week marks our 400th episode. Since its inception, World Ocean Radio has reached audiences around the world with issues affecting the world ocean. It is available through the Public Radio Exchange and the Pacifica Network, podcast subscription, additional broadcast outlets in the US, Asia, and Africa, and through social media. A selection of our editions are translated into French, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese, and Swahili and are available through our website for re-broadcast at no cost.

Three things have become evident over time: first, there is an ever-increasing demand for this information in this format; second, that we are finding an ever-increasing group of partners to amplify the connection; and third, that there are many examples of positive change measurable over the years that have their audience through this initiative. This justifies our optimism. Thanks to all.

Our collaboration with the Smithsonian Ocean Portal and promotion of the Earth Optimism Summit in Washington, DC, in April of 2017 is one such beneficial partnership. Today I searched for examples of ocean optimism on the Smithsonian Ocean Portal website and in seconds came up with two among many projects that reflect the initiative, dedication, and success of people around the world confronting ocean problems with solutions and providing inspiration for us all.

Chile has 4,200 kilometers of coastline, with over 86,000 artisanal fishers dependent of inshore catch for their livelihood. The loco, also called Chilean abalone, is a shellfish found the length of the coast. From 1974 to 1981, the fishery operated with no controls and over-fishing led to significant decrease in quality and quantity threatening the crisis of stock collapse. In response, the government set total allowable quotas, shortened the fishing season, and implemented size requirements, but weak enforcement failed to stop the decline and finally resulted in a nationwide closure in 1989, banning all loco fishing.

Out of this however came a new collaboration between fishers, managers, and scientists to initiate new leases with fishing cooperatives for defined areas, regular monitoring and assessments, management practices and enforcement, that by success inspired other fishers to accept reform and a new national management plan in 1991. Today, 17,000 artisanal fishers co-manage 550 districts in which territorial user rights are defined and accepted, a new legal framework created, and a sustainable fishery that enables protects and sustains the livelihoods of the community.

Another example:

The Mediterranean Sea represents a different challenge as host to a variety of marine ecosystems threatened by the concentration of population, over-lapping national jurisdictions and interests, and enormous pressure from polluting land-side activity to include energy, agriculture, industry, transportation, and residential waste descending from inland areas through rivers to coastal areas into a geographically confined sea. Governments recognized the problem early and in 1976 created an action plan and Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against Pollution, known as the Barcelona Convention, which has evolved since through additional protocols and directives, nationally and through the auspices of the European Union. Today, on average, the eight EU Mediterranean states provide 58% secondary treatment of wastewater and 66% tertiary treatment, and the major industrial pollutants (mercury, cadmium, led, zinc, chrome, and hydrocarbons) have been significantly decreased, a common strategy that has at least prevented the Mediterranean from becoming a dead sea.

What do these examples tell us? That we must recognize the ever-increasing problem of ocean pollution and its ever more negative consequence on our work, our health, our families and our communities. And that then we must do something about it, at the local, national, or international level. All of this seems so obvious, and yet look at the time and effort by so many required to make the progress in the accomplishment described here. Each of these examples, and many more, demonstrate the basic human capacity to take such tools in hand, to mitigate and rectify the causes, and to invent new ways to reach the necessary positive effects.

Optimism is a forward-looking state of mind that leads to success, and success then leads to more success. We learn from every one. We build on every one. Save the loco. Save ourselves. Save the ocean. Save the world.

“Making Progress in Ocean Conservation” is part of the Earth Optimism Series, 24 posts that will profile conservation actions and innovations to reduce our impacts on the planet. The Earth Optimism Series is brought to you by the World Ocean Observatory in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution’s Ocean Portal, to raise awareness of the Earth Optimism Summit during Earth Day weekend, April 21st through 23rd, 2017 in Washington DC and around the world. Read more solutions and success stories here and share your own ideas at