May 5th, 2010, posted by Shore Crew Tags: Fish, Message of Support, Oceans, Opinion Pieces, Plastiki

By Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director, UN Environment Programme (UNEP)

The epic voyage of Plastiki is bringing into sharp focus the inordinate environmental and economic impact humanity is having on the oceans and seas.

While the focus is solid waste, and especially plastic marine litter, the expedition also underlines the myriad of other, sometimes invisible, factors that are accelerating the degradation and decline of fisheries to coastal ecosystems, such as mangroves and sea grasses.

Unless urgent action is taken, commercial fish stocks may have disappeared in a matter of decades, along with the livelihoods of millions of often poor people, who depend on fish for food and jobs.

And unless urgent steps are taken, ecological infrastructure such as mangroves may soon be lost and with them natural coastal defenses, water purification systems and fish nurseries.

Instead of mining the world’s marine environment and running it down as a result of pollution and mismanagement, humanity needs to re-commit and re-engage on the challenge of healthy seas and oceans.

How can this be achieved?

First, sound science is absolutely central: it provides governments with the reality of how the marine environment is faring and the kinds of choices that need to be made.

Science can also be empowering: it can validate positive actions that are catalyzing improvements that can stage a recovery of one of the world’s most important natural and economically-significant assets.

If society can begin turning the tide in 2010, then Plastiki will have assisted in not only raising awareness about marine litter as it sails from San Francisco to Sydney.
But the ship, David de Rothschild and his courageous crew will have helped charter a fundamental and decisive new course: one that sees the seas and oceans as an extraordinary resource which we damage and degrade at our peril.

Human beings evolved from the oceans, it is high time we evolved a different attitude to the place from where we came. Getting rid of rubbish and pollution by pouring into the sea may line the pockets of some, but it will ultimately impoverish the many.


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