Next year the American National Parks system will be turning one hundred. In honor of their centennial year, we’re going to celebrate by doing the one thing everyone wants to do on their birthday: talk about something else. Because while National Parks have become a great success by any standard, our oceans remain some of our greatest failures. As of December 2015, over 14% of the earth’s land is protected; however, only 3.4% of the ocean is protected with only 1% protected against all forms of fishing. Yes, conserving and protecting up to 10% of our marine habitats that have no clear boundaries and exist meters below the sea surface is logistically difficult. On the other hand, there are so many difficult things worth doing. Waking up at sunrise, eating a salad, and finding examples that don’t make me sound incredibly lazy are all difficult, but are worth the trouble. Here’s hoping we resolve in 2016 to spend more time eating salads and protecting our oceans.
We at SUFB take pride in two things: our ability to present accurate information on ocean conservation in an interesting manner without needing to pander to our audience, and the fact that we have the best fanbase in the entire world. This past week, a listener mentioned to us that eating less red meat would be an easy method of reducing your carbon footprint. At first, Andrew and I were honestly a bit turned off to the idea. We both enjoy a good steak or bacon-glazed chicken from time to time. However, there’s no denying that the meat production industry and cattle farms are resonspbile for a large portion of our carbon emissions. By reducing our consumption of red meat, we can lower the demand for these products. Suppliers will have to adjust by supplying less (and in doing so reduce their carbon emissions) or risk a surplus. Add onto that all of the financial and health benefits by eating red meat in moderation, and our listener may have a point. If reducing one’s red meat consumption is just one of a long list of climate-friendly actions people can take, there’s no need to worry about whether it’s a popular opinion or not. Did I mention we have the smartest listeners out there? I mean really smart.
Next up, the United Nations. You might know them as the “Model UN for Grownups,” or the international diplomatic equivalent of the phrase “I’m not angry, just disappointed.” The U.N. recently elected Japan as a nonpermanent member of the Security Council, a decision that was not viewed upon favorably by ocean conservation groups. Japan is notorious for their abuse of the IWC’s whaling ban that allows countries to hunt whales under strict guidelines for scientific research. And though the country claims their whaling is all for research, this past year an international court called bullshit and required Japan to cease all whaling until 2016. Well, this past week Japan sent out some whaling vessels to the Southern Ocean in preparation of new year. This is certainly not the first time a nation disobeyed the U.N., and conservation is not the main focus of the U.N. or the Security Council. However it’s a little unsettling for ocean conservationists to see a country involved in illegal whaling be given a position of authority in the U.N.
Finally, researchers and Pacific beachgoers alike have been noticing more great white shark sightings this year. While it’s unclear whether this is a result of an actual increase in white shark populations, a shift in current populations due to migrating prey or warming waters, or just an increase in smartphones and camera usage, this newfound popularity may help combat the stereotype of white sharks as vicious killers.
Enjoy the Podcast!