When you think of Ocean Conservation, you probably think of the protection of Whales, Dolphins, and Sharks because that is what we see on TV on a show like Whale Wars and movies like The Cove and Sharkwater. Indeed, these animals are truly important and deserve to be protects; however, we never really think about the process in which these animals and other Ocean habitats such as coral reefs are protected. In theory, we hear an animal should be protected because it is endangered from going extinct in the next few years and it makes sense to protect them, BUT that is not always the case!
The Ocean Conservation process is very complex and requires many hoops through which advocates, organizations, and scientists must jump in order to protect something in the Ocean. Ocean conservations have felt the repercussions of their weaknesses over the past decade or so. Some weaknesses are no longer, such as having great lawyers to battle corporations. The field of environmental law has not only emerged over the past decade but has also become quite effective in conservation; rewriting laws to protect the environment from over development, pollution, and the use of plastic bags.
Weaknesses are still around in the Ocean Conservation World. I present 3 prominent ones in the post (see below) not to drag the Blue Movement down, but to make the Movement aware that we need to ensure these weaknesses are turned to strengths. So low and behold, here are the 3 weaknesses in Ocean Conservation:
1) Fundraising - Conservation, like everything else, is an expensive process which requires the participation of many stakeholders and the creation of committees from industries, culture and religious groups, government, and conservation organizations, and they all need to be paid as studies need to be conducted, policies drafted, and laws written or rewritten. Ocean Conservation may be the most under-funded charity that I have ever seen, especially during hard economic times. There are many Ocean Conservation organizations in existence, but many of them are struggling for funding as they dedicate 90% of their time to writing grants and soliciting funding from donors. Organizations often rely on one source of funding until that source is taken away by the funder (often government or a foundation). What is the solution to the problem? Well we need to ensure each organization gets funding, either by hiring staff solely dedicated to writing grants and/or raising funds on a full time basis. We also need to make sure existing foundations are aware of current Ocean issues and believe in the solutions for which need funding. In addition, I believe we need to create more Ocean Foundations in more countries. In Canada (where I live), there are very few foundations. The creation of an Ocean Foundation could help fund great initiatives to ensure the protection of the longest coastline in the world.
2) Science Communication - The gap in funding is probably due to the fact that Ocean issues are not at the fore front of the public in many countries in the world. The lack of Science Communication in the everyday world is shameful. Yes, science can be complex, but it is also quite fun and simple at times. If you read the Introduction and discussion of any primary journal you would be able to understand the concept of the paper (just skip the methods and results as they deal with numbers, jargon, and statistics). My solution to this problem is two fold: 1) Establish Ocean Education for younger generations to introduce them to Ocean Science and the fun that is involved in field sampling and being outdoors (many health and mental benefits too!); and, 2) Educate the adults of the world by introducing and explaining the science of Ocean issues in a clear, easy to understand, and entertaining manner.
3) Ocean Economics - A subject matter with which I am not familiar; although, I recognize and respect its importance in the Ocean Conservation process. Think about it! Everything comes down to money. There are economic consequences to banning commercial and recreational fishing around the world. What would all the fishermen do to make a living? All they know how to do is fish plus they don’t want to do anything else. Ocean Conservation initiaves need to incorporate economics of the area and the world to ensure protection of the Ocean is effective. My solution is to offer more economic programs or Oceans and offer more information to communicate to the public the idea and basis for Economic Ocean Conservation.
Turning the above mentioned weaknesses to strengths in the Ocean Conservation community would drastically change the way and the success rate of creating Marine Protected Areas, Conserving focal species such as whales and sharks, and eliminating water pollution.
Speak Up for Blue is working on implementing solutions through this site to kickstart the transformation of weaknesses to strengths. So join us in trying to figure out how we can create these important transformations. Add comments on how we can change and accomplish these important goals.