From my earliest memories I’ve always been fascinated by the sea.
As a child I loved paddling on the beach and discovering crabs in tidal pools. But it was those bracing walks on the east coast of Scotland that inspired me to learn more about the impacts we humans make on this precious life-giving resource.
Now I’m working at the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) in Oxford and still passionate about ocean wildlife.
This week is The Wildlife Trusts’ National Marine Week, which is a timely reminder to consider why the seas around the British Isles are so important to us. British people have always relied on the resources and protection the seas give us, and the sheer enjoyment we gain from 20,000 km of superb coastline.
What image better sums up a British summer day than a crowded beach, colourful windbreaks jammed into the sand, and a few brave folk swimming?
But we are not the only species enjoying the sea. More than 8,000 species are recorded in UK marine waters, a rich array of undersea life. Around our coast there are 127 recommended Marine Conservation Zones, chosen because of the fragile nature of habitats and wildlife there like basking sharks, puffins and kelp.
Because of threats from pollution and exploitation, The Wildlife Trusts are calling on the Government to safeguard these zones as Marine Protected Areas. Prof Callum Roberts, a marine biologist from University of York and author of Oceans for Life, warns that if seas are to survive, we need to take action now. Oceans account for more than 70 per cent of the surface of our planet and support a richer diversity of life than any of the habitats found on land.
The vast ocean networks that divide the world’s continents are a vital component of our planet’s ecosystem, storing carbon, circulating heat, influencing the weather and supporting an extraordinary wealth of resources. We need oceans to be as healthy as possible, but instead vast whirlpools of human-generated rubbish circulate in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Fish stocks are being depleted as trawlers scour the seabed destroying fragile ecosystems with their nets. On top of this, cold fresh water pouring from Arctic glaciers will stop the Gulf Stream, which currently prevents Britain from being as cold as Russia in winter, and warmed-up oceans threaten to knock off-course the jetstream that brings us our summer sunshine.
Living in land-locked Oxfordshire, we could be lulled into thinking that the health of the UK seas and oceans across the planet has nothing to do with us.But how wrong we would be! From the fish we eat to the chemicals we wash down our drains, our daily actions have an effect. When we buy fish, we should check for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) logo, which indicates that fish have been caught from a sustainable source, and it’s worth thinking twice before picking up the cheapest household cleaner. Why not choose an ocean-friendly one instead?
See all the National Marine Week events wtru.st/N538Bd
Become a Friend of your favourite Marine Conservation Zone www.wildlifetrust.org/MCZfriends .
Sign the online Petition Fish www.wildlifetrusts.org/petitionfish or have a real Petition Fish in your office and see how many signed scales you can collect. Call BBOWT on 01865 775476 and we will send you one.