Image © Lisa Vickers

Karen Sack, Greenpeace International's Head of Oceans, has been in bed with a fever the last couple days. She blames the antihistamines for the following sunny revery about what 2008 might bring to our oceans work in a perfect world. But hey, in the words of the old song, "if you don´t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?"

A Vision and a Challenge

2007 was not a great year for our oceans. Overfishing, marine pollution and climate change now jostle with one another in the struggle to see which can do more harm to marine life more quickly. Combine the three, add in a healthy dose of self-interest inspired by short-term profits and supported by major fishing nations, and things do not look good for the myriad of life that inhabits our oceans in 2008.

At Greenpeace, we have a different vision for our oceans: a vision of clean and healthy oceans abundant with life. Some people call us radical. Since our oceans cover three-quarters of our planet and play host to some 80% of all life on earth, we don't think there is a choice about what has to be done to defend our oceans, and we are prepared to do it. What if 2008 were different?

How about this vision for change in 2008:

Our oceans were heading for collapse. The Fishing industry was fishing itself to death. Most of the fish sold in supermarkets around the world was stolen: either from future generations who might never have known the taste of a tuna, or from small fishing communities that were being robbed by vast and destructive fishing fleets from distant countries. But in 2008, concerned citizens, consumers and fish sellers from around the world stood together and refused to buy into more ocean destruction. Retailers saw that the fish they were buying were getting smaller and that the price of the choice fillets they liked to stock were skyrocketing. They feared that there might not be enough of the type of fish their customers demanded, to stock their shelves, and that their sales would suffer if they didn't adopt sustainable purchasing policies. Governments listened to the voices of their voters and the retail sector and agreed to rules stopping fishing piracy from the high seas all the way to the supermarket shelves. One by one, regional and international fora heard the rising chorus of voices calling for 40% of the worlds oceans to be declared as no-take marine reserves: national parks for the seas that would be set aside to replenish ocean life. And at the United Nations, the Greenpeace Roadmap to Recovery was used to identify and establish these areas, meeting the target governments had set themselves to establish just such a network by 2012.

For the other 60% of the oceans not contained in marine reserves, the fishing industry realised that if they were fishing themselves out of their own future, and so they joined the many local communities already supporting and benefiting from marine reserves. Then they took a leap forward, supporting a system of national and international rules that only allowed sustainable and equitable fisheries to take place and pressing their governments to act to enforce those rules. They accepted that destructive fishing practices like high seas bottom trawling should be outlawed because it destroyed entire habitats and the future of the very fish stocks they need to catch to stay profitable. And they agreed to help get rid of the fishing pirates that use the vastness of the oceans to escape those rules. In doing so, their first stop was the Greenpeace blacklist of pirate fishing vessels to prohibit those known and listed pirate fishing vessels, their owners and fishing masters from getting into ports or selling their fish.

And at the June meeting of the International Whaling Commission, governments of the world agreed that lethal scientific whaling and commercial whaling had no place in the 21st Century because of the combined impacts of the threats facing whales today. They agreed that together they would combine their resources to study whales without having to kill them, to help them gain a greater understanding of the impacts of all these threats on ocean life and to better understand whales themselves and their place in marine ecosystems.

That's the vision. The challenge is to make it happen. It won't be easy - and it may take more than a year to realise, but if we believe in the vision, then there is no reason we can't act to force a sea-change. Together, in every country, in every supermarket, at every port and from every parliament all the way to the United Nations, we can make that change. We have no choice but to make that change and we hope you'll join us as part of the groundswell of people creating that change in 2008!

For the oceans,

Karen

Take Action: Sign our demand to the United Nations to create a global network of marine reserves.