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Protect the Oceans

What if we treated our oceans like they matter?

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We’re on an epic voyage from the Arctic to the Antarctic, to reveal the wonders that lie beneath the surface of our oceans and confront the threats they face. Our mission is to secure a Global Ocean Treaty, agreed at the UN, to protect the oceans that lie outside national waters. 

Scientists, media, and marine experts have joined the crew of the Esperanza, to conduct scientific research on ocean life and document destructive human activities such as overfishing, plastic pollution, and the impacts of climate change.

We want a Global Ocean Treaty because it could open the door to a network of ocean sanctuaries around the world. Scientific studies have shown that when large ocean areas are protected, marine life and their habitats quickly begin to recover. Not only will this mean turtles, sharks and whales will be given space in which they are safe from many of the human dangers facing them, but it will also help our fight against climate breakdown. Healthy oceans are essential to keep our climate stable, so we need to do everything we can to protect them.

Catch up on the voyage so far below, and join nearly two million people from around the world in demanding a global treaty to protect the oceans.

The Lost City: underwater cathedrals and mysterious creatures

The latest stage of the expedition saw the Esperanza sail across the Atlantic Ocean, to discover the wonders of the Lost City and highlight the threat of deep sea mining, before heading to Jamaica to take this message to an international seabed conference.

About 20 years ago, scientists made an astonishing discovery. Deep in the Atlantic Ocean lies a network of hydrothermal vents, pumping scalding water from the depths of the Earth. These vents resemble cathedral spires, so the Lost City was an obvious name to choose. 

And around these vents live diverse and unique creatures – crabs, anemones and giant worms have adapted to the extreme conditions, creating a thriving ecosystem where few other creatures can survive. Scientists even think that vents like these could have hosted the origins of life on earth.

While most of us will never see the Lost City in person, artists from around the world used it as the inspiration for artworks depicting its beauty and the threats it faces.

Lost City artwork © Quentin Blake

Lost City artwork © Quentin Blake © Quentin Blake

Inevitably, where many people see natural marvels, big companies see something else: resources to be exploited. The waters gushing from the vents are rich in minerals and mining companies are keen to send in monster machinery to rip them open. 

They’re particularly interested in rare earth metals which are crucial for phones and tablets, and claim deep-sea mining is the only way to keep us all online (this is rubbish, and so are their other claims.) But there’s no two ways about it: deep-sea mining will obliterate these fragile communities and even make the climate crisis worse.

Deep Sea Mining tech video

They say we need to mine the deep sea for minerals so that companies like Apple and Google can continue to make our phones and tablets.But that’s just not true 😠 Take action to stop this industry in its tracks: https://act.gp/2LY3VNi#ProtectTheOceans #StopDeepSeaMining

Posted by Greenpeace International on Wednesday, July 17, 2019

 

The good news is that deep-sea mining hasn’t started, at least not yet, so we have a chance to protect the Lost City and other areas on the sea bed. Thousands of people have sent messages to big tech companies – Google, Microsoft, Apple and Hewlett Packard – in the style of their own adverts, asking them to promise they’ll never use materials from the deep sea in their products. If tech companies won’t use deep-sea minerals, the mining companies’ main argument falls away.

Meanwhile, the Esperanza crew took this message to the annual meeting of the International Seabed Authority. You’ve probably never heard of this obscure organisation, but it’s supposed to regulate deep-sea mining. Instead of proceeding with caution, they’ve so far approved all mining licence applications and barely consider environmental impacts. Even worse, they’re lobbying for a weaker Global Ocean Treaty.

Waves around the world on World Oceans Day

You can’t run a mammoth ocean expedition and not get involved in World Oceans Day. On 8 June (mark it in your calendar each year!), people across the globe celebrated our blue planet with face paint and human waves. Together, we sent a strong message to governments – to create a treaty that will protect and heal our oceans.

Shark attack (and it wasn’t the sharks attacking)

Shark numbers are plummeting and one of the main reasons is shark finning. This brutal and wasteful practice – in which only the highly-prized fins are taken, leaving the shark dead or dying – is a prime example of how our oceans need more protection. The Esperanza passed through a shark fishing ground and monitored a fishing vessel in action. The results weren’t pretty, but documenting destructive fishing is essential to make the case for a Global Ocean Treaty. Our new research showing the impact on endangered shark populations like mako sharks, travelled around the globe, featuring in the New York Times, France24 and ABC.

Sharks Under Attack

Small scale fishermen rely on healthy populations of sharks and other fish species at the top of the food chain to maintain the balance of marine life in the oceans. And yet they are killed by their thousands by vessels trying to catch other types of fish.This has to end.#ProtectTheOceans

Posted by Greenpeace International on Thursday, June 27, 2019

 

The frozen Arctic 

Our epic voyage began among the ice floes of the high Arctic – although the frozen north is becoming distinctly less frozen each year.

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average. This means the region is on the frontline of the climate crisis and changing fast. Most life there – such as polar bears, narwhals and walruses – depends on the ice covering the Arctic Ocean. As the ice shrinks each year, these creatures are finding it harder to survive. The ice also reflects the sun’s energy but the darker ocean absorbs this heat, accelerating climate breakdown.

Incredibly, oil and gas companies see the retreating ice as an opportunity to extract even more fossil fuels. At time when we should be cutting our use of these fuels to zero, this is extremely reckless. Oil spills would devastate the ocean, and cleaning up a spill in the face of icebergs and winter ice would be impossible. 

To protect the Arctic, we need to know as much as possible about the changes taking place. The Esperanza’s crew included a team of scientists who took ice cores and ocean water samples for analysis. By examining factors such as the amount of nutrients and acidity levels, they aim to understand how the melting sea ice is affecting Arctic life. See more about our Arctic voyage on CNN, the Guardian and National Geographic.

Science isn’t the only way to appreciate the Arctic. Music can also describe this frozen – but very much alive – expanse. To highlight its beauty and fragility, we organised a unique concert, with chimes, horns, and a cello carved from ice. But the piece was almost never performed. Ironically, the above-average temperatures meant that the instruments began melting as soon as they were finished.

Add your name to the petition and tell world leaders to create a Global Ocean Treaty to protect our oceans. To follow the expedition check this blog for updates, and follow us on Instagram and Facebook.