Setting Sail for Science

by Halvard Haga Raavand

May 21, 2019

It’s not too late to stop the loss of over one million species are threatened by extinction due to human activity. Greenpeace's leading scientists have developed a straightforward and effective plan to safeguard our oceans for the future.

It’s not easy to read a report that says human activity is threatening over one million species with extinction. It’s even harder to read when you’re dizzy from the movement of a ship swaying in Arctic swells. This report is the latest from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity (IPBES) looking at the accelerating loss of biodiversity around the world.

Even though the results are alarming and leave me with a stomach in knots, I’m reassured to read that the panel say that it’s not too late to stop the loss of species, ranging from big mammals to the smallest insects.

Right now, over one million species are threatened by extinction due to human activity and could disappear from the surface of the Earth and the depths of the vast blue oceans. The increasing threat to biodiversity is the reason why I’m rolling up and down on white topped waves in the campaign office on the Esperanza. We are sailing towards the ice edge zone in the Fram Strait, located between Svalbard and Greenland.

Together with a group of independent scientists, our aim is to increase the understanding of how climate change is affecting the marine life up here in the Arctic. How is the algae bloom – which changes the color of the entire ocean and attracts animals such as magnificent blue whales – affected by the rapid climate change that’s impacting the Arctic region?

It’s frustrating that we’re still having to prove to politicians and world leaders what a dire state the nature here is in. Why is it that they don’t seem to understand the urgent need for action? At the same time, it’s interesting to learn more about the research the scientists are carrying out, and it motivates me to see their relentless efforts in the name of science.

An easy, but complicated solution

Despite my frustrations and the challenges we face, it’s important to remember it is still possible to prevent the total collapse of nature. For the oceans, the solution put forward by leading scientists in Greenpeace’s latest report ‘30×30 – a blueprint for ocean protection’ is quite straightforward: by protecting at least 30% of the oceans by 2030, they can be safeguarded for our future.

The two main drivers for the loss of marine life are destructive fishing and climate change. The recent IPBES report warns that one third of all marine mammals are threatened, and a third of all fish stocks are being harvested at such a rate that they can’t replenish. The warning list is long, and the conclusion is clear – the scale of biodiversity loss we’re seeing is a threat to human existence.

Up here in the Arctic, where the temperature last month was more than 8ºC above average, the threat from climate change is immediate. The Arctic Ocean is going through a process called Atlantification, where warmer Atlantic waters are starting to melt the ice from beneath. This is altering the harsh conditions that species up here like the walrus have spent thousands of years adapting to.

Scientists are saying that the most efficient way to prevent the collapse of the ecosystems up here is to put vast areas off limits to human exploitation. That creates a safe space for threatened species to recover. While writing this blog, I get a message: a colleague of mine shared the good news that Belgium has announced their support for 30% marine protection by 2030, joining forces with the UK. It gives me hope that we can build a movement of countries wanting to protect the oceans. But we need your help.

Please join the call for a strong Global Ocean Treaty that will open the door to a network of sanctuaries to protect our oceans. Add your name to the petition calling for a Global Ocean Treaty!

Halvard Haga Raavand

By Halvard Haga Raavand

Halvard Haga Raavand is an Arctic Oceans campaigner in Greenpeace Nordic on board the Esperanza

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