I don't think I can recall a time when I wasn't aware of the beauty of the ocean. Growing up in Australia, I had the good fortune of always having the sea at my side, and one of my first memories of the ocean became an important life lesson for me. My parents had taken my sister and I to this really special beach, Halfmoon Bay. I was so little, but when my mum and sister began to swim out into the ocean I tried to follow and keep up. I suddenly had this feeling of not being able to feel the ground with my feet anymore. I started sinking amongst the waves, watching the blue of the sky begin to slip away -- like I was a little grain of sand sinking to the bottom of the sea... So my first memories of the ocean were powerful and I was taught an important lesson that would stay with me forever, that the ocean is powerful and is to be respected in every way.
For my 10th birthday, my sister and I were taken out on a big boat to Moore Reef in the Great Barrier Reef. There were fish in stunningly unimaginable colors, caves and layers of coral that looked like underwater flower beds. The beauty of this magical underwater land made such an impression on me. It completely shaped my appreciation for the beauty of this world. When I learned that only 1 percent of Australia's Coral Sea was protected -- I was stunned. Even as a 10-year-old kid, it seemed so obvious to me that this gift to our world must be preserved.
These fantastic coral reefs are often referred to as the "rainforests of the sea" because they contain such a huge diversity of life, and Australian marine life is particularly important because our reefs have more marine species than any other country on earth. But sadly, less than half (45 percent) of the world's reefs are considered healthy now with all of these reefs threatened by global warming. Our world has lost 19 percent of all coral reefs, which means that one in five reefs have disappeared, and we stand to lose another 15 percent in the next two decades to overfishing, mangrove loss, pollution and disease.
These statistics are disheartening, but unfortunately for many it goes far beyond percentages. About 500 million people around the world have some degree of dependence on healthy coral reefs, so it's incredibly important for us on a human level -- especially the world's poor -- that we do everything we can to protect them.
We are however slowly making improvements. In 2004, the Australian government put in place the world's largest network of no-fishing zones in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. After several years, the good news is that the reefs that are highly protected have fewer outbreaks of coral eating species like the Crown of Thorns Starfish, and more top predators, like sharks, which are being depleted dramatically all around the world.
The hope that the Coral Sea remains an intact eco-system, has led me to take action and do my part to see that dream realized. I've become passionately involved with the Protect Our Coral Sea initiative, which aims to create the largest marine park in the world, free of fishing, oil and gas exploration, and seabed mining. It would protect a huge diversity of habitats from tropical coral reefs, to species living in the open ocean, to a huge pool of biodiversity living in the depths of the ocean that we don't even know about yet. This marine park would also protect almost one million square kilometers, right next to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. It would serve as a place for inspiration, enjoyment and where the ocean's species -- whales, dolphins, sea turtles, rays -- will all have a safe haven forever.
Together, Angus and I created a little video that we hope will inspire people to want to be a part of a movement for positive change for the protection of the magical Coral Sea. Angus also shares many beautiful childhood memories of the ocean as a young boy, growing up sailing, admiring the ocean as it taught him about life and respecting this treasure. We filmed our video with a beautiful old super 8 camera that captured our feeling of first falling in love with the ocean, and all of our childhood memories at the beach. We believe it's our duty, together.
To learn how you can join the movement, visit Protect Our Coral Sea.