There is no doubt: We need significant action to secure ocean health and prosperity for the people that depend on it. Several recent developments make me confident that we can put oceans on a path to recovery.
A certain level of idealism is needed when deciding to pursue ocean conservation work professionally. While idealism can serve as a kind of moral compass, it can quickly become a hindrance when conservationists attempt to convince foreign communities or governments to enact specific policies.
Which is more important to Americans - water, or hydro-power?
It's not an exaggeration to say that we depend upon the ocean for our very existence. Covering almost three-quarters of the planet, the mighty ocean is a natural resource like no other. Our fate is inextricably tied to the ocean's fate and the ocean is in trouble. Each of us needs to take action to keep the ocean healthy.
Think of the ocean now as a bank account where everybody withdraws but nobody makes a deposit. We're taking fish out of the ocean faster than they can replenish. In contrast, marine reserves are savings accounts, with a principal set aside that produces returns.
Foreign vessels have been plundering the waters of West Africa for decades to stock the fish markets of Europe and Asia. Industrial fishing is depriving West African people of a vital source of protein and pushing thousands of locals into poverty and despair.
We are exploring not just the ocean, but the edges of human grace, compassion, and courage.
So how do we stop overfishing, and encourage fish populations to rebound? It's an achievable goal, when tackled with a country-by-country approach.
The world's fisheries face real threats. But experience and science show that we can have a dramatically better future. Done right, fishing can be a positive force in a world that needs it, generating more prosperity, more food, and more abundance for all.
The circular economy strikes me as worthy of support at the highest levels. Whether as a means of combating the proliferation of plastic debris in the world's oceans, capturing nutrients or preventing the waste of scarce minerals in defunct consumer goods, the benefits would be wide-ranging and have local, national and international benefits.
That's the idea behind an emerging Nature Conservancy (TNC) strategy led by Maria Damanaki, TNC's new Global Managing Director for Oceans.
While in Florida, the Malaysian Department of Fisheries' Director General and I submitted a turtle-excluder device (TED) that had been designed specifically for use in Malaysia to the NMFS for rigorous testing. Every turtle escaped in less than one minute. This was a crucial turning point.
The big change? The rapid evolution of camera technology had lowered the price of cameras available to the average user. The advent of GoPros made high-quality filming a reality for surfers, divers -- and scientists.
Honduras is known more for its reputation as the current murder capital of the world than for its successful marine-conservation initiatives. Yet the country is quickly becoming a model for others around the world for its leadership in this arena.
On the regional and state levels, ocean leaders are helping to forge unlikely partnerships between government, NGOs, industries and communities. These collaborations provide the necessary support for ocean planning and other forward-thinking approaches that can help protect the ocean, coasts and Great Lakes for present and future generations.
The debate is intense, and is further confused by the lack of information available to the public, and even to many of the elected officials, who must vote to accept conditions of which they are not fully aware.