The health of the ocean is of great importance to me, and it's a cause that I have devoted much of my time to over the years. I was honoured to offer my thoughts on how to protect the ocean at The Economist's third World Ocean Summit recently.
To mark World Oceans Day (June 8), I wanted to share my views on why the health of the ocean is of great importance to me, and how there is a real opportunity to invest in the future by taking care of the ocean. The real question is: what do we mean by investing?
To begin -- some basics need to be in place. With a warming planet, pollution and overfishing, and with only about one percent of the global ocean fully protected, countries must act to conserve and protect marine life on the high seas.
I am delighted that governments have just agreed at the United Nations to negotiate a global treaty with this purpose. But that UN process needs to speed up -- we just don't have time to waste. We are spending precious high-seas capital and we must work together to have this agreement in place within five years.
There is much more that we can do. Retailers should take responsibility for their supply chains. That means knowing where fish and seafood are caught, which ports they have been through -- and making sure that international-labour standards are upheld.
To be responsible also means not to source or sell endangered or vulnerable species, and not to facilitate their trade. For instance, we know that sharks and rays are enormously threatened. The numbers are staggering. Recent studies estimate that at least 100 million sharks are caught and killed each and every year, mostly for their fins in unregulated or illegal fisheries.
Our airline Virgin Atlantic, along with many others, will not transport shark products. I encourage other carriers to adopt the same policy. And yet, we know that about 75% of shark fins are transported by sea. What would it take for some of the world's leading shipping companies to follow suit and also ban the transport of shark fins?
Let's not be under any illusion -- we have one planet and one ocean. What happens in one place will determine the fate of another.
The Economist's World Ocean Summit brought together businesses, cities, ocean users, ocean lovers, countries around the world, to do something meaningful to reverse the current trajectory of ocean decline.
This World Oceans Day we all have the opportunity to get involved in helping to support healthy oceans and a healthy planet. Head over to the website to take action.
How much do you really know about the oceans? Test your knowledge with this Virgin Unite World Oceans Day quiz.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in partnership with Ocean Unite, an initiative to unite and activate powerful voices for ocean-conservation action. The series is being produced to coincide with World Oceans Day (June 8), as part of HuffPost's "What's Working" initiative, putting a spotlight on initiatives around the world that are solutions oriented. To read all the posts in the series, read here.
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