Why the oceans need protecting

Jul 17, 2017 · 3 min read

I have been a mariner for 33 years. I grew up on Canada’s Great Lakes, which are like an inland sea of fresh water. For me and the other children of my home town, the ocean was a vast, remote landscape full of all the amazing creatures you could only find in a science book or in Jacques Cousteau’s films. The ocean was immense, distant, beautiful, and indestructible. How could human activity ever spoil such an almighty, diverse machine of life?

On the deck of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise

Then I became a sailor and made my way from the Lakes to every ocean on Earth. Those abstract, dreamy open spaces suddenly became my second home. My lungs were filled with sea air, my eyes got used to an endless horizon. And just like your first love teaches you about pain, experiencing all the beauty of the ocean, I came to know destruction.

Massive cargo ships dumping their waste in the middle of the ocean, bottom trawlers opening scars in the seabed, illegal fishing fleets depleting life, oil exploration exploding the soundtrack of the high seas. Greed was sailing by me. The ocean of my dreams was turning into a nightmare, and Cousteau’s documentaries into a horror film.

Plastic waste at Manila Bay beaches

That’s why I dedicated my life to protecting the fragile oceans, even risking years in prison after being accused of piracy for peacefully protesting offshore drilling in the international waters of the Arctic ocean.

There is still hope, if we act fast enough. If we give the oceans some urgently needed breathing space, they will bounce back from decades of overexploitation, pollution and destruction. But for this to happen, we need proper protections to be put in place. That means a solid, viable network of marine protected areas and marine sanctuaries in national and international waters.

It’s going to take a lot of courage and political will. But the oceans can no longer be treated like the world’s trashcan. We depend on their health to survive. There is a direct connection between us, and what happens thousands of miles offshore. The sooner we understand this, the sooner we will act to protect the oceans and our own future.

World leaders are now at the United Nations headquarters in New York, to discuss the future of our oceans. This is the perfect opportunity to give them the protection they so desperately need.

I hope they can hear our voice.

The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is currently sailing the Alboran Sea to raise awareness of this meeting at the UN.


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