I’ve always been a lover of the sea, be it for the pleasure of swimming in it or being close by. Let’s face it there are many natural benefits of life by the sea. Our oceans are not only incredible but are dynamic ecosystems, as well as being awe inspiring. The oceans provide jobs, a sustainable supply of food, thriving communities as well as clean energy. I could go on.
I was struck by the Netflix documentary Seaspiracy, which taught me so much about the state of the oceans and the negative impacts of fishing as well as the fishing lines and nets used in our oceans. I learnt about the percentage of macro plastic which is found in the oceans from fishing lines as well as the practise of trawling the ocean floors.
Oceans absorb over 90% of heat and almost a third of all carbon dioxide that humans have ever produced. Our coastal ecosystems play a vital role in the climate and nature recovery. The more carbon dioxide the ocean absorbs, the more acidic it becomes and add that to over-fishing, pollution, coastal development and rising temperatures; the oceans are in crisis and we have a problem.
WWF have recently set out a strategy which is looking to include: restoration of lost coastal and declining ecosystems in partnership with coastal communities, reductions in emissions in line with net zero to tackle the impacts of climate change, full protection for at least a third of the UK seas by 2030, rebuilding fisheries for the benefits of climate, nature and people, increasing investment in new forms of finance to fund ocean recovery and will aim to set ambitious targets for ocean recovery in the UK.
There are plenty of projects in the charity sector which are, in essence, a rallying call for the travel & tourism sector.
One example of protecting the ecosystems in the ocean is the Galapagos Cocos Swimway. It’s a vital migration highway that follows the Cocos Ridge connecting the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador with Cocos island, Costa Rica. One of our Make Travel Matter charity partners, Galapagos Conservation Trust (GCT) has been supporting the creation of the proposed Galapagos-Cocos Swimway protected area since 2018, by helping their science partners gather important evidence needed to drive forward the creation of this 240,000 km2 route, which is critical for conserving endangered Galapagos marine species.
Another innovative project is the Flipflopi. They are a movement for change with a mission to end single-use plastic and lead a plastic-reuse revolution through education, sailing expeditions, positive storytelling and campaigns. In 2017 on the island of Lamu, Kenya, using traditional dhow builders and techniques, they built the world’s very first 100% recycled plastic dhow (sailing boat) and covered it in 30,000 multicoloured flip flops – that’s how they got the name! The Flipflopi has sailed over 500km from Lamu, Kenya to Zanzibar, Tanzania, stopping at 12 communities along the way. The hope is that people around the world are inspired to fight the growing tide of plastic pollution.
Then, of course, there are plenty of global beach clean ups around coastlines which demonstrate commitments to the local community and to the ocean and land. Another project that could easily be replicated is that of The Guardians of the Azores – an initiative of Futurismo Azores Adventures. This company has maintained the motto of “Love, Explore and Protect” the Azores, focusing on Sustainability in its broad sense. This activity is fully aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
So you see, it’s not just the charity sector who needs to sound the alarm and think of solutions to see ocean recovery. The travel and tourism sector can play a vital role and, I believe, has a duty to contribute to environmental preservation. We need to be considering how we can integrate the sustainable development goals into our core business models.
The Future of Tourism coalition, who’s guiding principles provide a clear moral and business imperative for building a healthier tourism industry while protecting the places and people on which it depends has continued in their work. We must recognize that most tourism by its nature involves the destination as a whole, not only industry businesses, but also its ecosystems, natural resources, cultural assets and traditions, communities, aesthetics, and built infrastructure. We are all stewards of the planet and do all we can to ensure that our oceans are protected and cared for.