News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy
About Andreas Merkl
Andreas Merkl is the President and CEO of Ocean Conservancy. Having grown up on the banks of the Rhine River in industrial northern Germany, Andreas decided at the age of 10 to dedicate his life to conservation. With a background in environmental science, resource economics and business, Andreas is particularly interested in determining the ocean’s rightful role in answering the central question of our time: how to meet the enormous resource demands of a rapidly growing global population without destroying the natural systems that sustain us. Andreas is never happier than when he’s out on the water and is a passionate sailor and surfer and has dived most of the world’s oceans. Follow him on Twitter @AndreasMerkl.
It was just three years ago yesterday that President Obama signed the Executive Order establishing the National Ocean Policy. We’ve come a long way so far, and we are starting to realize the policy’s considerable promise.
As I’ve written about before, the National Ocean Policy and the subsequent Implementation Plan are historically significant. President Obama recognized that a healthy ocean is a productive ocean and thus established the policy to ensure that we work together to balance use and conservation.
This policy directly addresses the key challenge of our time: how to meet the enormous resource demands of a rapidly growing global population without destroying the natural systems that sustain us. The ocean, of course, is at the center of every aspect of this challenge—food, energy, climate and protection of our natural resources.
Our ability to manage impacts on the ocean will make a crucial difference in making this planet work for 9 billion people. As the ocean is asked to provide in so many ways, it is inevitable that we need to prioritize, coordinate and optimize. That’s where the National Ocean Policy—a set of common-sense principles to help protect our ocean resources—comes in.
Despite the fact that our planet is 70 percent water, it’s easy to take for granted the many ways that the ocean keeps us alive. The ocean provides much of the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink and the climate that surrounds us.
The complex ocean systems that produce these benefits—from currents and photosynthesis to food chains—are often chaotic and unpredictable at smaller scales, but at large scales they come together in a balanced way to ensure that life can thrive.
The ocean is resilient, and it will provide for us unless we forget about its vital role at the center of the biggest challenge of our time – how to meet the enormous resource demands of a rapidly growing global population without destroying the natural systems that sustain us.
President Obama’s plan to address climate change is a step in the right direction on the long road toward making real progress in reducing carbon pollution. There is no greater threat to the life on our planet than the effects of putting too much carbon into the atmosphere, and we are already seeing the impacts. It’s urgent, and we must act now.
The Arctic is experiencing the effects of climate change more than anywhere else, with air temperatures warming about twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Water temperatures are rising and seasonal sea ice is melting at a record-breaking pace.
As we have increased the amount of carbon pollution pumped into the air, the ocean has absorbed more and more of it, becoming 30 percent more acidic since the Industrial Revolution. This has a ripple effect up the food web and across livelihoods.
There is something we can do about it. The ocean should be at the center of our solutions to the rising threat of carbon pollution. You can learn more about Ocean Conservancy’s work on this issue in my blog, The Ocean in a High CO2 World:
This video of oceanographer David Gallo‘s TEDTalk ‘Underwater Astonishments‘ highlights some of the most amazing ways creatures have adapted to life in the ocean. It is being featured as part of TEDWeekends –- a curated series that introduces a powerful “idea worth spreading” and is a collaboration of TED and The Huffington Post. This week’s TEDTalk is accompanied by an original blog post from David Gallo, along with new op-eds, thoughts and responses from the HuffPost community, myself included.
After watching the video, please read my companion opinion piece, “Preserving Our Underwater World” where I discuss why we cannot take the ocean’s resilience for granted, especially as we are saddled with an utterly uncertain climate future that is changing the ocean’s physical and biological characteristics right before our eyes.
Smart fisheries management is a great place to start a conversation about putting the ocean at the center of the world’s biggest challenges. This is because the most profitable type of fishing is sustainable fishing – better management helps fishermen and the ocean at the same time.
Sustainable fishing means keeping enough fish in the water to reproduce and ensure a bountiful catch in the future. It’s a balancing act, but sustainable fisheries are in everyone’s best interest – from fishermen to distributors to gear manufacturers to retailers to consumers. If you’re a fisherman and you want to pass on your traditions to the next generation, or you want to be able to make good money 10 years from now, the most profitable way to fish is sustainably.
Unfortunately, overfishing due to poor fisheries management remains a global problem that threatens ecosystem health and human survival. For example, without enough forage fish—small fish like anchovies, sardines, and squid—the larger predators, like tuna, that feed on them will start to disappear as well.
That matters because we are facing a future with 9 billion people on the planet, and with that future comes huge concerns for food security.
That challenge is how to meet the enormous resource demands of a rapidly growing global population without destroying the natural systems that sustain us. In every aspect of this challenge—food, energy, climate, and protection of our natural resources—our ability to manage impacts on the ocean will make the crucial difference in sustaining the resources that we need to survive.
One of our readers, who is very concerned about increasing CO2 emissions, asked that question in a comment on my last blog, where I detailed how rising carbon pollution is the greatest risk to the ocean and the resources—food, water, air, energy—it provides to sustain us.
The first step we need to take is to find out more about the species, people and places that are already feeling the effects of increased carbon pollution. The ocean is absorbing more and more of our carbon emissions, and its waters are becoming more acidic as a result. Ocean acidity has already increased 30 percent in the past few decades, and we are starting to see real impacts on species that depend on calcium for their shells.