So what happens when you put together Sylvia Earle, Jean-Michel Cousteau, Richard Branson, Neil Young and Ted Turner? Apart from a really great dinner party conversation, these are the founding members of OceanElders. OceanElders is basically a group of global leaders organized to promote ocean conservation. Joining them are Jackson Browne, Rita Colwell, Graeme Kelleher, Sven Linblad and Captain Don Walsh.
The OceanElders community will serve as a network to “enable people to connect, discuss issues, share ideas and solutions, and initiate action.” The oceans of the world are under a huge amount of stress from industrial pollution, over fishing, oil exploration and global warming which results in problems like ocean acidification. According to a Greenpeace report, 80% of all life on Earth is found in the oceans. However oceans might be depleted of fish by 2050 if current trends prevail.
Currently only 1% of the ocean is under protection. The seed for this initiative was planted in 2009 in the Galapagos Islands when Dr. Earle won the 2009 TED prize for her work in ocean conservation. At that time, she was given one wish to change the world by TED. She asked for help to garner public support in ocean preservation – she came up with the concepts of ‘hope spots’ which was the creation of a network of protected areas which would be enough to restore the ocean.
OceanElders plan to use the web to garner support for marine issues in their local communities. The OceanElders is based on a similar model of ‘Elders‘ that was used to tackle human rights formed by Nelson Mandela. According to their mission statement:
“OceanElders is an independent group of global leaders who have joined together to use their collective influence and experience, supported by science and data, to promote ocean conservation, pursue the protection of the ocean’s habitat and wildlife, and preserve its ecosystems and species biodiversity.”
OceanElders plans on collaborating with other organizations to increase the profile of ocean conservation. They also want to create wide-scale media awareness in order to achieve a tipping point. Considering that the oceans are in such peril and the welfare of the oceans directly affect human welfare, they need all the help that they can get.
However, I’m unsure how another organization that promotes awareness is going to help. With such a high profile group, the aims of OceanElders must be more ambitious than simply creating awareness. There needs to be focus on educating coastal communities on ocean ecosystems to curb such practices like dynamite fishing and shark finning. They should be targeting fishing policies, piracy, illegal fishing, ocean laws and making sure that the over-exploitation of ocean resources be stopped.