Beneath the Surface – Threatened Marine Ecosystems

♪[music]♪ I think everyone has an
interest in the oceans. We all came from the sea initially. We are creatures that
evolved in the oceans. We carry the oceans around inside us, in a way. I grew up in Wick, in the far north of Scotland, and, in the middle of the 19th century, Wick
was the biggest fishing port in the world. All of that had gone by the time I grew
up. So I always felt a connection
between people and the sea. ♪[music]♪ My name is Callum Roberts, and I’m Professor of Marine Conservation in the
Environment Department at the University of York. My research is about looking at
the ways in which people influence the oceans. The reasons the oceans are
changing around us so rapidly is, simply put, us. It’s the increase in human
population size, and the rapidly accelerating demand for energy. And, the
three biggest impacts effecting the oceans today are… over-fishing, climate change
and pollution. We’re seeing, progressively, the elimination of any
species that were formerly common. We’re seeing the emergence of some serious
problems, such as plastic pollution, where huge rafts of plastic are beginning to
accumulate in the middle of the oceans. And so, I’ve been looking at the way in
which these three great forces interact, or influence life in the sea. We’re here
in Whitby, which is on the Yorkshire Coast. And Whitby has, for a long time,
been a, a major fishing port, which was very active in the 19th century. So in the
past, if you went out here with a little boat, you would be able to catch 17 times
more fish than we do today for the same effort.
It’s easy to miss what’s going on in the sea, because it’s out of sight, out of
mind. Well, the first stage of recovery of the oceans is to recognize that we do have
a problem out here, and we need to change the way that we’re exploiting the sea. The
old fisheries, which used to be dominated by cod and haddock, and, and whiting-,
those have gone into a terminal decline. So, the fishing industry here is a
fraction of what it used to be. I think that the, the problems of the marine
environment here in general, are seen in a microcosm here in this town. ♪[music]♪ my research had an impact already in, in some ways. In that, the research that we
did in York has led to the creation of a network of six very large marine protected
areas in the mid-Atlantic. They were established in 2010. They cover an area of
something like 500,000 square kilometers, which is a lot bigger than the size of the
United Kingdom. So that’s something I’m really proud of. One legacy that I would
really like to see from my research is… a much greater amount of protection for
the oceans. Some of the work that we have done has shown how, uh, if we protect
something like a third of the oceans from exploitation, we can maximize the benefits
that we get across a whole range of things. From conservation, to tourism, to
fisheries. At the moment… only about 2% of the sea is given any form of
protection. Bringing it up to 30% is something which is possible, and I hope it
will happen in my lifetime.

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