Earth Day 2010
Writer and filmmaker Jon Bowermaster is a six-time grantee of the National Geographic Expeditions Council; his recently concluded Oceans 8 Project took him and his teams around the world by sea kayak to the Aleutian Islands, Vietnam, French Polynesia, Argentina, Gabon, Croatia, Tasmania and Antarctica. Seeing the world from the seat of a sea kayak has given Bowermaster a unique look at both the health of the planet's oceans and the lives of the people who depend on them.
Climate change has a couple of different impacts. There are increased sea levels, which we're seeing slowly. You know, I’ve traveled around the planet in an odd way, often by foot and small sailboat and by sea kayak. And everywhere we've gone, around the world, people have told us that they are seeing more storms, more frequent storms and more violent storms. As the sea surface temperature warms, it means there are more storms. That is due largely to a changing climate. The other part of climate change which we're seeing is the evil twin of global warming, which is acidification. For all of the CO2 that goes into the atmosphere, a fair amount dumps into the sea. My favorite statistic is this: 1 million tons of acid go into the ocean every day, which is the equivalent of 24 million Volkswagen bugs. Every day. So we’ve not been very kind to the ocean.
We’ve taken, taken, taken – primarily fish. Ninety percent of fish that once were in the sea are now largely gone. The World Wildlife Fund predicts that by 2050, all the fish that we know will be gone. The greatest example of that single species right now that we are watching is blue fin tuna, which the WWF says will be gone by 2012. Mitsubishi Co is buying 40 percent of all the frozen blue fin tuna that arrives in Tokyo now. They're stashing it. Storing it. Because they know that blue fin will soon be gone. To date, the record price paid for a solitary blue fin at Tsukiji market in Tokyo was $177,000 but Mistubishi is gambling that once the blue fin is gone from the wild, they'll be able to sell a blue fin for $500,000 or maybe for $1 million. In our lifetimes, we may see a $1 million blue fin.
There are some bright spots, some hope spots (such as the Marine Stewardship Council and its work). We’re making more and more attempts to set pieces of the ocean aside, similar to what we’ve done with land. The statistic is that 12 percent of land is set aside, but the set-aside for oceans so far is less than 1 percent. That portion is increasing and as governments and NGOs get more powerful, hopefully that number will grow."