"Hope Spots": The panel discussion >> Dr. Sylvia Earle: Key note >> 5 questions for Dr. Sylvia Earle >> Interview: Mattias Klum >> Vamizi: A Hope Spot >> Infographic: How to protect coral reefs >> Hope in Action
Premiere 2018: The panel discussion
The panel discussion about "Hope Spots" took place at the premiere of the International OCEAN FILM TOUR Volume 5 in Hamburg on 15th March 2018. Oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle and activists and experts from different fields such as science, economy and politics discussed about the question how our oceans can be protected and what every one us of—including politics—must do to see this enormous important task done.
The panelists: (from left to right): Hannes Jaenicke (Actor, author, activist), Dr. Georg Heiss (Geobiologist, FU Berlin, Co-Founder and president of Reef Check e.V. Deutschland), Dr. Sylvia Earle (Oceanographer and author. Winner of the TED Prize in 2009. She is the founder of Mission Blue, a global coalition to inspire an upwelling of public awareness, access and support for a worldwide network of marine protected areas – Hope Spots), Host Dr. Tanja Busse (Host and author), Andreas Winterer (Chief editor utopia.de), Dr. Toni Hofreiter (Biologist, MdB and parliamentary party leader "Alliance 90/The Greens" / German Federal Parliament), Wayne Kafcsak (Executive Director of Fregate Island Private)
Honorary guest Dr. Sylvia Earle gave an inspiring key note presentation on ocean conservation at the premiere of the International OCEAN FILM TOUR Volume 5 in Hamburg:
Dr. Sylvia Earle is the grande dame of the oceans. Her engagement for ocean conservation and so called HOPE SPOTS, oceanic protection zones, is unrivalled. The 82-year-old TED-Prize
winner is the guest of honor at our premiere in Hamburg.
In 2009 you made a wish upon winning the TED prize. What changes do you see in ocean conservation 9 years onwards?
In 2009 I said that the next ten years will shape the nature of the next ten thousand years, that decisions made then would have a magnified impact on everything that follows.
The same is true today, but opportunities available then to protect and restore vital species and natural systems that underpin our existence have been lost. At the same time, momentum is growing globally for policies and behaviors that recognize that everything we care about – health, security, prosperity, and most importantly, life itself, relies on making peace with nature.
The good news is that since 2009 the amount of ocean under full protection has grown from a fraction of one percent to more than three percent. Half of the coral reefs are still in good condition and there are still about ten percent of blue fin tunas, sharks, cod, menhaden and other species that are being fished on an industrial scale. They are not all gone.
By creating Hope Spots your organization MISSION BLUE focuses on protecting what is left of biodiversity. What happens after an area is declared a hope spot?
Mission Blue has partnered with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to develop protocols with a panel of experts who review applications for recognition of a place as a Hope Spot. Once approved, places are noted on a global map, celebrated through the Hope Spot and Mission Blue web site and networks, and given guidance concerning gathering and sharing photographs, films, data and stories. Through a partnership with the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, scuba divers and snorklers are being connected to the nearly ninety existing Hope Spots and are encouraged to nominate and support protection of places they know and love. Mission Blue engages more than 100 partners who are kept informed about opportunities to support community-driven efforts to secure official enduring protection for places that are aimed at creating a global network of hope – backed by real actions.
Coral reefs are some of the richest environments in the oceans. Healthy coral reefs can re-seed threatened reefs. What needs to happen to replenish the fish stocks around the globe?
When the killing stops, recovery begins. With large-scale protection, there are more sea turtles and great whales today than there were half a century ago. Now we know: coral reefs need the reef fish and the reef fish need the corals to thrive. Decades of evidence demonstrate significant increase in diversity, size and numbers of wildlife in places that are fully protected, while “managed areas” – seasonal closures, take limits, and protection for some species but not others (such as exceptions for sportfishing) show little improvement. Protecting intact systems – such as the National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project and the new wave of fully protected blue parks globally – provide critical centers of recovery.
The current industrial-scale killing of ocean species is literally altering the chemistry of the planet, setting in motion processes that are literally changing the nature of nature. Replenishment of coral reefs, fish and ocean life generally requires a fundamental change of attitude about their value. Rather than thinking of fish as “stocks,” think of them as wildlife, the “birds of the sea,” far more valuable alive as critically important components of the ocean ecosystems that are the foundation of our existence – ie, swimming in the ocean rather than swimming with lemon slices and butter on our plates or being ground up to feed cows, chickens and carnivorous farmed fish. Some people will likely always dine on sea creatures for sustenance, but ocean wildlife consumed by most people today is a matter of choice, not need.
Removing half of the large animals from the sea in a few decades has broken essential links in ocean food chains, favoring adaptable, fast-growing microbes but disrupting fine-tuned systems that have developed over hundreds of million of years. Treating wild plants and animals as commodities blinds us to their other values. However, owing to recent explorations, great films and other new media, awareness is growing about the role of the living ocean in generating oxygen, capturing and sequestering “blue carbon” in ocean wildlife and otherwise maintaining Earth as a hospitable place for us in a universe of unfriendly options. Films about the ocean such as the BBC’s Blue Planet II help people see fish and other creatures as individuals with senses, emotions and experiences we can barely imagine.
Also those who live in landlocked countries. What are three things you do in your day-to-day life to save the oceans, which are applicable to everyone’s daily routine?
1. Realize that even if you never see the ocean or touch the ocean, the ocean touches you with every breath you take, every drop of water you drink. Most of the oxygen in the atmosphere is generated by life in the sea. When you take a breath, think, “Thank you, ocean!” Ninety-seven percent of Earth’s water is ocean and it is the primary source of rain, sleet, and snow that falls on land, sea – and you, wherever you are. Think of the ocean as the part of the planet that keeps you alive, because it is. No ocean, no life, no you. You do not have to see your heart to value its existence.
2. Be mindful that there is no “away” on Earth, and all rivers, all groundwater, all sewers eventually lead to the sea. This is true not only of tangible trash but also of the carbon dioxide and soot we put into the atmosphere by burning coal and other fossil fuels.Some carbon dioxide is essential for photosynthesis but human activities have created an excess that is not only warming the planet but is also driving sea level rise, acidification of the ocean, and shifts in global chemistry. When you are about to discard a plastic bag, imagine that it could be destined to choke a turtle or break into tiny pieces swallowed by an oyster that is served to you.
3. Know the ecosystem cost, the real, mostly unaccounted for cost of who and what you are eating if you dine on sealife . A hundred year old orange roughy or fifty year old halibut or thirty year old “Chilean sea bass” or ten year old tuna represent big bites out of ocean ecosystems. Industrial techniques used for their capture extract much that is wasted, including the ecosystems themselves. Even small, fast-growing animals such as herring and squid are vulnerable to large-scale extraction and in taking them we are depriving birds, whales, seals and other creatures of vital sustenance. Industrial extraction of ocean wildlife is market-driven. Your choices matter.
4. May I add a fourth thing? It probably should be the first thing! Please look in the mirror. No one knows better than you who you are, what talents and opportunities you have to make a difference. No one can do everything but everyone can to something that together will add up to moving in the right direction. Saving the ocean, improving the state of the world, is a team sport.
The International OCEAN FILM TOUR offers a platform of education, networking and entertainment for ocean lovers around the globe. What is your message to our audience?
Check out #4 above! Do what little kids do naturally. Ask questions and never lose the sense of wonder you had when you were three years old. Great entertainment and enduring truths can be conveyed by myths and fiction, but the most amazing, wonderful, entertaining stories of all are the true stories that are all around us, in the lives of the barnacles growing on the bottom of a boat, in the ways of giant sponges thriving in the deep sea, in the behaviour of animals living among crystals of water under an iceberg, in the function of feathers of a seabird flying across thousands of miles of open sea. They cannot speak, cannot tell their stories. That is up to you!
With VAMIZI the National Geographic Photographer and filmmaker Mattias Klum has crafted a power - and colorful plea for the protection of coral reefs and the fight against climate change.
I started out back in the mid-80s as a wildlife and conservation photographer but my interest grew more towards sustainability issues and I took on a more holistic approach. I started making films in 1994 and Vamizi is my second film about corals, the first being The Coral Eden (2011). I’m trying to inspire change or at least create a sense of awe towards our natural environments. Juxtaposed to that are the challenges, facing these environments, i.e. mankind. As we destabilize these environments we create a situation where nature starts to invoice the economy. When I got an invitation to visit Vamizi from one of the founders of The Friends Of Vamizi Foundation through IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), I enthusiastically agreed to come there and see the place for myself. I was blown away by the place. And I think we need to address the issues so we can get to grips with it.
Like many of these projects, it became a joint venture. I had the privilege to be the filmmaker but I couldn’t do it without the help of IUCN. When we started the project, I saw an opportunity to not just show the humpback whales, great reef sharks or moraine eels – the incredible life underneath the surface but to create a second story arch with the scientists who enthusiastically and with such passion and skill do this research. I felt that these two story arches, nature on one hand and the human dimension on the other hand would make it all more relatable.
Like any Shakespearean play, opera or Hollywood feature film, having the full dynamics of life right in front of you makes it all more real. And in the case of Vamizi, the reality is that we have this phenomenally diverse marine eco system but at the same time we’re at this big tipping point facing big challenges both locally and globally. We watch as both realities unfold. I felt that by addressing the upcoming gas exploitations in the region, I make the film more real and relevant. It’s not a gloomy film but it’s still very much anchored in our reality.
We have to understand what scientists call the “teleconnectivity”: The fact that what we do in Sweden, Germany, Panama or wherever has an effect on places elsewhere. It’s not just about what people on the ground in Vamizi do, it’s also very much about how the entire world deals with these issues. It makes the whole thing very democratic and in a way for positive. Because people can make a difference through their daily choices no matter where you live and what you do in life. It’s too easy to create a kind of “blame game situation” where people might say “oh, it’s too bad that they don’t protect the environment in Mozambique” but eat non-certified fish and meat. The “teleconnectivity” aspect, the interconnectedness of environmental issues, that I try to bring into the film, is key. Because it’s about what we do at home, that will make it or break it for Vamizi.
I started full time when I was 17 and by the time I was 23, I became a National Geographic photographer, so I’ve been blessed because I’ve been around such beautiful environments for many years, but you don’t have to travel far to realize the challenges that we have. It was at an early stage that I chose not to participate in this perpetual lie which is part and parcel of wildlife photography: to just show the beauty and just at the end of a story, a film etc. you would say “If we’re not careful, all of this will go away.” I feel that that’s not good enough. It makes it too “postcardy”, too cute. I think we can ask more from ourselves, both as consumers and creators when it comes to content. There can be purpose and meaning in your story, if you really care.
I am. I can see that we can still navigate towards a better future if we choose to. There is so much innovative capacity in us. If we lose biodiversity, we lose stability on this planet. It’s not just that some cute fuzzy colorful animals disappear, it’s about stability and resilience which we stand to lose and which would damage so much of our future. We can’t ask Bonobos or dolphins or meerkats or any relatively intelligent creatures to set things straight. We are the only ones that can actually do it. We have this sense of empathy, we have the intelligence, we can bridge the gap between our emotional heart and our clever brain. We can fix things and that’s what it takes. What we try to do with films like VAMIZI is to inspire and to get this spark going. If you only become misanthropic or dystopic, if you give up and say “I don’t know, there’s 7.5 billion of us – what can I do?” - then you lose. It’s all about winning and not losing when it comes to our planet and our future.
One challenge of course is to get the “actors”, the sharks and the humpbacks, to pop by. You can’t schedule a meeting with them. But I would say that the biggest challenge is to have your own photographic language and give the film a personality, both aesthetically and with the characters, whether they are in human or fish realm. We all try to get them to come across heartfelt and with some great authenticity. Being a European and a Swede, I tend to embrace a slower pace in story telling than maybe a North American would. Another challenge was to capture events, that we only could dream of, for instance the “kitakulu”, the mass spawning of coral during a full moon. We had only a few seconds to film that really. We waited and waited and waited but then we got lucky. But every single day, every dive is magical. There are situations where it suddenly hits you and if you’re lucky you capture it with your camera. It’s like a gift when it happens and such a wonderful feeling. If that feeling can be transmitted on screen, if it’s contagious enough for the actual viewer, who then says “I want to experience this” or “I want to help the oceans” or “I want to become a scientist” then it’s incredible. That’s the dream.
We’ve come to a point where we need a paradigm shift. People need to be empowered. Film is one tool to inspire people to change.
The Swedish wildlife photographer and filmmaker has made a living and a formidable career out of following his dream: Capturing the most beautiful corners of the world with its flora and fauna.
VAMIZI is his second documentary about the universe of coral reefs.
Off the coast of Mozambique, there’s a treasure hidden beneath the waves: a thriving coral reef surrounding the island of Vamizi. It is a HOPE SPOT in the fight to preserve biodiversity and one of the very few reefs in the world that is still intact.
Coral reefs are believed to have the highest biodiversity of any ecosystem on the planet. A great abundance and variety of species share this habitat, and even the tiniest organism plays a role.
Although coral reefs cover only one percent of the ocean floor, it is estimated that every fourth creature in the ocean calls the reefs home. Along with more than 4,000 types of fish, the reefs support sponges, shellfish, mollusks, starfish, turtles, sea snakes, and countless invertebrates—a total of more than one million species. Reefs are an important indicator of oceanic health, and they are sounding the alarm.
Since the 1980s, coral bleaching has caused widespread damage to reefs all around the world. Australia’s 2,300-km-long Great Barrier Reef has suffered extensive damage, with several kilometers of coral colonies that are dead or bleached completely white. Here, as on many other reefs, large sections of the once colorful underwater world have been destroyed and vanished.
The reason for this is steadily rising ocean temperatures, an indisputable effect of climate change. When the weather phenomenon “El Niño” becomes part of the equation, causing severe storms on land and increasing water temperatures along the west coast of South America every four years, the coral reefs don’t stand a chance.
The permanently elevated water temperatures, which have increased far beyond natural fluctuations, disturb the coexistence of the coral and the microscopic algae that, under normal conditions, settle on its surface and create its magnificent colors. This symbiotic relationship has advantages for both sides—the coral provides a safe habitat for the algae and the algae perform photosynthesis to produce oxygen and glucose that the coral needs to survive.
However, when water temperatures get too high (above 30 degrees Celsius) the microscopic algae become toxic and the corals expel them. This means that the corals not only lose their color, but also their basic requirements for survival—without algae there is no photosynthesis, and without photosynthesis there is no oxygen and no glucose.
Coral bleaching does not necessarily lead to coral death. If the heat wave lasts only a few weeks, the reef can regenerate. But even with fast-growing corals the regeneration process takes up to ten years. If the water is consistently too warm, there is almost no hope for the reef.
In addition to increased water temperatures, corals face another problem caused primarily by climate change—ocean acidification. As a consequence of burning fossil fuels, there are increased concentration levels of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere and on the surface of the world’s oceans. The CO2 is absorbed by seawater, making it more acidic and decreasing the amount of carbonate ions in the water. As a result, it is much more difficult for corals to form a stable calcium carbonate skeleton structure.
Vamizi is one of the few coral reefs that has not yet been affected by these destructive problems, and it should remain so.
Researchers like Dr. Sylvia Earle are committed to establishing a network of marine protected areas. Similar to the conservation and protection provided by national parks, marine life in these HOPE SPOTS should live free from the impact of human activity.
You can find more information and an overview of already established as well as planned HOPE SPOTS on mission-blue.org.
In our fifth year the International OCEAN FILM TOUR sets its thematic focus on so called HOPE SPOTS - oceanic safe zones and those places, which should become a safe zone. But only if we act, are we entitled to hope.
We introduce you to three organizations and show what you can do for the ocean and our future:
VIVA CON AGUA: GET CLEAN - STAY CLEAN
Viva Con Agua de Sant Pauli e.V. is a nonprofit organization from Hamburg, Germany which fights for free access to clean drinking water for people all around the world. To achieve this goal Viva Con Agua supports water projects and in various parts of the world, for example in Ethiopia, Nepal, Uganda and Ruanda. The founders are convinced that a serious issue can be communicated with joy. Thus Viva con Agua has a lot of prominent supports from the world of music: Marteria, Max Herre and Clueso.
Become a supporting member of the organization or help spreading the word on concerts or festival as a volunteer. The easiest way to help provide clean drinking water for others is to drink water by Viva Con Agua!
SURFRIDER FOUNDATION: LESS BUTTS!
For the last 30 years, the Surfrider Foundation has been pushing for clean beaches, clean waves and ocean protection. Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world, and they never fully degrade. Surfrider’s Hold on to Your Butt campaign gets butts off our streets and beaches to protect our oceans, waterways, and drinking water. The filter on cigarettes is mostly made of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic.
Regardless of the fact that smoking isn’t good for your own health - stop smoking for the ocean’s sake. Make sure to produce as little plastic waste as possible, when you’re shopping.
SEA SHEPHERD: GO LOCAL
To get involved in ocean protection, you might as well start with your own habits and what is right in front of you, geographically. For instance, the Baltic Sea! The international organization for the protection of marine wildlife Sea Shepherd embarks on a new endeavor with its ship MV Emanuel Bronner - this time in the Baltic Sea, targeting the endangered porpoise populations. Sea Shepherd seeks to protect the remaining populations from gillnets, that are being brought out in the Baltic.
You can support Sea Shepherd with a donation or get involved directly. Find out more about all campaigns at www.sea-shepherdglobal.org
WDC: ADOPT A WHALE
Whales are our partners in the fight against climate change. They play an important role in the oceanic ecosystem. Whales have the ability to fertilize the ocean with their excretions, they mix the pelagic zones and absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. With protecting whales we also protect the climate. The Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) takes a stand for the protection of the “Green Whales”.
Adopt a whale and support the organization: http://uk.whales.org/donate-and-adopt
OCEAN CARE: SPREAD THE WORD!
From knowing comes caring, from caring comes change. It doesn’t work the other way round! That’s why awareness about ocean protection is so vital to making change happen. OceanCare has been on a mission for ocean protections for the last 25 years. Worldwide the initiative connects scientists and ensures that research results are reviewed by essentials boards. Since 2011 OceanCare has been a special advisor at the UN.
Learn all you can and share your knowledge with your family and friends! At www.un.org you’ll find 17 Sustainable Development Goals put together by he United Nations in 2015.