There’s nothing I enjoy more than new discoveries and supporting things that matter a great deal to me. The launch of Ocean Summit did both.
Our wonderful co-hosts Susi Mai and Jeremy McKane brought together a great group on Necker Island, including former President of Kiribati, Anote Tong. Kiribati is in the middle of the equator in the mid-Pacific Ocean. Its predicament resonates with what everyone here in the British Virgin Islands, and in many other places around the world, knows only too well - how fragile we are. President Tong is in the eye of sea level rise.
My friend José María Figueres, former President of Costa Rica, co-founder of Ocean Unite and Chairman of Rocky Mountain Institute-Carbon War Room, dropped by too. His message at Ocean Summit was short and powerful: “We are the first generation to feel the effects of climate change. And the last who can do something about it.”
Being climate smart is vital. Today, just under three per cent of the ocean has been protected. But to really ensure a vibrant and healthy ocean, we must accelerate the protection of large areas. Ocean Unite’s goal is to protect at least 30 per cent of the ocean by 2030. A great deal has to be done. But as Dr Sylvia Earle, my fellow Ocean Elder and a voice for ocean conservation since the 1950s, said: “There’s no reason we can’t do that, now that we know what we know.”
I spend a lot of my time with Ocean Unite and the Ocean Elders to persuade governments to take action. We are knocking on open doors. Apart from America, 99 per cent of governments are open. China is making some important steps, such as not serving shark fin soup at formal events. But millions of sharks are still being killed, in addition to hundreds of thousands of manta rays.
My dear friend, Rob Stewart, who perished too soon in a diving accident while filming Sharkwater Extinction two years ago, is an example of passion for conservation – a beacon and firecracker for change. The timing for Ocean Summit honours him and pledges to continue fighting for ocean conservation. He inspired Susi Mai, a professional kiteboarder, to really pay attention to what’s going on in her kiting playground. I’m proud of her taking her passion for kiting and becoming an activist who protects the ocean.
But we can do so much more to protect the ocean. We can have enough fish for everyone. Companies should give back when they take from the ocean. World leaders should think of their children’s and grandchildren’s futures: imagine they create Marine Protected Areas that support the ocean for generations to come - now that would be a legacy worth celebrating.