Friday, 27 March 2015

The importance of plankton

Without plankton there wouldn’t be polar bears on the ice.

Phytoplankton and copepods are the first two steps in the plankton food chain

In the sea, the plankton begin the marine food chain. Microscopic phytoplankton (tiny plant-like cells) use the sun's energy to combine carbon dioxide and water to create sugar and oxygen in the process known as photosynthesis. Despite being tiny (each phytoplankton cell is smaller in diameter than a strand of human hair), they are so numerous that they account for about 50% of all photosynthesis on Earth. And here, tiny creatures and big numbers start to mix, since 50% of all photosynthesis equates to about 50 billion tonnes of carbon each year, or about 125 billion tonnes of sugar!

The phytoplankton are the food of herbivorous zooplankton (animal plankton) in turn eaten by carnivorous zooplankton. Together all the plankton are the food for fish, which in turn are eaten by other sea creatures such as seabirds, sharks, and seals, in their turn eaten by larger predators like killer-whales. The plankton are also the food source of some of the largest mammals on Earth, the baleen whales. In this way the plankton food web underpins and determines the amount of life in the sea. Quite simply, without the plankton there would not be any fish in the sea for you, me or other creatures to eat, and so that is why there wouldn't be any polar bears on the ice.

The author and plankton scientist Dr Richard Kirby

Of course, as well as eating fish, we also consume many marine creatures that had a larval life in the plankton such as shrimps, crabs, and mussels etc. In some countries we also eat plankton too, such as Antarctic krill that is eaten in Japan as Okami. In fact, in Britain during the Second World War there were trials in Scottish sea lochs to determine whether large static nets could harvest sufficient plankton to supplement the national diet should food become scarce. While those early Scottish trials in the 1940s proved unsuccessful, today, a commercial copepod harvest for food for aquaculture occurs in some Norwegian Fjords by using large nets towed by trawlers.

Now, we need to pay attention to the plankton more than ever. Living at the sea surface the plankton are particularly sensitive to changes in sea surface temperature, which is influenced by the air temperature above. (We often forget that we can engineer our thermal environment unlike other life on Earth that lives where the temperature suits it best.) My research and that of other plankton scientists, is revealing that rising sea temperatures due to current climate change are altering the abundance, distribution, and seasonality of the plankton throughout the oceans with ensuing ramifications for the marine food chain, our commercial fisheries, and the wider marine ecosystem.

Unfortunately, in this short blog there wasn't time to tell you how the plankton do so much more than just support the marine food web. However, you can find out how much more by watching my short film Ocean Drifters, a secret world beneath the waves, narrated by David Attenborough:

Dr Richard Kirby is a British plankton expert, scientist, author and speaker. Follow Richard @planktonpundit on Twitter. You can see more images of plankton and learn more about them in Dr Richard Kirby’s book “Ocean Drifters, a secret world beneath the waves” available on Amazon and as an iBook.

Monday, 23 March 2015

View seafood differently using the hashtag #Wildlife4Sale

Over the coming weeks Blue Planet Society needs your help to highlight the availability of wild marine animals in supermarkets, fishmongers and fish markets across the globe by posting your photographs on social media using the hashtag #Wildlife4Sale.

Swordfish for sale in UK supermarket Iceland

Some people will have access to fish markets in tropical locations, others may only have their local shop. It doesn't have to be an exotic animal like a shark, marlin or swordfish, even the humble fish finger (fish stick) was once a wild animal.

Blue shark for sale at a market in Bournemouth, UK

So next time you go shopping, use your camera to show us which marine wildlife is for sale in your local area and post them on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #Wildlife4Sale.

At the end of the campaign Blue Planet Society will publish selected photographs to help expose the global trade in ocean wildlife and the threat it poses to the marine ecosystem.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

I’m a declining species, get me out of here

At a time when the Australian conservation movement faces great challenges, a protected seabird species in decline was consumed for novelty value on British reality TV show 'I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here!' (Nov 22nd) in Murwillumbah, New South Wales.

Short-tailed shearwater, Tasman Sea, Australia. Pic: David Cook

Traditionally called “muttonbirds” by European settlers who exploited the birds for their oil, meat and feathers, the short-tailed shearwater has declined to less than a quarter of its original population, from 100 million to 23 million.

Short-tailed shearwaters are true “wanderers of the sea”, annually travelling tens of thousands of kilometres from feeding grounds in the Bering Sea to the southern coast of Australia, where the female lays her single egg in the southern spring. On arrival, they are literally starving and the east coast of Australia now regularly sees mass deaths of these birds, an occurrence which was previously seen only once in a decade.

Scientists are concerned that these events herald a much greater problem than storms, “This isn't just a freak event… This is obviously an indication of a much wider problem” said Seabird Biologist Jennifer Lavers of Monash University in 2013 when the worst wrecks occurred. Dismissing claims that weather events were responsible for the frequency of wrecks, Jennifer believes that it is the failure of the birds to locate fish that is the cause stating “Heavy winds will do great things to them, but is it just the wind? I would say no”.

Short-tailed shearwaters are protected in all states of Australia except for Tasmania, where up to 100,000 of the birds are commercially and recreationally hunted under licence. In recent times some areas have been forced to close their five week long season after only one week due to reports of decimated populations. Other threats to the short-tailed shearwater are climate change, pollution (oil spills and plastic consumption) and bycatch as the birds are frequently found following trawlers for a meal.

With this in mind, why are celebrities eating a rapidly declining IUCN listed and protected seabird on a reality TV show? In the past 'I'm A Celebrity' producers have been fined for cruelty to animals and criticised by well-known wildlife presenter Chris Packham who stated “killing animals for exploitative entertainment is unacceptable”, a statement echoed by the RSPCA. 'I'm A Celebrity' trivialises Australian wildlife for its shock value; snakes, crocodiles, insects and other animals have all been killed and eaten for entertainment.

With half of all wildlife lost since 1970, conservation should be at the forefront in the minds of the general public. This is unlikely to happen until producers of primetime TV shows like 'I'm A Celebrity' use their hugely influential platform to educate us about, not demean nature. It's the abused animals that should be taken out of this show, not the D-list celebrities.

Deborah Higgins is a Marine Biology student at Edith Cowan University, Western Australia and can be contacted at @Oceanwarrior on Twitter or Sea No Plastic on Facebook.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Looming crisis: Five good reasons to avoid loom bands

Rainbow loom is a plastic loom used to weave colourful rubber bands into bracelets and charms. Loom bands are the latest must-have for kids, and the craze has gone global. Potentially this could have dire consequences for children's health, pets, wildlife and the environment.

1. Recent testing has found that loom bands can contain high levels of cancer-causing phthalates, which are hormone-disrupting chemicals used as softeners in the production of plastic.

2. Bright colours are often associated with food in nature. Marine animals could ingest loom bands and choke. Rubber bands have been known to get caught on the necks of animals and cause them to suffocate, or wrap around limbs and cause severe distress and ultimately death.

3. Loom bands have been eaten by household pets causing choking and resulting in costly vet bills.

4. Washed into drains and watercourses millions of lost loom bands pose a severe marine pollution threat.

Credit: Newquay Beachcoming

5. Loom bands cannot be recycled.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Britain, please, no more balloon release events

Guillemot caught in a balloon. Pic: Balloons Blow

It should be common knowledge by now, mass balloon release events are bad for wildlife. But the message has yet to sink in, even with organisations that should know better.

According to the Marine Conservation Society "when balloons are released they don't just disappear. They float back down to earth where they are the same as any other litter. Balloons are mistaken for food by many species of wildlife. Once balloons have been eaten they can block the digestive system and cause animals to starve. The string on balloons can also entangle and trap animals".

Last year Blue Planet Society highlighted the threat posed by the 30,000 balloon release event held to celebrate Gibraltar National Day. Dialogue is ongoing but Gibraltar minister for culture Steven Linares has pledged to use only “environmentally-friendly, biodegradable balloons" which is great, except for one thing, no such balloons exist.

Even so-called biodegradable balloons hang around in the environment for long enough to cause real damage. In a test, Balloons Blow, an organisation that campaigns against balloon releases, placed biodegradable balloons in an outside environment and two years later they still hadn't decomposed.

In recent weeks social media campaigns have stopped mass balloon release events by life-saving charity RNLI, cruise line Cunard, retailer John Lewis and most recently the political party UKIP. A surprisingly irresponsible, unimaginative and crass event choice considering these organisations employ professional Marketing and PR resources to dream up ideas and advise on best practice.

To be fair, most organisations reacted very quickly and cancelled the event within hours of being asked. But they shouldn't have had to be asked. We're talking the very basics of environmental awareness here, and it's high time the message was heard. Balloons are bad for wildlife, bad for your company's image and a blight on the environment. So Britain, please, no more balloon release events.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Wild stingray encounter marred by reef fish decline

Smooth stingray waits to be fed. Pic: Blue Planet Society

Australia's south west offers a little-known wildlife experience that's hard to beat. At Hamelin Bay near Augusta huge wild smooth stingrays and eagle rays regularly come to the beach to be hand-fed by eager visitors.

Possibly unique in Australia, this behaviour began in the 1950s and 1960s when commercial fishermen cleaned their catch offshore. Today a fish-cleaning table for recreational anglers provides a seemingly endless supply of offcuts for the visiting rays.

Eagle ray (nearest) and smooth stingray. Pic: Blue Planet Society

For the marine conservationist this creates a dilemma. Many reef fish species caught by the anglers are in steep decline, so in the process of having a once-in-a-lifetime experience you may also be indirectly contributing to the ruination of Australia's offshore reef ecosystems.

Discarded juvenile western blue groper head.  Pic: Blue Planet Society

The overfishing of large reef fish has caused stocks to crash worldwide, and recreational angling is a significant contributing factor. Many reef fish species are long-lived, slow-growing and only present in relatively small numbers. Even moderate fishing pressure can have a dire effect. Add to this the lack of sufficient marine protected areas, inadequate fish stock assessments, and the outlook for fish like the western blue groper is bleak.

Stingray taking food from the hand of a tourist. Pic: Blue Planet Society

The rays themselves, which generate significant tourist income, have absolutely no legal protection. In January 2011 two young fishermen speared and butchered a tailless stingray nicknamed 'stumpy' in front of horrified onlookers. A plan to offer the rays more protection was drawn up in 2006 but is still awaiting approval. This lack of legal protection combined with the decline of reef ecosystems due to overfishing may see the end of the visiting rays and the priceless wildlife experience that they provide.

Hamelin Bay with angler boat ramp. Pic: Blue Planet Society 

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Thousands rally against shark cull in Western Australia

Cottesloe beach. Pic: Blue Planet Society

Upwards of 4,000 people gathered on Cottesloe Beach, Perth, Australia today to rally against the upcoming cull of sharks by the Western Australian government. Similar events were held all over the country including New South Wales and Queensland, both of which have been culling sharks for decades.

Passionate speeches were made by representatives of West Australians for Shark Conservation, Conservation Council of WA, Sea Shepherd Australia, WA Greens, and the Australian Labor party.

Speakers emphasised that proper research is woefully lacking, the cull will damage the marine ecosystem and the indiscriminate killing of sharks and associated bycatch was a poorly considered, knee-jerk reaction by the WA government. Similar shark culls have been tried elsewhere in the world and failed to reduce shark-related fatalities.

Public awareness of shark conservation is making great strides - a gathering like this would have been unheard even 20 years ago - but as the politicians in the WA government are proving, there's still a long way to go.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Supersized plunder: Parlevliet & Van der Plas's fishing fleet

Fishing Vessel Annelies Ilena, one of the world's biggest supertrawlers, has been detained by the Irish navy over suspected illegal fishing off the coast of Ireland. 

But who exactly owns the Annelies Ilena, and how many more of their supersized fishing vessels are there out there?  

Pelagic trawler company Parlevliet & Van der Plas was founded in 1949 by Dirk Parlevliet and the brothers Dirk and Jan van der Plas. The ultimate owner of the group is PP Groep Katwijk BV, based in Valkenburg, the Netherlands. 

The company's fishing fleet consists of 13 freezer-trawlers (including the Annelies Ilena) operated by a range of subsidiaries based in the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, Norway and Lithuania. The total catch of the group as a whole is estimated at 300,000 tonnes in 2008. (Source: Greenpeace).

Parlevliet & Van der Plas is currently endorsed by the MSC Ecolabel.
Parlevliet & Van der Plas's fishing fleet

FV Annie Hillina

FV Dirk Diederik

FV Annelies Ilena

FV Margiris

FV Nida

FV Jan Maria

FV Maartje Theadora

FV Helen Mary

FV Gerda Maria

FV Arctic Warrior

FV Marbella

FV Farnella

FV Atlantic Peace

Further information

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

100% bycatch-free fish?

Pygmy killer whale longline bycatch

Updated Wed 9 Oct 2013

In a four-year study, weekly records of prices of nearly 100 different frozen fillets of cod, haddock and Alaska pollock were collated for seven UK supermarkets. The most striking result from the analysis is that line-caught fish achieved a price premium of some twenty-two percent.
“The fact that the chains choose to label products with ‘line-caught’ is probably related to the fact that the capture method is perceived to be more gentle on the seabed and thus fits well into chain's endeavours by acting responsibly”, says Geir Sogn-Grundvåg, senior scientist at Nofima, who carried out the study.
However, the label 'line-caught' can be deceptive. Fish caught on handlines by artisanal fishermen is relatively environmentally friendly, whereas industrial longline fishing is hugely destructive with regular bycatch of cetaceans, seabirds, turtles, sharks and other vulnerable marine life.
If the fish buying public are prepared to pay nearly a quarter more for fish harvested by less destructive methods, then there is almost certainly a lucrative market for fish labelled '100% bycatch-free', and caught without harming non-target marine wildlife at all.

Whale shark bycatch

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Secret slaughter of Europe's harbour porpoises

The harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) has the misfortune to live in some of the most heavily fished waters on earth. Thousands of these little cetaceans are killed by the fishing industry every year and numbers have declined dramatically. Dolphins grab the headlines, whilst the mass slaughter of porpoises goes almost unnoticed.

Marine mammal bycatch in commercial fishing is a secretive subject. But if you do a bit of digging, what little information that is available is truly horrific. 

The IUCN lists the harbour porpoise as 'Least Concern', but this classification is based on woefully inadequate information. 

Under 'Threats' the IUCN says this about the harbour porpoise -

"Today, the most significant threat in most areas is incidental catches in fishing gear, primarily gill nets. Incidental mortality in fishing gear is likely to occur throughout the range of the species, but substantial incidental takes have been documented (summarized in Donovan and Bjørge 1995) for the Gulf of Maine (1,200-2,900/year), Bay of Fundy (80-400/year), West Greenland (1,400/year), North Sea (4,600/year) Celtic Shelf (1,500/year), and also off central California during the 1980s and 1990s (tens to hundreds per year; Barlow and Hanan 1995). More recent monitoring programs of Danish set-net fisheries in the North Sea revealed an average of 5,591 porpoises taken annually in the period 1987-2001 (Vinther and Larsen 2002). However, most North Sea gillnet fisheries were not monitored for marine mammal bycatch (ICES 2002)"

The last sentence is crucial here "most gillnet fisheries were not monitored for marine mammal bycatch"This makes the IUCN listing almost worthless. As the IUCN itself touches on, gillnet fishing is one of the most destructive forms of commercial fishing and the most likely to incur marine mammal bycatch.

An International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) report that studied two Norwegian gillnet fisheries found that the estimated total number of porpoises caught as bycatch in Norwegian gillnet fisheries in the period 2006-08 to be nearly 21,000 animals (Or approximately 3,500 porpoises per fishery).

The report also says that "according to the criteria advised by ASCOBANS (bycatches should not exceed 1.7% of the best population estimate), a population in excess of 400,000 is required to sustain an annual bycatch of 6,900 porpoises".

And here's where the problem lies. According to the IUCN "in the waters of the European Atlantic, abundance in 2005 was estimated at 385,600 [CV=0.20] (P.S. Hammond pers. comm.), of which about 335,000 [CV=0.21] were estimated in the North Sea and adjacent waters, where abundance was estimated at 341,000 [CV=0.14] in 1994 (Hammond et al. 2002)".

On this basis, the porpoise bycatch in Norwegian gillnet fisheries alone is unsustainable. Add to this all the other European fisheries that have significant porpoise bycatch, and the long-term outlook for the harbour porpoise is dire to say the least.

The IUCN is the benchmark by which environmentalists gauge their response to what is needed to help to protect animals which are threatened and accuracy is essential to implement effective conservation measures. More accurate information on marine mammal bycatch is available from fishermen, but at what cost to the reputation of the commercial fishing industry? It seems that when it comes to marine mammals, and the harbour porpoise especially, the conservation world is turning a blind-eye to the most horrendous slaughter.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Highly endangered sharks and sport fishing competitions

Rules are rules, no matter how endangered the species is, according to some American sport fishing competitions.

The scalloped hammerhead shark (pictured) which recently won the biggest shark prize at the 2012 White Marlin Open, is listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Species. Numbers have declined by 98% in the last 30 years, but amazingly still no laws were broken.

This is because, although under review, the scalloped hammerhead shark is still listed by US National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as an Authorised species for recreational fishing (see NOAA 2012 Recreational Compliance Guide).

A selfish minority are sticking rigidly to rules set by a ponderously slow governmental organisation, whilst conveniently ignoring international guidelines and the plight of a highly endangered species.

Sport fishing rodeos should have to take into account all the evidence when they set the rules for their competitions, and if it is plainly obvious that a species is in deep trouble, the responsible action would be to disallow that species from the competition.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Future ocean

Updated 20 Feb 2015

If you had travelled the world in 1812 the natural wonders seen on earth would be jaw-dropping. Plains full of grazing animals and attendant predators, huge forests covering much of the land and a sky full of birds. Wildlife in such abundance that it is hard to imagine now.

Over the next two centuries human encroachment chopped down the forests, ploughed up the plains and hunted the animals to a fraction of their pristine numbers. Some animals thrived under these new conditions, but the vast majority did not.

At the beginning of the 20th century, shortly before destruction was absolute, some enlightened people decided to act and national parks like Kruger, Yellowstone, and Etosha were formed.

Unless we learn from our terrestrial mistakes, what happened on the land can give us an accurate glimpse of what is in store for the world's ocean.

Ultimately we will deplete the ocean through overfishing, leaving only small pockets of biodiversity - effectively the national parks of the sea. Farmed animals will replace wildlife, with aquaculture cages ringing our coasts and filling the open-ocean in their thousands. Wind farms and tidal generators will festoon the waters that once teemed with life, whilst new technology and ice-free conditions will open up once inaccessible regions to the mining, energy and shipping industries.

It isn't too late though. We still have an opportunity to do for the ocean what we failed to do for the land - protect the ecosystem holistically. There is still enough marine life left to repopulate the entire ocean, but the protection must be interconnected. This is where we failed so miserably on land by creating small, isolated nature reserves that are more akin to zoos than places where nature can thrive.

If we protect thirty-percent or more of the world's ocean from all destructive activity now, with a network of carefully chosen marine reserves, the resultant proliferation of marine life could allow for enough sustainable exploitation to feed a rapidly growing human population. But if we act too slowly, or do not do enough, the future ocean may become as devoid of biodiversity as the vast majority of the land has become. 

Thursday, 5 July 2012

The media and shark slaughter

Effective shark protection hinges on changing the public perception of sharks, and judging by recent media reports there is still a very long way to go. Some might even say that we haven't moved forward a jot since the bad old days of the 1970's.

Two recent media articles covering the slaughter of a large, female short-fin mako shark (pictured) by leading American news outlets is particularly depressing for shark lovers. covered the story with the opening line "A monster of the sea was killed and brought in to Marina del Rey – a shark so heavy that it damaged the brand-new scale at the dock." Full story here.

The LA Times wasn't much better, but seemed reluctant to use the word shark "The fish was so big, it was too heavy for the scales. It was so big, in fact, that it couldn't be hauled aboard the boat and had to be dragged into the dock by the tail." Full story here.

What is most worrying is not just the way these leading news outlets glorify the killing of these increasingly rare animals, but that they can't even be bothered to temper their blood-lust by mentioning that sharks are in dire trouble worldwide.

MSNBC and The LA Times should really know better. It's long overdue for the media to take some responsibility for shark slaughter, after all, how many people may be inspired to kill a shark after reading such sensationalist rubbish? 

Public outcry would prevent the publication of an article like this about the unnecessary killing of a land animal, and it's time for the media to give sharks equal respect. 

Thursday, 7 June 2012

World Oceans Day: Celebration or wake?

Happy World Oceans Day 2012. A day to celebrate the wonder of our amazing blue planet. But can we still celebrate? Just, maybe, but the world's ocean is in a perilous state.

The ocean is dying. This is not some scare story, or exaggeration. We have pushed the marine environment to the brink through overfishing, pollution and acidification. It is not yet too late to stop the rot, but it will be soon. If we do not protect a significant proportion of the world's ocean from all types of damaging activity right now, over seventy percent of the planet may become a biological desert.

Some people have been warning of this crisis for years, but few have listened. If the oceans are to have any hope at all, it is time we all started listening. If we don't, in 20-30 years or so, World Oceans Day may be held as a wake.

We all need to start caring more about the world's ocean and the life it contains. But sometimes we need a little inspiration. To follow are the views of some inspirational people.

"Imagine what people would say if a band of hunters strung a mile of net between two immense all-terrain vehicles and dragged it at speed across the plains of Africa. This fantastical assemblage, like something from a Mad Max movie, would scoop up everything in its way: predators such as lions and cheetahs, lumbering endangered herbivores such as rhinos and elephants, herds of impala and wildebeest, family groups of warthogs and wild dogs. Pregnant females would be swept up and carried along, with only the smallest juveniles able to wriggle through the mesh. Picture how the net is constructed, with a huge metal roller attached to the leading edge. This rolling beam smashes and flattens obstructions, flushing creatures into the approaching filaments. The effect of dragging a huge iron bar across the savannah is to break off every outcrop and uproot every tree, bush, and flowering plant, stirring columns of birds into the air. Left behind is a strangely bedraggled landscape resembling a harrowed field. The industrial hunter gatherers now stop to examine the tangled mess of writhing or dead creatures behind them. There are no markets for about a third of the animals they have caught because they don’t taste good, or because they are simply too small or too squashed. This pile of corpses is dumped on the plain to be consumed by scavengers." Charles Clover, Author, The End of the Line

"The fisheries as a global system have expanded in space. We can compute the expansion rate, and see that it’s coming to an end because there’s no more space to expand into. The expectation that there will always be more fish for us to eat cannot be met. Basically, we have this concept from before that we can expand, we can do more, that the growth can be sustainable—and it’s simply not true. We cannot expand our population and expect that we can produce the food that everybody needs. We cannot expect to increase our consumption of fish and expect that there will be fish for everybody. In the case of fisheries we have overshot already. People think this model can be resolved by eating the right fish, but in this concept there is no right fish: there’s too much fishing of everything." Dr. Daniel Pauly, Fisheries Scientist

"With species loss and food web collapse comes dangerous instability. The seas are undergoing ecological meltdown. Fishing is undermining itself by purging the oceans of species on which it depends. But its influences is far more menacing than simply the regrettable self-destruction of an industry. The wholesale removal of marine life and obliteration of their habitats is stripping resilience from ocean ecosystems. Moreover, it is undermining the ability of the oceans to support human needs. Overfishing is destabilizing the marine environment, contributing to the spread of anoxic dead zones and the increasing prevalence of toxic algal blooms, for example. Nature's power to bounce back after catastrophes or absorb the battery of stresses humanity is subjecting it to is being eroded, collapsed fishery after collapsed fishery, species by species, place by place. It is easy to point fingers and say this is the fault of greedy corporations with their factory ships, or faint-hearted politicians overeager to please the fishing industry, or the great masses of poor people reduced to bombing and poisoning their seas to extract the last few fish. But blaming others is unhelpful. Every fish and meat eater shares responsibility for the losses, and only by working together can we restore the seas' bounty." Dr. Callum Roberts, Marine Conservation Biologist

"Ten percent of the big fish still remain. There are still some blue whales. There are still some krill in Antarctica. There are a few oysters in Chesapeake Bay. Half the coral reefs are still in pretty good shape, a jeweled belt around the middle of the planet. There's still time, but not a lot, to turn things around." Dr. Sylvia Earle, Oceanographer

"We're now in the midst of a third World War, but this time the enemy is ourselves, and the objective is to save the planet from ourselves. There's no hope for masses of humanity to do anything - they never have, they never will. All social change comes from the passion and intervention of individuals or small groups of individuals. Slavery wasn't ended by any government or any institution. Women got the right to vote not because of any government. The civil rights movement, the same thing. India with Mahatma Gandhi, South Africa with Nelson Mandela. Again, it's always individuals. You need those individuals with the passion and the energy to get involved. In fact, I don't know of any government or any institutions that are doing anything to solve any of these problems. All over the world, all I am seeing is individuals and non-government organizations that are passionately involved in protecting ecosystems and species." Capt. Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd

"Whatever you want to do in this world, it is achievable. The most important thing that I've found, that perhaps you could use, is be passionate and enthusiastic in the direction that you choose in life, and you'll be a winner." Steve Irwin, Conservationist