World’s Oceans in Crisis – What can be done?

By Mariah Hamalainen 

 “We are facing a complete collapse of ocean ecosystems, globally”, said Professor Charles Sheppard at the Frontline Club on Wednesday evening during a panel discussion on the state of the world’s oceans.

The oceans have been exhibiting the effects of global warming since the late 1970s and a quarter of all coral reefs have died but there has been little awareness of the crisis among the media and the public in general until recently.

High-profile campaigns including Hugh FearnleyWhittingstall’s Fish Fight and Project Ocean at Selfridges are encouraging people to take a look at the state of the oceans and what can be done to reverse the evident collapse of this delicate ecosystem.


The panel discussion – chaired by Guardian’s environmental correspondent Fiona Harvey – took the audience through many aspects of the destruction of this vital resource: Overfishing; pollution; climate change and global warming; overpopulation; greedy multinational fishing companies; destruction of coral reefs.


“Half of the humanity lives within a hundred kilometres from the ocean” professor Sheppard said. Although millions of people derive their livelihood directly from the oceans, little is done to stop the destruction.

“We in Britain don’t [yet] directly see the problem. We have Tesco’s between us and the environment.”

Greenpeace’s Richard Page shed light on some of the positive developments on the ocean front, as well as what needs to be done to safeguard the future of the global waters;

“The single most effective tool against ocean destruction is the creation of marine reserves” he said.

He also called for the media to play their part in mobilising the public;


One of Greenpeace’s victories was the moratorium on whaling. This could not have been done without the media; when people saw the pole being stuck on a whale it had an immediate impact. The media has an incredibly important part to play if we are to save our oceans.


The panel strongly agreed that consumer power cannot be underestimated:

“Change in demand from consumers would have a huge impact” Dr Alex Rogers said. 

Lobbying for policy changes, demanding that the fish we eat is from sustainable fisheries, and reducing the overall impact we have on the planet are all steps towards the right direction.

As Professor Sheppard said: “If we manage the oceans well, it is food for free”.