We Asked Twelve Ocean Experts How to Save the Seas

With so many problems with our oceans--and solutions to them--it can be tricky to know where to start. So we asked the experts

Saving the oceans seems like an impossibly daunting task, one most people would have no idea how to even begin. So we asked 12 of the world's foremost ocean experts--scientists, policymakers, and a reality TV star/sea captain--how they'd do it. The answers were varied, from political to high-tech solutions, from big to small, but they were all very clear: this is something we all must do, and it's something we all can do.

Shut Down the Oceans
"The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports that by 2048, most commercial fisheries will have collapsed. If fishing collapses, so do we. I know it sounds sort of dramatic, but commercial fishing has the potential to destroy civilization as we know it. To stop the cycle, I'd shut it all down. But that's not going to happen. As an alternative, I'd first close the Mediterranean, which is basically fished out already, then I'd shut down the Gulf of Mexico and the Southern Ocean." -- Paul Watson, captain of the Steve Irwin, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and subject of the television series Whale WarsWikimedia Commons
Grow Fish Properly
"More than a billion people rely on fish for protein. In meeting this demand, we have destroyed global stocks of commercially valued fish, reducing many populations by two thirds or more over the past century. We are now eating our way further down the food chain and fishing in deeper waters, disrupting food webs and destroying fragile ocean habitats. Properly executed, aquaculture can help stop this cycle by providing a sustainable alternative source of fish. Together with responsible and effective management of wild fisheries, it would go a long way toward stabilizing global food security, averting collapse of marine ecosystems, and allowing natural fish stocks to recover." -- Susan Avery, president and director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic InstitutionWikimedia Commons
Get Off Fossil Fuels
"We owe two of every three breaths we take to plankton, which cycle carbon dioxide back into oxygen, but ocean acidification is killing those organisms on a massive scale. We need to get off fossil fuels as soon as possible. Our organization started by installing 120 solar panels on our roof. The electric companies now give us money back." -- Louie Psihoyos, director of The Cove and executive director of the Ocean Preservation SocietyWikimedia Commons: Chineeb
Say No to Plastic Bags
"Refuse single-use plastic bottles and bags. Most of the floating debris that pollutes our oceans is made up of plastic, and it is sometimes mistaken for food by marine animals. So the next time someone hands you a single-use plastic bottle or bag, just say 'no thanks.'" -- Jim Moriarty, CEO of the Surfrider FoundationWikimedia Commons: Mark Roberts
Use More Efficient, Better Ships
"The shipping industry is cooperating closely with governments on a host of initiatives, including identifying the best feasible ballast-water-treatment technology for installation on ships; using low-sulfur fuel in emission-control areas; assessing how emission-scrubbing technologies could be applied to allow cleaner burning of marine fuels; improved ship design and other measures to reduce CO2 emissions; applying new hull coatings to improve efficiency, reduce emissions, and reduce hull fouling; establishing no-discharge zones in environmentally sensitive areas; and reducing the risk of whale strikes." -- Anne Marie Kappel, vice president of the World Shipping Council [Pictured: M/V Auriga Leader, the world's first solar-powered cargo ship]M/V Auriga Leader
Work Like Your Life Depends On It
Asking which way is best to save the oceans is like asking which way is best to save your heart. The answer is we have to do everything possible, and we have to do it now. Destructive fishing practices should stop. The ocean is the cornerstone of Earth’s life-support system, and we should take care of it as if our lives depend on it. Because they do. -- Sylvia Earle, oceanographer, founder of the Sylvia Earle AllianceWikimedia Commons: Rmrfstar
Understand It With Data and Robots and Hard Drives
To save the ocean, we need to understand it, and to understand it we need data. At Scripps, we are in a race to deploy enough sophisticated, satellite-connected robots so we can effectively monitor our changing oceans, understand the processes at work, and incorporate that understanding and soon-to-be terabytes' worth of data so that reliable predictions can be made. -- Tony Haymet, director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography [Image: Ocean-current-tracking submarine robots]Scripps Institute of Oceanography
Invest in Clean Energy to Reverse Ocean Acidification
"We need to invest in clean energy technologies that will help reverse the ocean acidification now taking place. Increasing levels of pollution in the atmosphere are forcing our oceans to absorb levels of carbon dioxide beyond what is healthy for fish, plants and other wildlife dependent on the oceans." -- U.S. senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, chairman of the Wildlife and Water Subcommittee of the Environment and Public Works Committee [Image: MAP-CO2 Buoy deployed at Cayo Enrique Reef, La Parguera Marine Preserve, Puerto Rico, testing for ocean acidification]Wikimedia Commons: Hendee
Create Ecosystem-Based, Not Species Based, Fisheries
"Rather than a traditional fisheries perspective, which was a single-species concern, we need to continue shifting toward ecosystem-based management, incorporating not just a fishing community but many concerns, including tourism and oil and gas development. When you're managing how humans affect the ocean, you need to consider all of the different constituent groups of who uses the ocean." -- Doug DeMaster, acting chief scientist of fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationNASA
Look to the Bottom of the Food Chain
"For too long, we've been eating too far up the food chain. We need to eat more across it, by consuming items like mackerel, sardines and squid. Instead we're consuming the top predators: the swordfish, the tuna." -- Gef Flimlin, board member of the U.S. Aquaculture Society [Image: Broiled sardines with preserved lemon and arugula. Delicious!]Wikimedia Commons
Eliminate Fishery Subsidies
"We can solve the biggest threat to the oceans—overfishing—by eliminating harmful fisheries subsidies. Governments are paying to maintain a global fishing fleet that is up to two and a half times larger than what our oceans can sustain." -- Ted Danson, actor, founding board member of Oceana and author of Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save ThemWikimedia Commons: bankingbum
Stop Using the Ocean as a Sewer
"If I could do one thing, it would be to stop using the ocean as a universal sewer. Every year, we create thousands of new chemicals that reach the oceans, accumulate in the fish there, and eventually find their way back to our dinner plates. Yet we have neglected to find out what the consequences might be." -- Jean-Michel Cousteau, president of the Ocean Futures SocietyWikimedia Commons: CNRC