Sustainable Development Goal 14 enshrines the protection of life below water, but progress towards this goal has been weak and waterways remain under threat. These threats include plastic pollution, rising temperatures, dead zones, reef depletion and overfishing.
In the second episode from our six-part series, we sat down with Chris Gorell Barnes, the founder of the Blue Marine Foundation, as well as the founding partner of Ocean 14 Capital, along with Will Pomroy, Head of Impact Engagement – Equities and Lead Engager Small & Mid Cap Equities, at the international business of Federated Hermes.
According to Chris, the ocean is ‘a bit like the physical world wide web – it connects and it carries everything.’ The oceans are also the largest absorber and sequester of carbon, absorbing more than 25 to 30 percent of CO2 produced.
One of the biggest risks to the ocean is plastic and it’s here that we need to start, says Chris. ‘Plastics is a really a land based problem we need to solve. We need to work out how we’re going to reuse and recycle plastic, how we’re going to value it better. So we don’t just discard it.’
But there are bigger risks. According to Chris, the biggest issue the ocean faces is acidification due to the absorption of such a large percentage of the carbon that we’re releasing into the atmosphere. ‘This is destroying coral reefs, it’s destroying marine habitats, and it’s making the ocean acidic and therefore making it warmer.’
So is this water crisis solvable? Chris believes so. ‘The ocean has an amazing propensity to recover, to come back to life, and when the fish stocks come back to life, they have a positive impact on biodiversity, on improving the coral and then you see an area replenish. But we need to do it now.’
Will believes engagement with companies to address the production of plastics will also be a key driver. He thinks companies have a greater appreciation of their impacts on biodiversity and subsequently the impact of the loss of biodiversity on their own operations. ‘It is encouraging to see an increased awareness of the need to take action.’