The world’s coastal and marine habitats are among the most threatened and – until recently – the most neglected on our planet. Unsustainable and destructive fishing practices, insensitive coastal development, a cavalier approach to onshore and offshore environmental safeguards and an insistence on treating our oceans as a dumping ground have already taken a heavy toll. The problems are exacerbated by the impact of climate change, which is resulting in the warming and acidification of our oceans.
Marine ecosystems are worth an estimated US$3 trillion worldwide every year and provide food and livelihoods to over a billion people, but their resilience is being pushed to breaking point by a perfect storm of overexploitation, pollution, habitat destruction and global climate change. Urgent action is required to ensure that our oceans – and the remarkable wildlife found within them – can be nurtured back to health and given time to recover. There is not only a moral imperative to act; our very survival depends on doing so.
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has had one eye on marine conservation for much of its history. We were urging greater protection for whales and other marine mammals as long ago as 1913, demanding government action on oil pollution in 1933, highlighting the plight of sea turtles as early as the 1960s and supporting research on the exploitation of coral reef fishes in the 1980s.
In 2011, with the support of a generous grant from Arcadia – a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin – FFI officially established a marine programme to provide a formal framework for our ongoing efforts to address the growing threats to the world’s oceans.