All life on this planet depends on the ocean. Now, the ocean urgently depends on us, how we treat it and if we are ready to make the necessary changes for a more sustainable future. On this day – designated by the United Nations as World Water Day – it is especially important to value this finite, irreplaceable resource. Our lives and our survival depend on it, no matter who we are, what we do or where we live. And so does our world.
A decade of oceans
It seems ocean preservation is taking an even bigger priority than usual on the United Nations’ agenda: 2021-2030 has been declared as the “Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development”. This initiative plans to cover all facets of our oceans in scope as “a true revolution in ocean science.” The project will mobilize scientists around the world, bridging the current gaps in science and policy, and communicating in an effort to trigger a real change in behavior. Lofty goals that are sadly necessary given the current state of things.
In the same vein, Netflix is also jumping on the bandwagon with their upcoming documentary Seaspiracy, which uncovers ugly truths about the corruption by which our world’s fishing industry continues to thrive.
Always present, often forgotten
Throughout history, the ocean has always served us with its mighty powers and seemingly endless resources. Perhaps we have been taking these things for granted? Well, it sure sounds like the ocean is being carelessly handled when reading about the seas of plastic growing within it. (There are areas in the ocean with seven times more plastic than fish now.) Or reading about the 260 (!) fishing vessels outside the waters of the Galapagos, a delicate and sensitive ecosystem. A single one of these vessels alone can remove 300 tons of wildlife from the water. 300 tons multiplied by 260 vessels equals way-too-much harm to living creatures. And that is only a tiny fraction of how much the global fishing fleet shovels up yearly.
Given these facts, it may come as no surprise that, despite improvements in conservation measures and ocean management, the UN’s First World Ocean Assessment found that much of the ocean is “seriously degraded.” And this trend will certainly not be easier to reverse moving forward as our population continues to grow. By 2050, we’re looking at roughly 9 billion people on the planet. Our oceans are going to have to bear a large brunt of that influx.
BARRIERS COME IN ALL SHAPES AND SIZES
Some of the main challenges of achieving the UN’s goals for the ocean are protecting and restoring ecosystems and biodiversity as well as sustainably feeding the global population.
Fish oil is a clear example of how our commercial quest for valuable commodities creates both environmental destruction and depletion of marine resources. Fish oil is the conventional, raw material for omega-3 EPA and DHA. And fish are not even the source of these essential nutrients – they actually come from microalgae.
The growing demand for omega-3 products globally provides strong economic incentives for overfishing and destructive exploitation of marine habitats. This overfishing is depleting our oceans not only to the detriment of marine life but also of many poverty-stricken communities that live on the coast and rely on traditional fishing methods to sustain themselves. Their food supply is quickly disappearing.
The UN body for fisheries and agriculture, FAO, stated in its 2018 State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture Report that over 90 percent of the sea's fish stocks are already fished out at maximum capacity, or overfished. The World Wildlife Foundation has shown that between 1970 and 2016, wildlife populations found in freshwater habitats have declined by 84%. Greenpeace has warned that the entire Antarctic ecosystem is at risk of collapse due to the sharply increasing fishing of krill for omega-3 supplements.
Be wiser, go to the source
Using fish and krill for omega-3s does not make much sense in the first place. As we said, omega-3 EPA and DHA – the important omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil and krill – come from microalgae, which fish get through their food. Unfortunately, fish and krill also accumulate heavy metals, PCB, dioxins, PFAS and other toxic compounds from the pollution in our oceans. Remember those seas of plastic?
Fortunately, today we know how to farm microalgae – as we do here at Simris – so that we can offer the precious omega-3 oil directly from its source. In this way, we not only protect both marine wildlife and delicate ocean ecosystems, but we also protect ourselves from the toxic pollutants found in fish and krill. Algae oil is the only plant-based alternative that contains the same healthy marine omega-3 fatty acids as those found in fish or krill. Farming microalgae on land to produce omega-3 is part of the solution to end the overfishing problems we are facing, restore ecosystems and protect our oceans.
At Simris, we’re not just concerned about the water found in the ocean; we go to great lengths to conserve water whenever possible in the daily operations of our Algae Farm. Following the theme of this year’s World Water Day – valuing water – we are constantly evaluating the role water plays in our production of algae oil. We use water for the direct cultivation of algae as well as for the cleaning of our cultivation systems. A high priority for our algae farmers is evaluating these processes to decrease the amount of water used for them. As pioneers in the biotechnology behind this vertical farming method, we’re proud of the progress we’ve made – and have our eyes set on further innovation for the future.
It is the responsibility of our generation to put an end to the devastation of our oceans – and the time is now. The decisions we make, big and small, can have a lasting impact on the state of the ocean. Educate yourself and make wise choices. Life started in the ocean and without healthy oceans, there will be no life on Earth.
As Capital Paul Watson, Founder and President of Sea Shepherd, so aptly puts it in the trailer for Seaspiracy, “If you want to affect climate change, the first thing you do is protect the ocean. And the solution to that is very simple: leave it alone.”