At The Ocean Foundation we believe that every day should be World Oceans Day. Officially recognized by the UN since 2008, June 8th represents a day when groups from around the globe come together to celebrate our big blue resource and bring attention to the many threats it faces today. Each year this day has grown in the amount of recognition it receives and the amount of people that participate in it, highlighting the expanding knowledge that our ocean is in trouble and that we need to work together to combat the threats it faces.
The complexity of marine conservation goes deeper than marine debris, however it is one of the biggest threats. It pollutes our ocean, litters our beaches, and is often mistaken as food by marine animals causing serious harm and death. All known species of sea turtles, about half of all species of marine mammals, and one-fifth of all species of sea birds are affected by entanglement or ingestion of marine debris. A recent 10-year study of the seafloor off of the European coast has found that plastic was the most common litter found at all sample locations. Around 80% of marine debris originates on land, and 90% of all trash in the ocean is plastic. Plastic in the ocean breaks down into such small pieces that the tiny particles of plastic from a one liter bottle could end up on every mile of beach throughout the world.
One airline, JetBlue, is taking a forward thinking approach to ocean conservation in the Caribbean by partnering with The Ocean Foundation. Through our research we will directly tie the importance of nature to the airline’s main economic measure – revenue per available seat mile (RASM). Trips to Latin America and the Caribbean make up one-third of JetBlue’s route network; and the ecosystem health and natural appearance of these destinations have a direct impact on their business. By attempting to attach actual dollar values to unspoiled shorelines, we hope to strengthen businesses’ and governments’ interest in protecting the destinations and ecosystems we depend on.
In an ideal world, people would participate in conservation because it’s the right thing to do. However, as TOF President, Mark Spalding, states quite candidly, “If you think it sounds obvious that travel companies profit more in locations with beautiful beaches, then we have to ask — why aren’t countries whose GDP depends on tourism already natural leaders in conservation or waste reduction? The answer is that assumptions are not good enough. Assumptions do not create action. What we are doing is turning this assumption into evidence specific enough to matter in financial filings.”
The JetBlue/Ocean Foundation partnership seeks to create a business model for clean beaches in the Caribbean after proving that there is statistically relevant evidence that airline revenue is affected by the cleanliness of beaches. We will work together to develop a plan to strengthen ocean conservation in the Caribbean by making it easier for businesses that operate in the Caribbean to calculate their profit margin from a clean, healthy natural resource. One aspect of this will be sharing this plan with others and finding local partners to work directly on the issue of cleaning up marine debris in these areas. Our primary objective is to prevent trash from getting in the ocean in the first place. For example, airlines and travel companies, who would profit more by sending people to clean beaches rather than dirty ones, will be able to see the profitability in improving solid waste management, and indirectly the marine debris problem if they see how it helps grow their business.
When we look at conservation through the business lens we are able to show why natural beauty makes economic sense – taking the universal concept of return on investment and applying it to sustainability. Marine debris results in millions in wasted resources and revenues each year. If the value of nature can be shown to impact the bottom line then we can increase collaboration on conservation issues on a more global scale.
According to a Nielsen study from March 2012, when companies support social or environmental issues, consumer affinity overwhelmingly upsurges. Throughout our ten years The Ocean Foundation has partnered with other organizations such as Tiffany & Co., Absolut Vodka, Columbia Sportswear, Alaska Brewing, LLC, SaltWater Brewery and more to help combat various ocean threats in unique ways. By adopting this perspective we hope to inspire more businesses to become involved in ocean conservation around the world.
The ocean accounts for 70% of the Earth’s surface, it is one of our most valuable resources and the ocean is also a global business. The ocean is too big to go at it alone and it needs all the help we can provide. We hope that as the tradition of World Oceans Day continues it becomes more of a celebration of conservation successes than raising awareness of the threats.