A trained marine biologist and an accomplished campaigner, explorer, and marine scientist, John has helped win several major victories for marine conservation since becoming the director of Greenpeace's oceans campaign in 2004.
Often as an environmental campaigner, I find myself thinking the planet would be in much better shape if more thought was given, and caution taken, before industries are given free rein to exploit its precious natural resources. Not to mention the time, energy and money that would be saved in mopping up the mess of a particular environmental problem. As the age old saying goes, prevention is better than cure.
This same logic applies to the Arctic – surely it is better to stop oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean now before there is a catastrophic spill. Experience tells us that inevitably there will be a spill, which will be impossible to clean up in such harsh conditions. Similarly, it is far better to draw a line now and stop the northwards charge of large-scale industrial fishing vessels that are taking advantage of the melting sea ice than to do nothing and find out in a few years’ time that the fish are all gone and that fragile marine habitats have been destroyed. Continue reading →
Endangered leatherback turtles migrate 6,000 miles across the Pacific each year, and at the end of their journey looms a deadly threat.
Drifting gillnets, known as “walls of death,” float just off the California coast. While their purpose is to catch swordfish, these nets have ensnared and drowned more than a hundred turtles. Continue reading →
If you’ve never had the opportunity to see a leatherback turtle, scientists say you are running out of time. One of the most remarkable creatures on earth, these Volkswagen-sized turtles can dive down to 4000 feet and migrate distances of 7000 miles. They have been around so long that they have seen the dinosaurs come and go, and shifting continents have moved their feeding and breeding areas to opposite ends of the earth. Unfortunately, unless we get our act together, they may be headed for extinction. According to Dr. Thane Wibbels, author of a new report, “if the decline continues, within 20 years it will be difficult if not impossible for the leatherback to avoid extinction.” Continue reading →
Greenpeace's Oceans Campaign director John Hocevar high fives a penguin, a species whose habitat would be included in the world's largest marine reserve in the Ross Sea
The United States and New Zealand have agreed on a joint proposal to establish the world’s largest marine reserve in the Ross Sea. If adopted by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) this week, the proposal, will cover more than 600,000 square miles. While quite a bit short of the 1.4 million square miles that Greenpeace and the Antarctic Ocean Alliance have been working to protect, this would clearly be a major step forward. Continue reading →
A group of Adeli penguins in the Southern Ocean in Antarctica
The largest marine reserve in the world could be created by people in this room next week.
I’m in Tasmania for the annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). I’m here not as a representative of Greenpeace, but as a member of the United States delegation. There are fourteen of us on the delegation: two from the State Department, nine from NOAA, one from the National Science Foundation, one from the fishing industry, and yours truly. Whatever hat I’m wearing, the conservation community and the US government team have one big shared goal for this meeting: create a large marine reserve to protect the Ross Sea, which scientists have identified as the most pristine shallow sea in the world. Continue reading →
Greetings from the Chukchi Sea, way up in the Arctic north of Alaska, where the team aboard the Greenpeace ship Esperanza is using a small submarine to study the seafloor in the area Shell hopes to begin drilling for oil this summer. During what we believe to be the first research submarine dives ever in the Chukchi Sea, we were surprised to discover large numbers of corals in the midst of Shell’s proposed drill site.
If you’re a SCUBA diver, you’ve probably got a favorite wall dive. It’s hard to beat the feeling of moving slowly up a steep reef, with dense marine life above and below. I’ll always remember my first deep wall dive, on a visit to Curacao as a teenager in the 80s.
My new favorite, though, involves a submarine rather than SCUBA. After a few dozen dives in Pribilof and Zhemchug Canyons, on the Bering Sea shelf break, I thought I had some idea of what to expect: gradual slope, soft sediment bottom, with coral and sponge density somewhere around 1 per square meter. So when we dropped onto a near vertical wall with nearly 100% invertebrate cover at 270 meters, I was giggling like a fourteen year old.
Today, factory trawl ships pull up over a million tons of fish here each year and their enormous nets scrape along the seafloor, destroying coral habitats in these submarine canyons that are critical for fish, crabs and other marine life.
After years of Greenpeace and others calling for their protection, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council declined once again in 2006 to protect these canyons, saying there wasn’t enough information available about the canyons to justify action.
We are not very good at taking no for an answer when it comes to defending the planet, so we took the Council’s decision as a challenge. In 2007, we set out with the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, along with two small submarines, to explore the canyons and provide the council with the data it said was missing.
These corals, sponges, and other marine life are currently unprotected, and could be destroyed by enormous trawl nets dragged throughZhemchug Canyon. Continue reading →