The ocean supplies more than half of the oxygen we breathe, at least one-ninth of global livelihoods and a carbon absorption system that has thus far regulated climate change.
While only 5% of the ocean has been explored, evidence suggests its entire ecosystem is seriously under threat. The number of fish in the oceans has halved in 50 years, since 1970. Coral reefs bleach far more frequently and extensively than just four decades previously, putting countless species at risk. Every minute, it’s estimated that the equivalent of an entire garbage truck of plastic is dumped into the ocean.
Growth in global plastics production 1950-2014
In response, an important collective of young global leaders is building a multi-pronged movement to restore and protect the Earth’s marine bounty. Coming from private, media, grassroots and multilateral organizations, these are some of the individuals who will ensure our oceans remain sources of life for generations to come.
Gloria Fluxa Thienemann is changing the impact of seaside tourism. As the CEO of one of Europe’s most prominent hospitality companies, Iberostar, she directly influences more than 110 hotels in 35 countries. More than 80% of these hotels are coastal. Through Gloria’s initiative, Wave of Change , Iberostar has developed an action plan to preserve and promote oceans and seas. This includes replacing single-use plastics with products made of biodegradable materials, ensuring the traceability of the fish on the hotel menus and funding research into coral reef conservation.
Lara Setrakian infuses deeper understanding oceans within the public arena. As the co-founder and executive editor of News Deeply, a new media company working to advance coverage of complex global issues, Lara has created a specific platform for oceans-related news coverage, Oceans Deeply . This goes beyond the reporting of hot topics like the coral reef crisis, plastics pollution and the establishment of marine protected areas; it also aims to raise awareness of underrepresented issues such as high-seas governance and deep-sea mining.
Pawan Patil is a force behind the World Bank’s multibillion-dollar portfolio on oceans. He has worked in partnership with scientists, policy practitioners and financial experts around the world to author numerous articles illuminating the Earth’s ocean wealth and promoting a sustainable and ocean-friendly “blue economy”. Pawan, who is a senior economist at the World Bank, is also the recipient of several innovation awards in support of ocean-facing developing countries. Driven by his family’s coastal heritage, Pawan’s commitment to improving the livelihoods of seafaring and coastal communities, particularly in non-industrialized economies, will spur investment into the right type of oceanic development.
Two women from the southern hemisphere are inspiring generations of young people and their families to care for the oceans. South African Hanli Prinsloo is the founder and CEO of oceans conservation trust called I AM WATER , which seeks to ignite a movement of “blue minds” across the planet. Her team connects diverse communities to the oceans to discover life beneath the waves first hand. By exposing influential philanthropists and young people from underprivileged coastal communities to the mystery and beauty of our aquatic environment, Hanli cultivates love for and commitment to protecting our oceans.
In Latin America, Kerstin Fosberg , mobilizes scores of volunteers to empower and educate coastal communities in Peru and beyond about their marine environments through Planeta Oceano . The dynamo behind the campaign to acquire legal protection for Peru’s giant manta rays , Kerstin marshalled tourists and local fishermen as citizen scientists to collect data to advocate for this species. Her vision prompted the Peruvian government to legally protect the giant fish. Kerstin now has her sights set on achieving broader conservation efforts through strategic tourism and the activation of local communities.
We hear a lot of talk about oceans protection but Nina Jensen is looking to turn it into action. She is the CEO of X Four-10 , which is currently constructing the world’s largest research and expedition vessel, called REV. This vessel will be fitted to house 60 researchers at any given time and promises to uncover sustainable and environmentally responsible solutions for the world’s oceans. With a background of 15 years at WWF Norway, Nina has a burning commitment and passion for oceans, conservation and finding the specific solutions oceans need to thrive.
While their individual efforts have already identified these change-makers as critical contributors to national and regional ecosystems, their collective efforts have the power to safeguard the delicate interdependence between terrestrial and aquatic life.
Find out more about the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders here .