By Daniela Fernandez, Sustainable Ocean Alliance
Devastating headlines about the world’s climate crisis appear almost every day. Most recently, the UN World Meteorological Organization reported that greenhouse-gas concentrations, rising sea levels, and ocean temperatures and acidification set new records in 2021.
But new reasons for hope also appear almost every day.
As the founder and CEO of Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA), home of the world’s first Ocean Solutions Accelerator, I’ve seen hundreds of ocean ecopreneurs and grassroot leaders create solutions that are making an impact on the ocean right now — not in some distant future.
We’ve also built the world’s largest network of young ocean leaders — across 165 countries. Together, they are restoring critical marine ecosystems, inventing sustainable alternatives to plastics, creating millions of metric tons of sustainable protein, and developing new technologies to better understand and protect the ocean.
The next generation is acutely aware that the battle to sustain, restore and heal our planet will be won or lost in their lifetime.
Growing up in coastal Ecuador, I witnessed the direct link between our climate crisis and ocean health. Unbeknownst to many, the ocean is responsible for 70% of Earth’s climate regulation. It produces more than half of our oxygen and stores 50 times more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere. It is our biggest protection against climate change.
In May, ocean ecopreneurs and global leaders came together in Miami for the Aspen Ideas Climate Summit. There, SOA released a report that features 200-plus global start-ups, nonprofits and grassroots initiatives that have accelerated solutions to heal, restore and sustain our oceans.
This includes innovations from climate-conscious Floridians, like the passionate team at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach. They approached SOA to extend their sea turtle conservation, research, rehabilitation and education initiatives. The result was a collaborative effort with the Haiti Ocean Project to develop Haiti’s first children’s book on the importance of protecting sea turtles.
Meanwhile, with help from a SOA micro-grant, Shelby Thomas and the Ocean Rescue Alliance have installed 70 reef modules off Riviera Beach, which are attracting a rich diversity of marine life.
In 2021, the SOA ocean solutions hub at the University of Florida hosted a series of events, including beach clean-ups. Volunteers also collected samples from a water-treatment plant near Sweetwater Wetlands, analyzing levels of pollutants and contaminants in collaboration with the university’s Environmental Toxicology Lab.
These local ocean ecopreneurs and innovators represent a microcosm of a global movement you can join to protect and restore our oceans.
Businesses can take simple steps to reduce their environmental footprint by using seaweed straws instead of plastic. Individuals can elect to have e-commerce products delivered in reusable packaging. Fishers can seek to become more sustainable from net to vessel.
I challenge you to explore the treasure trove of 222 Solutions for Ocean Sustainability and apply them to your everyday life and business operations.
It is not too late to create a future where our life-sustaining ocean is once again teeming with biodiversity, and future generations can breathe a sigh of relief.
Daniela Fernandez is founder and CEO of the California-based Sustainable Ocean Alliance, which is empowering a generation of young leaders to create solutions to protect our oceans.