Two years since Blue Planet II, never has there been more attention focused on our marine wildlife. There has never been so much research into our oceans as is taking place right now. Now, a few fishy tales are being shared as the Realplasticfree.com team keenly watched to discover the marine stars of Blue Planet Live on Episode 1!
Blue Planet Live Asks: Why do our oceans matter?
- Oceans cover over 70% of the world’s planet
- Oceans are a world of diverse habitats and are home to many plants and animals, with many more still to be discovered!
- Oceans are an essential life support system, regulating our planet’s temperature and weather, and generating half the oxygen we breathe
It’s time to learn to love sharks
Steve Backshall is in the Bahamas amidst an extravaganza of sharks
The shark is a misunderstood animal. If you think you should approach a shark with fear, you need to think again! Sharks have far more to fear from human beings than we have to fear of them.
As a result, they have to be treated with respect, and you need to observe their body language to understand their emotions and actions.
Sharks have been in our oceans for around 400 million years, so every other creature has adapted around them.
Therefore, sharks function like the immune system of a reef: they take out sick and injured animals and alter the behaviour of other creatures around them.
“There is a total disconnect from humans to sharks. We can swim in the oceans with sharks in a way that you can never walk around on the snow with a polar bear following you. We have to make that connection with the sharks. Understand that they pose way less many dangers than other creatures out there. We must change our ways because we need to protect the oceans and we need to protect the sharks. When you reach that message then you have a victory.”– Cristina Zenato, The Shark Dancer
What you need to know about sharks
- Sharks and rays are at major danger from overfishing, sometimes for their fins, but also sometimes because they are caught in the bycatch of other species. Human beings are taking at least 100 million sharks from the world’s oceans each and every year. They are taken for their fins. This number cannot be sustained. Our next generation may never see these predators.
- The Bahamas reefs are a refuge to one of the highest diversities of sharks and rays on earth, with 78 species. The resident Caribbean Reef shark and bull sharks are accompanied in winter by Great hammerheads and one of the biggest predators on the planet – the tiger shark.
- Sharks have a phenomenally adept sense of smell – they can smell a single drop of blood in an Olympic sized swimming pool area of water. The animals are so good at sensing their environment – they know what is prey around them and it’s not humans – it’s fish.
Did you know? You are more likely to be killed when taking a selfie than you are by sharks.
“When you protect our seas they bounce back.”– Steve Backshall
Explore The Great Barrier Reef
Liz Bonnin is in Heron Island in the Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is a vast network of around 3,000 individual reefs, stretching across 2,300 kms along the east coast of Australia.
Every single nook and cranny is covered with coral animals. There are millions of animals building these incredible structures, and are part of the mechanism for keeping the planet healthy.
Simply, it’s the largest living structure on earth and is so big that it is even visible from space, and accounts for 10% of all the living coral on the planet!
What we need to know about coral reefs
Breeding season is in full swing and tens of thousands of seabirds come here to use the trees and beaches to lay their precious eggs.
Heron Island is a complex superorganism. The coral reef that exists beneath the surface of the water supports 72% of all of the coal species on the Great Barrier Reef, as well as about 900 different fish species and is one of the most important areas on the Great Barrier Reef.
Amazingly, one in every four species from the ocean lives in a place like Heron Island. Coral reefs provide food, income and coastal protection for an estimated 5 million people globally.
How are coral reefs surviving the world over?
Coral reefs are magnificent – from their bioluminescence to their huge mass spawning events. Despite their importance, coral reefs are going downhill across the planet.
Sadly, in the last 50 years, there have been 50% less coral on the reefs. We are now seeing the impacts of climate change.
“Literally over the last couple of years we have seen parts of the Great Barrier Reef lose 50% of its corals due to underwater heatwaves, so we have a lot of challenges upfront if we want to preserve this important and absolutely essential ecosystem“.– Ove Hoegh Goldberg, Director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland.
What you need to know about sea turtles
- Sea turtles are ancient mariners that have been wandering the oceans since the age of the dinosaurs
- Some can grow up to two metres long and live for 100 years.
- There are seven species worldwide and the most common turtle of the Great Barrier Reef is the green turtle.
Did you know? When mothers arrive pregnant on the beach under darkness, they have a real mission to haul themselves up the beach as they weigh about 100 kilos. They then have to use all four flippers to remove vegetation and excess dry sand so they can dig their egg chamber using their rear flippers. They dig to a depth of about 60cms and lay a clutch of eggs of about 100 hugs. Sometimes they do this as many as five or nine times in one season.
The plight of sea turtle hatchlings
- All the hatchlings emerge quickly and instinct tells them to head to the sea.
- Hatchlings have the odds stacked against them. Not every egg laid results in a hatchling – it is about a 78% success rate to produce a hatchling!
- The green sea turtles in Heron Island are being depleted.
- An astounding 43,000 hatchlings make their way into the ocean from Heron Island
- Just one in every thousand will make it to maturity.
Scientists on Heron Island excavate the nests to see how many hatchlings there are. Sometimes they find live hatchlings still in the nest because they are not as viable /fit as their siblings, or get caught up in roots, so they receive a helping hand from the marine conservationists to be released into the sea.
“Turtles are the gardeners of the ocean. They encourage new growth by eating algae off the reefs, and grading on the seagrass meadows. As they travel thousands of miles in their lifetime, their influence is widespread. Protecting these turtles is crucial to our seas.”– Liz Bonnin
What you need to know about whales
Chris Packham is in the Baja Peninsula of Mexico
The salty Scammon’s Lagoon, which was first discovered in the 1850s by the whaler, Charles Scammon, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is home to many pelicans, seals and marine turtles, as well as the gray whales that are being observed this week.
Incredibly, the lagoon holds 10% of the world’s population of gray whales, and there are an estimated 22,000 on the planet at the moment.
Did you know? Whales like being tickled! Despite the fact that Scammon decimated the whale population of the lagoon, in 1972 the whales started approaching boats and now it is naturally encouraged to touch whales here as they crave attention!
Whales come to Mexico from the Arctic waters to give birth to their calves as it is warmer waters, which means the mother can conserve more energy to give milk and encourage rapid growth. It’s also safe from predators such as orcas and sharks.
The Barnacles that become attached to whales are an asset to scientists as they can highlight the distinctive pattern of the whales, which are identified using drones. They can judge the health of the whales by estimating their weight.
Sadly, the whales in Scammon’s Lagoon are becoming much thinner, and some are becoming malnourished and leaving earlier back to the Arctic due to a lack of food.
The local research team has been observing one adult female since 1977. Consequently, they have seen her 13 times in the Baja Peninsula and estimate her to be at least 50 years old.
“We give all of these oceans different names, Atlantic, Pacific, Indian – but there are no fences between them, they are all joined up, and as a consequence of that, all the ecosystems that we’ve been looking at and enjoying….are connected to one another, are dependent on one another and, ultimately, our health and our future is dependent on them as well.” – Chris Packham