After four years in production, the BBC’s Blue Planet II has once again stunned the nation with its astounding exploration of the ecosystems existing in the darkest depths and remotest corners of our oceans.
Yet despite the seven-episode series insightfully capturing the curious existence of alien creatures in our coral reefs, and touching scenes of dolphin society, it was the emotive environmental message of the final episode that provided the programme’s biggest political punch yet.
The hour-long inspiring message was threefold. Let’s take a brief look.
“Our ever-increasing appetite for fish has led to many of the world’s fisheries being overfished. Almost a third are now at risk of collapse.”
The remarkable story of Norway’s recovered Spring-Spawning Herring population revealed the threats of overfishing to the ecology of our seas.
Intensive fishing of the herring stocks in the 1960s prompted a vital moratorium and stricter regulation of fisheries in order to save the industry from complete collapse. Today, Norway’s better sustainable management has seen a recovery of Spring-Spawning Herring and even provides a spectacular feeding attraction for Hump-Back Whales and Orcas.
However, despite the inspiring conservation efforts, and sustainability success stories, the history of Norway’s herring fisheries highlights the persistent threats to marine life caused by intensive fishing.
Throughout the episode, Sir David Attenborough warns us of the danger of fishing nets so expansive they trap and kill tens of millions of surplus fish every year, including the largest fish in the sea, the Whale Shark. Even fishing lines thrown into our oceans on a daily basis, if measured together, can wrap twice around the world – that’s one extreme obstacle course for our sea life to dodge!
Viewers learn that intensive fishing is a problem caused by us but, with careful management, can be solved by us. With international cooperation, fisheries across the world can provide us with sustainably sourced fish we can feel comfortable buying. But the progress can only start with a change in consumer demand.
The programme then journeys to the favourite nesting site for albatross colonies in South Georgia. Here we are shown how the biggest bird in our sky is faced with the threat of man-made plastics.
Following the British Antarctic Survey Team across the coastal landscape, emotive scenes of albatross chicks killed from ingesting plastic their mother has unwittingly brought back from the seas puts into perspective the reality of the impact and whereabouts of our waste.
“An estimated eight million metric tonnes of plastic are put into the ocean in a year.”
Later on, the autopsy of one of our much-loved dolphins reveals the ‘toxic soup’ of industrial chemicals and plastic particles that marine life exist in. Man-made toxins build up in food-chains, penetrating the tiniest micro-organisms at the bottom of the chain, and ultimately contaminating the milk dolphins and whales feed their young.
If that doesn’t provoke a reaction out of you, actress Zooey Deschanel and The Farm Project tell us how even humans are not exempt from this contamination.
But all hope is not lost. Initiatives such as 4Ocean are actively cleaning waste from our seas through funds raised from the sale of bracelets. For every bracelet bought, a pound of waste is removed from the sea. Visit https://4ocean.com and see what you can do to help.
“The ocean absorbs about a quarter of the carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere every year. As atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increase, so do the levels in the ocean.”
Finally, viewers are taken to the largest coral reef system in the world, the Great Barrier Reef. However, contrary to the colourful pictures of Percy the Tuskfish’s home in Lizard Island filmed earlier in the series, scenes of haunting bleached coral occupy our TV screens.
Rising sea temperatures and acidity levels, further intensified by the weather event known as El Niño in 2016, saw about 90% of Lizard Island’s coral branches stripped of their nourishing algae.
Ocean scientists warn viewers that by the end of the century, most of our coral reef could be gone.
Further warnings of melting icebergs and rising sea levels emphasize the frightening fate of coastal cities such as Miami that will soon find itself immersed under a meter of sea water.
The cause? Human’s incessant use of fossil-fuels.
However, the world is not doomed just yet. A switch to renewable energy will avoid a whole range of environmental problems caused by burning fossil-fuels.
Why not take a look at how you can make the change to Green Energy in your UK home at www.moneysupermarket.com/gas-and-electricity/green-energy.
Overwhelmingly, Blue Planet II has successfully stirred up a fresh storm of environmental engagement amongst its viewers. A final plea from the 91-year-old environmentalist, Sir David Attenborough, further mobilizes the activism buried within us all. “It is now clear our actions are having a significant impact on the world’s oceans,” says the naturalist, “Surely we have a responsibility to care for our blue planet. The future of humanity, and indeed all life on Earth, now depends on us.”
Photos in order of appearance from : http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/41736670, screenshot from Blue Planet II last episode, www.climatecentral.org.