Protecting the oceans is everyone’s job
Seas and oceans represent 70% of the earth’s surface and are home to more than 90% of biodiversity. Salt water is an essential component of the Earth’s ecosystem. However, insufficient attention to this vital resource is rapidly degrading the ecosystem.
The first step in protecting it is to know the major dangers to which the oceans are exposed so that we can be conscious of their impact and remedy them.
- Climate change
The ocean is severely affected by climate change as it plays a vital role in regulating environmental temperature. The large amount of CO2 we generate is the main cause of the increase in global warming. The effect of CO2 emissions includes the melting of ice caps and glaciers, which ultimately causes a rise in sea level.
The ocean absorbs a significant amount of CO2, cleaning up about 30% of the air we breathe. However, the absorption of more carbon dioxide by the ocean decreases the pH of the water, leading to an increase in acidity. This causes a harmful feedback effect towards its own marine ecosystem, limiting the reproduction and creation of species, especially calcifying species (corals, snails, etc.) among others.
- Pollution and solid waste
40% of the oceans are polluted. Pollution and waste, such as fuel, oil, fertilizers, pesticides, and solid waste, can be found in our waters.
Most of the waste we produce on land ultimately ends up in the oceans and seas. In particular, plastic, which accounts for approximately 80% of marine pollution, amounting to some 13 million tons annually.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a vast expanse consisting of micro-fragments of plastics and other solid waste, spanning hundreds of thousands of square kilometers. It is like a real island or continent floating in the ocean and degrading the ecosystem, with a size equivalent to several countries. Moreover, it is not the only one. More precisely, a comparable garbage patch has recently been discovered forming in the North Atlantic.
- Destruction of the habitat of millions of species
The constant threats to the marine environment are causing irreversible damage to its ecosystem.
The best known case is the destruction of corals. Some 20% of them have already been lost, and according to experts, another 20% of them are in serious danger of extinction and have no chance of recovery.
Fishing has become a serious threat to maritime health because illegal and massive fishing over the last century has meant that there are not enough fish to supply all the fishermen.
Currently, according to studies by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 60% of fish stocks are overexploited and another 30% are unsustainable.
- Lack of government action
Despite two-thirds of the Earth’s surface comprising oceans, legally protected areas make up less than 5%.
Most of the oceans are declared as international waters due to the lack of territorial distribution among countries, resulting in a lack of specific protection. Advancements in this area occur at a slow and laborious pace.
In 2015, the Sustainable Development Goal number 14, Life Below Water was approved as part of Agenda 2013 established by the United Nations. It addresses topics such as marine ecosystem protection, pollution reduction, sustainable fishing, ocean acidification, and scientific research promotion in this field.
But it was not until this year that the Oceans Treaty was approved after several years of planning. It is a UN agreement in which more than 200 countries have participated to protect at least 30% of the oceans by 2030.
In what ways can companies contribute to ocean conservation?
Companies play a crucial role in conserving ecosystems. It is crucial that they comply with all local and international laws and regulations related to the conservation of oceans and marine resources. The specific regulations that a company must adhere to will depend on its business practices and location. These may include, among other things, the prohibition of illegal fishing, proper management of marine debris, and compliance with water quality standards.
In addition to complying with local and international laws and regulations, companies can take several other measures to increase awareness and provide protection:
- Promote innovation and research to develop clean technologies, and encourage the adoption of sustainable aquaculture practices to minimize environmental impact.
- Provide funding, technical resources, or volunteers to support marine conservation projects and organizations that promote sustainable marine practices.
- Increase awareness and educate employees, customers, and communities about the significance of ocean protection by organizing workshops and events on marine conservation. Caring for our seas is part of our seas, with actions we can take in our daily lives, and even more so in summer:
- Reduce your plastic consumption: Plastic is one of the main pollutants in the seas and oceans, especially single-use plastics. Replacing plastic bags and bottles with reusable cloth bags and bottles is a great option for the environment as well as being an affordable alternative.
- Avoid using chemicals that harm the marine ecosystem: when choosing your sunscreen, always avoid sprays and creams that are not labelled “ocean friendly” or similar. This type of chemical product is extremely harmful to corals and other marine organisms.
- Responsible tourism: If you are going to do aquatic activities such as diving, sailing, or snorkeling, always choose tour operators that respect local regulations and promote respectful practices.
- Support companies that care for the environment: More and more companies are working to protect the oceans and seas. Supporting them and recognizing their work and responsibility is a good way to promote responsible corporate action.
- Eat sustainable seafood and fish: The sea is not only made up of its water, but the millions of organisms that live in it. If you like fish and seafood, always look for sustainable and certified options that guarantee responsible fishing and aquaculture and help to avoid overexploitation of species.
- Monitor and report the impact of actions and progress in marine conservation through regular reports, allowing for more transparency and accountability.
How does MAPFRE contribute?
In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly established the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 14, “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.” In pursuit of this SDG, MAPFRE adheres to the Biodiversity Pact to promote economic development compatible with biodiversity conservation, as well as the Oceana declaration promoted by the United Nations to put an end to illegal fishing. MAPFRE also collaborates with the WWF campaigns “For healthy seas and coasts” and “Not one degree more.”
MAPFRE sponsors the Copa del Rey de Vela, an event that measures and offsets its carbon footprint while hosting workshops and environmental education sessions for the participants. Additionally, we operate a solar-powered boat that helps support the health of the Mediterranean Sea.
In 2022, our corporate volunteers carried out reforestation and natural area cleaning projects in Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Spain, the United States, Mexico, Portugal, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela.