I have always loved the ocean and pretty much all marine life (bar a few creepy critters). Here in Australia the beach and ocean are very important for us culturally as well as economically. Unfortunately humans have been abusing and trying to ‘master’ the ocean for centuries. This results in a wide range of problems including pollution, loss of marine life and much more.
Luckily we have a secret weapon to use in our management and conservation efforts – marine animals! Marine animals attract significant attention in ocean conservation planning and therefore are often used politically to promote designation of marine protected areas (Hooker & Gerber 2004). Highlighting the effects our actions have on animals and their environments is a very effective way to raise money and awareness. Often the larger marine animals such as seals, sharks, whales, birds etc. are used to front campaigns, however a wide range of plants and animals benefit where protected marine areas are set up.
Most of us would be familiar with BP’s recent oil spill or Deepwater Horizon spill, which devastated a range of marine life. This is just one example of how humans have damaged marine environments. If you recall the images from magazines and news stories, you would often see birds covered in the oil. Birds are particularly susceptible to oil spills as it prevents their feathers from insulating them and the often die of hypothermia. The media make a conscious decision to use these images of animals suffering at our hands as it makes a strong connection with the audience.
In the past there was a lack of knowledge surrounding the oceans and all their secrets, however now we know better. A major concern for our oceans at the moment is the effect that climate change will have on them. Issues include ocean acidification (see what our friends at Skeptical Science (SS) have to say), coral bleaching (SS), sea level rise (SS), changes to ocean circulation patterns (see my ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ post for an extreme case) and potentially many more!
The polar bear is a great example of animals being used to drive campaigns against environmental problems. There are countless images and documentaries that look at how global warming is threatening the existence of polar bears. The heating of our atmosphere due to human carbon dioxide emissions is resulting in the reduction of their Arctic Ice habitat, which has continually been a target for different media formats. David Attenborough’s ‘Climate Change‘ documentary is an example that states starving polar bears are the first victims of climate change.
This video is a great example of how the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Coral Sea campaign was a raging success. They used imagery of beautiful corals and highlighted the decline of reef sharks in the area to gain public support and push the government to declare the area a marine protected zone (which means it is protected from destructive fishing and activities like mining exploration). Australian news picked up the campaign which featured on radio stations, in popular magazines and it made prime-time news around the country, as well as international news.
Please let me know if you think media harnessing this ‘guilt’ factor of animal plights is an effective way of getting results?
Hooker, SK and Gerber, LR 2004, ‘Marine Reserves as a Tool for Ecosystem-Based Management: The Potential Importance of Megafauna’, BioScience, vol. 54, no. 1, pp. 27 – 39. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier.
Images in Header
Image 1: Jellyfish, 2009, ‘Photography Match’, Retrieved from: http://www.photography-match.com/views/images/gallery/Mauve_Stinger_Jellyfish_Edithburg_South_Australia.jpg [20 September 2011].
Image 2: Scuba Diving, 2011, ‘Scuba Diving in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef’, Retrieved from: http://s94572.gridserver.com/worldwide/top-10-worldwide-destinations/australia [20 September 2011].
Image 3: AllPosters, 2010, ‘Coral Reef’, Retrieved from: http://www.gondwananet.com/australian-animals-coral-reef.html [20 September 2011].
Image 4: Enhar, n.d., ‘Wave’, Retrieved from: http://www.enhar.com.au/index.php?page=marine [20 September 2011].
Image 5: Australia Travel and Tourism Network, n.d., ‘Great Barrier Reef’, Retrieved from: http://www.attn.com.au/index.php?town=17 [20 September 2011].
Image 6: Rebecca, 2011, ‘Wishlist: Ningaloo’, Retrieved from: http://aroundtheworldwithrebecca.blogspot.com [20 September 2011].
Image 7: Osprey, 2010, ‘It’s time to give our oceans a break’, Retrieved from: http://blog.ospreypacks.com/?tag=ocean [20 September 2011].
Image 8: SeaPics, 2010, ‘Green Sea Turtle’, Retrieved from: http://seapics.com/gallery/Reptilia/Testudines/Cryptodira/Chelonioidea/Cheloniidae/green-sea-turtles/green-sea-turtle-search.html [20 September 2011].