MARINE BIOLOGIST: These 7 Shipping Industry Changes Would Be Profitable And Save Our Oceans

Ship discharging water from ballast

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

At last week’s Sustainable Oceans Conference, Dr. Elliott Norse, the founder of the Seattle-based Marine Conservation Institute, gave a presentation on “the consequences of a failure to regulate the shipping industry,” according to the World Policy Blog.Norse expanded on his presentation for Business Insider and gave seven changes the shipping industry should make to “save the ecosystem that sustains us and provides for our needs.” These changes, Norse said, would be good both for “ecology and economy,” a “double win” that allows for the shipping industry to continue to be profitable while helping to save our oceans.

Right now, Norse said that shippers “think their profits are more important than our own real estate.” Here are the seven changes he mapped out that would help save the real estate that makes up the majority of the Earth:

  • End the practice of ballast water: “Moving species from one place to the next without great intention or understanding is a big mistake,” Norse said. Transferring water and creatures from one place to another could create species that disrupt ecosystems.
  • Stop underwater noise: The incredibly loud honking of ships in the high seas is especially damaging to blue whales who rely on their hearing to get around, Norse said. It also reduces fuel efficiency. He recommends building quieter ships.
  • Become an ardent champion for the protection of the Arctic: The Arctic Ocean is currently going from “a positive ocean to an industrialized ocean,” Norse said. “Shippers need to minimize impact. What they do when the ice melts will decide the ocean’s health.”
  • Lower the biological footprint: Ships are now larger than ever and are colliding with whales and other endangered wildlife. There are places with a large concentration of these endangered species that are easy to avoid, Norse said. Some bodies of water, including the Panama Canal, have good policies that other places should adopt, he said.
  • Use their authority to establish more marine protected areas: The industry could use its vast resources to create areas around the world where wildlife could be protected from ships interfering with its ecological real estate. It would also help sustain human life, Norse said.
  • Integrity and accountability in flagging: The shipping industry needs to allow some nations to attract commerce so that other nations don’t engage in “a race to the bottom.” Flags of convenience have been used by ships to reduce operating costs and some nations’ more harsh regulations.
  • An electronic/audio ID system: Some of the largest ships aren’t required to have UME or FIS identification systems that tell other ships where they are. This, and speeds that are too high, results in more crowded ocean spaces and, sometimes, crashes. “Where we are is a crucial question of how we will sustain ourselves environmentally,” Norse said.

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