Our maritime future

Our maritime future

Editorial: Can the ocean recover?

Welcome to the world of Maritime. This new publication is launched by the Maritime Foundation to add momentum to the growing sense of awareness that the natural environment, just as much as our history, is a vital part of our maritime heritage.

In this sense 2017 is a propitious year, with the World Ocean Summit in New York following on from the Paris Agreement that emerged from the UN Climate Change Conference in December 2015. Never before has the world come together in such strength to expose the folly of overexploiting our ocean resources.

Ocean health is not only about resources; it is significantly connected to climate change. Human intervention has been responsible for the damage, and it is up to us to do what we can to remedy the situation. World institutions typically honour sovereignty, but in this case the sovereign demands of one country will inevitably expand to take in the atmosphere and the sea. The challenge is to recognise this and find globally acceptable solutions. This publication is a tribute to those who have put the broader interests of humanity above their own personal interests.

This inaugural issue of Maritime starts by focusing on the state of the marine environment, posing the key question, ‘can the ocean recover?’ Professor Callum Roberts reviews the harm that has already been done and the continuing overexploitation, and discusses strategies for mitigating the effects of inevitable future changes. Simon Reddy and Johnny Briggs of the Pew Trusts show how it is now possible to monitor and enforce the preservation of protected areas, while Peter Horn discusses the options for ending illegal fishing, and Admiral Nick Lambert provides more detail about satellite technology that has been developed to shine a light on what is happening at sea, both in fisheries and in other spheres of activity.

Media influence is a powerful way of changing attitudes. Louise Hooper of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation examines imaginative ways of changing public perceptions, and Thomas Moore of Sky News describes the deeply disturbing scenes uncovered when reporting on the destructive effect of plastics in our oceans. As individuals, we all have a responsibility to take ownership of our plastic waste.

Less easy to evaluate is the health of the seabed, but thanks to the pioneering work of David Mearns we now have greater access to the depths and the potential to develop a more comprehensive understanding of environmental impacts. RSS Sir David Attenborough will soon be exploring the depths of the polar regions, and Linda Capper notes that as well as maintaining Britain’s leading role in ocean research, the vessel has become an emblem for a renewed interest in British shipbuilding.

Not surprisingly, there are new challenges emerging. Admiral Chris Parry examines the tensions implicit in the control of littoral areas and the open ocean, and discusses the geopolitics of maintaining the freedom of the seas, while Dr Dave Sloggett explains the threats to our maritime security and the counter-measures available to ensure the surveillance and protection of British waters.

Significant progress has been made in implementing the UK government’s Maritime Growth Study, the findings of which were published last year. Michael Parker explains the steps that are being taken to update and improve the UK Ship Register, and the consequent reinvigoration of the Red Ensign. The arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth in Portsmouth in August was an equally potent symbol of national intent for the Royal Navy.

Looking beyond these shores, Lars Carlsson discusses an imminent step change in the regulations governing shipping worldwide, which should achieve a dramatic cut in emissions as well as providing opportunities for a revival of wind technology as an auxiliary means of propulsion for large vessels.

Maritime affairs are often poorly understood outside the circles of those who are directly involved with them. Pinpointing the need for a better-informed public, Stephanie Zarach argues that it is time start fostering maritime awareness in the classroom, while Sara Mills says there is no better way to learn about the sea than getting afloat and signing up for an RYA course. The professional dimension of seafaring is being addressed by the Merchant Navy Training Board, and Kathryn Neilson describes the exciting potential not only in shipping but also in marine service industry careers.

Although awareness of maritime issues may have been in the doldrums, some encouraging signs are emerging that the maritime sector is being given a greater emphasis in our national endeavour. We in the Maritime Foundation hope that this issue of Maritime will contribute to that, and encourage you for your own part in that same endeavour.

Julian Parker OBE,
The Maritime Foundation