I grew up sailing, starting at age two. I’ve been at it for over sixty years and traveled over 75,000 ocean miles under sail in the North Atlantic the Arctic Ocean, the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the Aegean, the North Pacific, the South Pacific, and the Southern Ocean. From the glaciers of Greenland and Spitsbergen to the wilds of Cape Horn and from the mountains of Alaska to the islands of Greece and Tahiti, I’ve covered a fair amount of the Earth’s oceans. The sea is in my blood. It’s a big part of what makes me tick. And it’s a huge part of what makes our planet both beautiful and livable.
After a career in academic medicine, I took relatively early retirement to spend more time at sea and devote more of my energies to enjoying, studying, and preserving our ocean environment. Seventy percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by our oceans, yet we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the bottom of the sea. But we, the Earth’s inhabitants, are measurably causing the gradual deterioration of our greatest resource. We are acidifying the oceans due to massive increases in the concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere, which affects the entire ocean ecosystem, from corals to shellfish. We are polluting our harbors and bays with run-off from our farms and factories. We are contaminating the sea with plastic trash and oil spills. And we are depleting fish stocks around the world to dangerous levels that may never be able to recover.
I spent two months sailing in the Baltic a couple of years ago, and I was struck by the virtually complete lack of sea life. In 64 days of sailing, we didn’t see a single marine mammal of any sort. They have nothing to eat. There are practically no fishing boats to be seen in the Baltic and no seagulls, because there are no fish. It is a dead sea thanks to man’s over fishing and pollution.
For the past thirty years I have served as a trustee of the Sea Education Association, which teaches oceanography to college students and offers them the experience of spending six weeks at sea doing research on one of our tall ships as they learn to sail and become directly acquainted with all the issues surrounding the health and benefit of our oceans. And more recently I joined the board of Sailors for the Sea, a non-profit organization that is attempting to educate and engage the boating community as a whole in these same issues.
It’s not too late to act. We must do all we can to save the most precious resource we have on the surface of the Earth. But we must do it now.