The Sea First Foundation (SFF) was founded in November 2009 in the Netherlands and June 2010 in Belgium. The Sea First Foundation is deeply concerned about the poor state of our oceans, and the problems that this brings to humans, animals and the environment.
The Sea First Foundation brings the beauty and diversity of the underwater world to the general public, and at the same time raises awareness through sensitisation and education about the issues that stand in the way of a healthy world.
The Sea First Foundation strives for a world in which mankind recognises the oceans as essential for all life on earth and takes action to protect and cherish these.
The Sea First Foundation has identified six priority themes:
- marine ecosystem services and biodiversity
- overfishing, over exploitation of fish stocks, and destructive fishing methods
- marine pollution
- climate change and ocean acidification
- welfare of marine fauna
- fish consumption and human health
Importance of the sea
It is in our own interest to better protect the oceans. Some of the services provided by the oceans include:
- more than 50 percent of the air we breathe
- the absorption of about 50 percent of the CO2 produced worldwide;
- protection of coastal areas by mangrove forests, coral reefs, sea grass beds and other marine ecosystems from natural disasters such as tsunamiss
- nutrition for the one billion or more that are dependent on what the sea offers
- the regulation of our planet’s climate through its currents.
- 80% of fish stocks are over exploited (United Nations statistics). Every year about 120 billion kilos of fish is removed from the sea. About 40% is bycatch and the fish are thrown back wounded or dead. So many fish species are threatened with extinction and can simply not support this level of bycatch. Species whose numbers have been reduced by 90% include cod, tuna, swordfish and most species of shark. This means that compared to the twentieth century, there are only 10% of these animals left. If fishing continues on this scale, there will be no commercial fish by 2050. Seas full of fish will make way for seas full of jellyfish and algae.
- The waste produced by our large-scale livestock industry and the abundant use of fertilisers end up in the sea. The huge amounts of nitrogen are causing oxygen free dead zones. There are an estimated 400 ecosystems which have collapsed as a result of this, together amounting to an area of 245,000 m2.
- Our seas and oceans absorb one third of our anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Since the industrial revolution, they have become 30% more acidic with disastrous consequences on the fertility of many sea animals and corals. The external skeletons of animals such as shellfish or molluscs are unable to grow, having major implications on biodiversity.
- The amount of phytoplankton in the ocean is responsible for about 50% of the worldwide oxygen production. Since 1950 it has decreased by 40%, possibly as a result of the nutrient shortage caused by the warming of the sea water. This is a serious situation as the entire oceanic food chain depends on phytoplankton.
- Our consumption society and love of plastic has turned part of our oceans into five ‘plastic soups’. The best known is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean which covers an area 32 times the size of the Netherlands. According to the UN, there are approximately 18,000 pieces of plastic rubbish per square kilometre of ocean surface. This plastic does not biodegrade, but disintegrates into ever smaller pieces eventually resembling plankton and being consumed mistakenly by birds, whales and other sea creatures.
- Having depleted the fish stocks around the east coast of the US, Western Europe, Russia, China and Japan, these countries are making paying developing countries for fishing rights. The result? Factory ships have fished out swathes of coastal and near coastal waters leaving the local populations without a source of income or protein.
The Sea First Foundation Belgium believes that knowledge is crucial in tackling these issues. It thus carries out the following activities:
- Interactive lessons at primary and secondary schools.
- Sharing information with the wider public through colleges, universities, municipalities, companies, social associations and so on.
- Organises exhibitions and events such as ‘Ocean Week’ and ‘World Ocean Day’.
- Makes a resource centre and online archive available to the public that contains relevant and inter-disciplinary information about the marine environment.
- Organises campaigns and petitions such as the Tuna Free Restaurants.
- Advises on policy making through membership of lobby organisations such as Seas at Risk, Eurogroup for Animals, Ocean 2012 and the Shark Alliance.
- Attracts members who want to be involved in marine conservation and who can further share information on marine conservation.
The Sea First Foundation believes in strength in numbers and whenever possible takes part in the projects, campaigns and petitions of partner organisations.