THE EXPEDITION WILL INVESTIGATE SOME OF THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL AND PRESSING MARINE ISSUES FACED TODAY INCLUDING; THE IMPACT OF LARGE-SCALE AGROCHEMICAL RUNOFF INTO WATERWAYS AND SEAS, AGGRESSIVE SEAS TEMPERATURE RISES, THE IMPACT OF MICROFIBERS AND WHETHER THE GOVERNMENT’S MARINE CONSERVATION ZONES ARE AFFECTING CHANGE OR JUST PRETTY LINES ON A MAP.
MICROFIBRES: THE GREATEST THREAT OF ALL TO OUR OCEANS?
Can Ness’ research with a UK University prove the colossal damage being done by microfibres? What filters are being designed to catch synthetic fibers in washing machines? Can Ness convince the biggest manufacturers of washing machines install microfiber filters as standard on future products? We are facing distressing facts such as studies indicating 93% of bottled water showing signs of microplastic contamination, including polypropylene, nylon, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Microfibers from synthetic fibers have been shown to make up the majority of human material found along the worlds shorelines, accounting for up to as much as 85% of the total. Ness’ team will be dedicated to understanding the extent of microfibres in our UK seas and waterways by conducting research, and to pursuing a long-term industry-wide commitment to stopping the tsunami of microfibres entering our waters in the first place.
THE UNSPOKEN TRUTH OF THE NORTH SEA TEMPERATURE CHANGES
As water temperature rises dramatically in the North Sea – three times global levels – we are seeing fish species like cod and haddock move north towards the arctic. Ness and her team investigate exactly what is happening with a team of experts to understand which of our species we are losing and predict which new, foreign species are expected to move in as sea temperatures continue to warm around the UK. This ecosystem is due to change very quickly, but what is the long-term impact?
SALMON FARMERS KILLING SEALS BY GUNSHOT IN SCOTLAND
Seals are supposed to be protected under UK law, but salmon farmers in Scotland are able to obtain a special license that makes it legal for them to shoot and kill certain marine animals who they see as threatening the salmon farms. Since 2011 800 have been legally shot by hired sharpshooters. Ness goes undercover to discover the extent of illegal shooting, and speaks to those on all side of the issue. Ness will also look into emails detailing that some officials has attempted to gain exemption from the USA’s new rules that will ban the import of salmon from fish farms that shoot and kill marine mammals. Will the British public condemn the license to shoot seals, or will they push for stronger enforcement on the sustainable culling of animals threatening the fish from salmon farms? We are used to hearing stories similar to this from other parts of the world, but how will we feel react to, and manage, the issue when it is happening on our doorstep?
AGROCHEMICALS CAUSING COLOSSAL ‘DEAD ZONES’ IN THE NORTH SEA & ATLANTIC
Ness investigates the agrochemicals that are pouring down waterways and into UK seas from the agricultural industry. What chemicals are being used, how much and how are they impacting our waters and sea life in major ways? Past research has shown that large amounts of agrochemicals causes vast plankton blooms in the ocean. These plankton blooms take all the oxygen out of the waters and cause what is known as ‘Dead Zones’ – essentially killing off all marine life as species suffocate. We already face the mass loss of fish species on an unprecedented and global scale, these Dead Zones compound this.
ARE THE NEW UK MARINE CONSERVATION ZONES BEING MANAGED EFFECTIVELY?
With the news that the government is pledging 41 new marine conservation zones, Ness investigates the reality of those already existing as leading marine conservationists warn that they are not being funded properly and management plans are not in place. With enormous potential to transform and protect vast underwater ecosystems are they living up to their promise or are they, currently, just pretty lines on a map to gain good press? Local fishing communities were often not represented and left uninformed of the developing plans for marine conservation zones, and thus have had no idea how their livelihoods could be affected, causing fear and anger amongst fishermen, even though many would have supported plans. Ness will bring together government, scientists, conservationists, industry and the public to tackle the issues head on.
THE STATE OF UNSUSTAINABLE FISHING IN THE UK
Fishing isn’t a problem, but overfishing is. As is the issue of plastic nets and the real cost of our tuna sandwich and fish fingers… With the invention of plastics as a strong, cheap, lightweight material for nets we have been able to invest in economies of scale and haul almost 90% of the fish in our seas out of the water and onto our plates. But how do we not only convey this real cost but also change the business model that has sustained the ferocious appetite of the fishing industry to one that does not damage our planet? In a way we are like a technological giant and an ethical child. We are still in our infancy in being able to make the right ethical choices against the backdrop of extraordinary technological development, so it is a bit of a race to catch up now. We have to close that gap extremely quickly. Compounding this is the news that the government is on course to ditch a landmark EU legal commitment to end overfishing by 2020, despite the prime minister’s promise not to reduce UK environmental standards after Brexit. Ness investigates the pre Brexit climate for the fishing industry, the potential of a circular economy, and sifts through the most promising solutions for sustainable fishing in our UK seas.
SHARKS IN UK WATERS: FIVE SPECIES THAT COULD MIGRATE HERE BY 2050
Ness and her team of marine biologists will dive in numerous sites around UK waters discovering the secret lives of the unique and little-known shark species in our waters, understanding their behaviour and capturing the extraordinary diversity of shark we have in our seas. Currently we have around 40 species of shark in UK waters – 100,000 large sharks and 10 million small sharks. With water temperatures rising and reports of great whites off the coast of Cornwall, Ness’ team explore how species like the Great hammerhead, Blacktip and Sand Tiger could migrate to our coastlines by 2050.