The ocean faces many problems that we as a society are responsible for. Enthusiasts in Europe and around the world are finding new ways to raise public awareness while creating career opportunities for young people willing to help. That’s what this Ocean episode is about.
Snorkeling with instruction in Malta
Every year millions of beach lovers visit Malta in the Mediterranean. A group of snorkelers in Qawra, Malta are not just here for fun. “Today we celebrate the Med Coast Day, our beautiful Mediterranean Sea. We will go on a guided snorkeling trip,” said the Malta National Aquarium education officer, welcoming the participants.
You’ll take a free tour of the Maltese National Aquarium, learning about the local marine life and its importance to humans. If you add a bit of education to snorkeling, it’s twice as much fun, is the motto.
“Personally, I really like this area,” says Thais Amaral of the National Aquarium. “There are some spots here with Posidonia Oceanica, the scientific name for a species also known as Neptune Grass. It’s called the lungs of the Mediterranean. It produces a lot of oxygen and is home to a variety of species. And not only that, it also prevents erosion.”,
One participant says it was her first time snorkeling with a guide. “So I actually knew what I was looking at instead of just going out and looking at the fish.” Also, some rubbish will also be collected on the tour, some hooks, and plastic bags to carry a message: if we see rubbish, we’ll take it with us.
We need more ocean literacy
Such actions target a fundamental problem: the public does not seem to know enough about the ocean to want to help. According to Professor Alan Deidun, the Maltese Sea Ambassador, most people are emotionally disconnected from the sea, it seems big and far away. But committed campaigns can help bridge this gap.
“Europe has a blue growth strategy that aims to generate more economic activity from the sea. But we need to make sure that this is done in a sustainable way. And one way is to provide more knowledge about the sea, not just for the ordinary citizens, but also for policymakers, because you would be amazed at how little some of them know about it,” said Maltese Ambassador to the Ocean Alan Deidun.
The promotion of ocean competence is the goal of the European Ocean Coalition EU4Ocean, which is supported by the EU. It brings together different organizations, projects, and people looking for new ways to raise public awareness, develop educational programs, and put ocean literacy at the top of the political agenda and into the public debate.
The most important lesson is to involve people and make them understand early on what the sea means for our livelihoods and our future, agrees Malta’s Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia. Former EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritimes, and Fisheries Karmenu Vella asks: “How can it be that we are not knowledgeable enough and not committed enough to stand up for the greatest good on the planet that we all depend on, children, students, media people, politicians, decision-makers, everyone?
Marine life is important. That’s why it is essential to educate our children about its importance. In line with the efforts to protect and conserve marine life, businesses like Maria Carmita (mariacarmita.com) explore other ways to serve seafood. The concept of the raw bar is idealistic. Farming seafood could be a start but there is still a lot to learn.