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Captain Iain Kerr.
Photo: Chris Johnson

August 25, 2002
Lost in the Indian Ocean
  Real Audio

Log Transcript

In the Indian Ocean, a thousand miles from anywhere are some of the most beautiful and ecologically diverse Islands in the world.

The 115 islands that make up the Seychelles group host an enormous diversity of native and endemic species. A natural heritage that could be difficult to protect. However, the Seychelles is an ecological success story. With two UNESCO World Heritage sites, a host of nature reserves, marine parks and wildlife clubs throughout the archipelago, and a World Oceans Day, the Seychelles are a model for conservation. Even so local managers freely admit, there are still challenges ahead and much work to be done.

Fisheries activities are a major component of the Seychelles economy with purse seiners netting over 300,000 tonnes of tuna every year (mainly skipjack and yellow fin); Port Victoria is home to the largest tuna cannery in the world, with the Seychelles people being the third largest consumers of fish per capita. As a result, conservation of the marine environment is a responsibility the Seychelles takes very seriously.

In many ways I think the people of the Seychelles are far more fortunate than most, their lives are intrinsically tied to the oceans on which they are so dependant.

I admire this connection because I believe that many of us have forgotten what an important role the oceans play in our lives.

Even though an estimated 60% of the world's population lives within 100 miles of the coast, even though we like to swim in it, sail on it dive below it, or just sit quietly and gaze out over it, even though we enjoy over 100 million metric tonnes of food taken from it annually; for the most part we are reluctant to act as stewards of the oceans.

Land on the other hand is a different story, perhaps we understand it and give it greater value because we can buy and sell it and of course live on it.

The Odyssey prepares to depart Victoria Harbor for its first research leg in the Seychelles.
Photo: Chris Johnson

A good friend who works in conservation recently told me about a program that will allow non-profit organizations to buy a million acres of African veldt for 3.5 million dollars. He spoke of how abundant the animals on it were and how powerful yet inexpensive it would be to make such an investment. I only wish we could conserve oceans in the same way.

In the 19th century, Henry David Thoreau wrote,

    "We do not associate the idea of antiquity with the oceans as we do with land."

Conflicts between humans and marine species, including endangered species like whales are bound to increase as our population continues to expand exponentially. Greed and competition for ocean resources is creating a 'tragedy of the commons', destroying that which we all share.

Back in 1968 when Garrett Hardin wrote 'The Tragedy of the Commons' he was concerned with overgrazing by sheep from land held in common. It now seems that the oceans are the 21st century's commons and that we are fast becoming the perpetrators and victims of a new tragedy.

I can only hope that in 2002 Henry David Thoreau will be proven wrong - that humanity will start to associate the idea of antiquity with the sea and that the oceans will become an issue of greater importance to us all. There has never been a clearer need for research vessels such as the Odyssey that can be used to help learn the truth about the state of the world's ocean resources.

To me the biggest tragedy would be if people did not get involved with Ocean Conservation because they thought that they could not make a difference - I am a proponent of Edmond Burkes philosophy, he said:

Nobody did worse than he who did nothing for fear that he could only do a little?

This is Iain Kerr aboard the RV Odyssey wishing you fair winds and a following sea.

Log by Iain Kerr

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