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2010 Aquarius Mission - If Reefs could talk
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Aquarius 2010 Expedition Blog:
Oct. 14, 2010

By Michelle A. Johnston, Ph.D.
John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellow
Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

sea turtle
A sea turtle swimming by. Click here for a larger image. (Photo: NOAA)

This year's Aquarius mission is titled "If reefs could talk." While checking the mission's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries facebook page earlier this week, there was a post that really caught my attention. The post suggested that we get a mission title rewrite saying, "If Reefs Could Talk and People Could Listen." This comment really made me pause, and think long and hard, about what the ocean is really saying to us, and whether or not people are really paying attention.

I have loved the ocean and the creatures that live in it since I was a small child. It became such a passion of mine that I made it my life, and studied it all the way through graduate school. Through my personal diving observations and sea turtle research, I believe the ocean is begging to be heard. In fact, it has been trying to get our attention for a very long time, but unfortunately, many people have been deaf to its pleading. I believe that ocean is gasping, desperately saying, "Hey people, wake up, and pay attention to me! I support you, provide you with bountiful food, and protect you, why can't you protect me? Can't you hear me crying for help? Please abuse me less, and protect me more."
Coral reef.
Coral reef and fish near the Aquarius. Click here for a larger image. (Photo: NOAA)
These ocean words have been rolling around in my head the past few days as I learn about the conditions on Conch Reef here in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. I know each and every one of us can do more to help conserve the ocean and its resources. The time for action is now. The ocean cannot keep wasting its energy sending out an unanswered S.O.S., because eventually, the ocean will stop talking. We need to listen. Scientific studies have picked up on some of this messaging, showing that the ocean is facing many threats, such as over-fishing, pollution, climate change, and biodiversity loss. So to protect our ocean, we need to protect all its parts, because it is all connected to all that we do, and the ocean deserves more respect than what we give it.

inspecting the kayak
Orange cup coral - beautiful, but an unwanted, invasive species. Click here for a larger photo. (Photo: NOAA)

Basically, we need to open our eyes and ears and pay attention to the world around us -and wake up and listen to what the ocean has been saying for many years. If everyone can demand less of the ocean and more or ourselves, we will surely hear the ocean and it will hear us, so that we can be in constant conversation, constantly checking in to see if each other is okay, listening, and caring, like how we would treat a long time friend or beloved family member, knowing that we all play an important part in this wonderful thing we call life.

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