The swims were intended to draw attention to the health of the oceans. But I seriously underestimated the urgency of the issue I was swimming for. As the United Nations Patron of the Oceans, I have given many speeches stressing the need to protect our environment for the sake of our children and grandchildren. I now realize it’s not about our children. It’s about us. And the situation is much worse than I thought.
I was shocked by what I saw in the seas, and by what I didn’t see.
I saw no sharks, no whales, no dolphins. I saw no fish longer than 11 inches. The larger ones had all been fished out.
When I swam in the Aegean, the sea floor was covered with litter; I saw tires and plastic bags, bottles, cans, shoes and clothing.
The Black Sea was full of Mnemiopsis, a rapidly reproducing species of jellyfish. This species is not native; it was brought in with the ballast on visiting ships, and has wrought havoc on the ecosystem.
As I was about to jump into the Red Sea, I asked the boat’s skipper whether I should keep a lookout for sharks. He told me not to worry — they’re long gone.
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