Silent dying under water

"Species extinction in the ocean is going on in secret for most people," says biologist Ulrich Karlowski. He works intensively on underwater problems at the German Foundation for Marine Conservation (DSM). "Many unknown species are becoming extinct without us even being able to get to know them.".

The sea is our largest ecosystem. And it is seriously threatened. We perceive burning and dying forests and do little about it, the events in Brazil alone testify to that. But far more silent and threatening is the ever more rapidly tilting ecosystem of the sea.

The list of causes is long. Too long, in fact, to be even remotely described here in its entirety. Some of them are listed here: Overfishing and unintentional bycatch - what the agonizing death of unintentionally caught animals, such as dolphins, is called. In addition plastic waste, poisons, ammunition, oil and gas production, radioactivity, ... it is all the more depressing that the desolate condition of this underwater world has not improved in the last 10 years.

One issue came more and more into focus: there are already more than 150 million tons of plastic waste in our oceans and 10 million tons are added every year. Sad irony: Since plastic has a lifespan of 450 years or more and is crushed to microplastics by surf and waves, it inexorably returns to the polluters via the food chain.

Research results on microorganisms show that microplastics can cause inflammation in tissues and weaken organisms. The medium- to long-term effects of microplastics on humans and animals have not yet been adequately researched. But immediate effects make photographs and results of scientific studies dramatically visible.

WWF writes:

"The trash in our oceans consists of plastic bags, PET bottles, lighters, cigarette butts, disposable razors and the like. Unfortunately, the colorful plastic pieces are far too often mistaken for food. It has been discovered that plastic parts emit an odor that birds perceive as the smell of food. Thus, carcasses of seabirds with plastic parts in their stomachs are found more and more frequently. The animals suffocate, suffer fatal constipation or starve to death with stomachs full. The stomach contents of dead fulmar birds is now recognized as evidence of the pollution of our oceans. This is because “fulmars” are seabirds - what they eat comes from the sea."

Photos by Claire Fackler show how deadly this carelessness is.

Claire Fackler: Albatross killed by plastic © Claire Fackler / NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries / Marine Photobank

Greg Lecoeur: Encounter under water © Greg Lecoeur,

That's where organizations like oeoo are not only a true ray of hope, but a bitter necessity. Oeoo startedin 2017, and its members not only collect plastic and trash together with helpers in “clean-up events” around the world, but also have a plan to recycle plastic waste with fully automated collection ships. According to the association, oil can be recovered from pre-sorted plastic waste.

Grec Lecoeur shows us how beautiful our oceans are. The world's oceans are his field of work, and his passion is the unique beauty of marine life.

Claire Fackler has worked for the National Ocean Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) since 1999, now as the National Education Liaison for NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and has been the National Volunteer Coordinator since 2015. She is considered one of the experts on the topic of marine exploration. Her project "Ocean of Live" brings students and schoolchildren of different cultures together and imparts valuable knowledge.

Greg Lecoeur is a multi-award winning wildlife photographer who dedicates his life to the marine world. His passion for the natural world continues to drive him to explore the planet with his eyes and his camera, and to bring these photographs to us. Greg captures moments that are often breathtaking to us. His photographic art and commitment to nature are recognized worldwide.

Among other honors, he was named Nature Photographer of the Year 2016, as well as Underwater Photographer of the Year 2020.