06 August 2020

The campaign to Save the Whales in the 1970s and 1980s ended the worst horrors of commercial whaling and inspired the beginnings of the global green movement.  At the time, whales were rightly seen as the victims of human action, in need of protection. Today, as we learn more about them, we realise that they might be among our most surprising allies in combating climate breakdown. 

Research into whales as climate protectors focuses on their three main functions in the marine ecosystem - gardeners, mixers and storers of the oceans:

Gardeners: whale faeces and urine are extremely rich in nutrients, especially iron, which is scarce in many ocean regions. When whales defecate, they release those nutrients into the seawater, causing phytoplankton blooms. Phytoplankton absorbs carbon dioxide and creates about 50% of the atmospheric oxygen that is crucial for our survival. Mixers: whales migrate long distances and dive deep, meaning that they act as excellent transporters of nutrients. Different species of whales feed on a range of marine creatures, including krill and fish, and – again - their faeces contribute to the growth of phytoplankton. Whales thus bring nitrogen, iron and other nutrients to areas where they are not otherwise available, promoting productivity of the oceans. Storer: When whales die, they usually sink to the bottom of the sea, where it can take centuries for their bodies to decompose. With an average Blue Whale weighing some 100 tonnes, that body weight contains several tonnes of carbon absorbed throughout their life. This makes their bodies very large and effective stores of carbon on the ocean floor.

Credit: The Hideout

Rebuilding whale populations would lock away 145,000 tonnes of climate harming carbon inside whale carcasses every year. More whales also means more phytoplankton and more carbon taken out of the atmosphere.

If we are to enable whales to play their role as climate change mitigants, we need to stop whaling, end captivity, achieve zero bycatch and make sure that more Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are established and enforced. These are the goals that Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) has been pursuing since its foundation over 30 years ago and it is continuing to work towards with the Green Whale.

Green Whale Video (credit: Gentleman Scholar)

While their role as climate protectors is an additional reason for us to protect whales, their worth should not be measured solely by what they can do for us. Rather, they have their own significant intrinsic value, as intelligent, socially organised sentient beings.

We are just beginning to understand that whales are our allies in the fight against the climate crisis. In the future, countries that effectively protect whales can hope to count this as a climate protection measure, much like the preservation of rainforests.


by Tharaka Sriram, Campaigner for the Green Whale, Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), Germany.

28 January 2020

More than 100 environmental organisations, led by Seas At Risk, BirdLife Europe, ClientEarth, Oceana, Surfrider Foundation Europe and WWF launched the “Blue Manifesto”. The rescue plan lays out concrete actions which must be delivered by set dates in order to turn the tide on the ever-degraded and polluted ocean and coastlines. To be successful, change is needed on both land and sea. The NGOs call for: At least 30% of the ocean to be highly or fully protected by 2030, Shift to low-impact fishing; Securing a pollution-free ocean; Planning of human activities that support the restoration of thriving marine ecosystems. 

Press Release available in EN, FR, ES, IT, PT, DE, HR, BG

Blue Manifesto vertical version

Blue Manifesto horizontal version



Full list of organisations signing the Manifesto: A Rocha (International Marine and Coastal Conservation Programme); Animal latitude; APECE - Portuguese Association for the Study and Conservation of Elasmobranchs; Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation; ASOC - Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition; Asociacion plataforma"El Chorlitejo"; BIOM association; BirdLfie Sverige; BirdLife Cyprus; Birdlife Europe and Central Asia; BirdLife Malta; BirdLife Suomi; Birdwatch Ireland; Bloom; Brot für die Welt; BUND - Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland; By the Ocean We Unite; Climate Action Network Europe; CCB - Coalition Clean Baltic; CFFA-CAPE; ClientEarth; Compassion in World Farming; Cork Env Forum; Cork nature network; Deep Sea Conservation Coalition; Deep wave; DEPANA; DN - Danmarks Naturfredningsforening; DSM - Deutsche Stiftung Meeresschutz; ; DUH - Deutsche Umwelthilfe; Ecologistas En Accion; Ecos; EEB - European Environmental Bureau; ENT Foundation; Environmental Justice Foundation; FANC - Finnish Association for Nature Conservation; France Nature Environnement; Friends of the Black Sea; Friends of the Earth Europe; Fundajia Aquarium; Geota; Good fish foundation; Greenpeace; HOS - Hellenic Ornithological Society; IFAW - International Fund for Animal Welfare Europe; INCA - Iceland Nature Conservation Association; International Programme on the State of the Ocean; Irish Sea Sanctuary; Irish Wildlife Trust; Legambiante; Living Sea; LOB - Latvian Ornithological Society; LOD - Lithuanian Ornithological Society; LPN - Liga para a Protecção da Natureza; LPO - Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux; MARE Foundation; Mare Nostrum; Marevivo; MCS - Marine Conservation Society; MedReact; MedSOS; MEER; MIO-ECSDE - Mediterranean Information Office for Environment, Culture and Sustainable Development; Mundus Maris; NABU - Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union; Natuurpunt; New Economics Foundation; Ocean and Climate Platform; Oceana; OceanCare; Oceanografica; OMA - Observatório do Mar dos Açores; Otop - Ogólnopolskie Towarzystwo Ochrony Ptaków; Our Fish; PongPesca; Poseidonia green project; Project Aware; Prowildlife; Quercus; ReefCheck; Rethink Plastic Alliance; Retorna; RSPB - Royal Society for the Protection of Birds; SAR - Seas At Risk; Sciaena; SDN - Stichting de Nordzee; Sea First; SEO - Sociedad Española de Ornitología; Slowfood Germany; SMILO - Small Islands Organisation; SPEA - Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves; SSNC - Swedish Society for Nature Conservation; Sunce; Surfrider; SWAN - Sustainable Water Network; T&E - Transport and Environment; TNC - The Nature Conservancy; Tour des deux Amériques solidaire en voilier; Under the pole; WDC - Whale and Dolphin Conservation; WWF; Zero Waste Europe.

14 December 2016

The Blue Eco Forum organised by ENT Foundation, Seas At Risk member, together with Coastal & Marine Union and eco-union, took place end of November at the Maritime Museum of Barcelona. About 350 people attended the event and participated in plenary debates, workshops and exhibitions which counted on the presence of experts and key stakeholders from the Euro-Mediterranean political, economic and social world.

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08 June 2016

8 June is the United Nations day for World Oceans. The theme for this year’s celebration is ‘healthy oceans, healthy planet’, yet developments during 2016 have shown just how much more needs to be done to preserve our seas from the effects of human activity. 

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06 December 2015

Paris - The Oceans were front and centre of the climate debate this week at the COP21 climate talks in Paris. Special events both inside and outside of the main negotiation zone highlighted the crucial role played by the world’s seas in regulating our climate and mitigating the effect our greenhouse gas emissions are having.

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09 June 2014

Surfrider Foundation has with over 20 other organisations launched a new network, the "Ocean and Climate platform", ahead of the Cop 21 climate negotiations due to take place next year in Paris.

The platform is made up of NGOs and research institutes and currently all members are France-based organisations of national, local or European scope, but the platform is eager to open up further to non-French based European and international members. You can find more information on the platform here (French)

Don't hesitate to contact Surfrider Europe at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you want more information, or if you are planning on taking part in the Paris climate talks next year and wish to share information or observations.

08 February 2013

A proposal from industry to weaken the pH standard for ship exhaust-gas scrubber wash-water discharges to the sea from pH 6.5 to pH 3.0 has failed to win the support of a key IMO committee.

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25 June 2012

Despite early hope of help for oceans issues at Rio+20 the outcome of the conference does nothing to advance the cause of ocean’s conservation or ease the perfect storm of pressures that are engulfing marine ecosystems.

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10 January 2012

The protection of the world’s oceans look set to be given greater prominence at Rio+20, but the recently published draft outcome document needs significant strengthening if this important opportunity is to result in the urgent actions that are needed to save our seas.

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10 December 2011

Last week’s COP17 conference on climate change ended with a deal made in extra time that promisingly prolongs the fate of the Kyto Protocol but does nothing to ensure the deep, immediate cuts in GHG emissions that are needed to protect our oceans now.

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05 December 2011
It’s nearly 20 years since the first “Earth Summit” was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. A tenth anniversary event was held in 2002 and preparations are now well underway for the twentieth anniversary conference in that same Brazilian city. Terrestrial issues have traditionally dominated these events but with UNEP identifying “global ocean collapse” as a key emerging issue, Rio +20 must also become the first global "Oceans Summit".  

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01 November 2011

Four UN agencies concerned with the protection of the marine environment have outlined their joint proposals to improve the management of coastal areas and oceans with the goal of achieving deliverable actions at next year’s Rio +20 conference.

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01 November 2011

Almost 20 years since the first “Earth Summit” was held in Rio de Janeiro, preparations are now well underway for the 2012 anniversary conference. With UNEP identifying “global ocean collapse” as a key emerging issue for the event, Rio+20 must deliver to save the seas.

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24 October 2011

Speaking in Berlin on the marine environment and next year’s Rio +20 conference, German Chancellor Angela Merkel compared the current economic troubles to the crisis being faced by the world’s oceans. At the same conference, the Seas At Risk Executive Director called for German leadership.

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28 June 2011

At the June Fisheries Council meeting, EU Fisheries Ministers outrageously backed out of their international commitment to end overfishing by 2015 and chose to oppose the Commission’s proposals that would result in more sustainable fisheries.

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08 June 2011

This year’s theme focuses on “Youth: the Next Wave for Change”. In light of this, Seas At Risk are challenging all comers of all ages to discover the world's oceans online and learn a new language too.

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05 April 2011

A U.N. backed study has concluded that fertilizing the oceans to boost the growth of tiny plants that would absorb green house gases is unlikely to work as a way to slow climate change.

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09 March 2011

A study by American space agency NASA has concluded that polar ice sheets are losing mass at an accelerated rate and much faster than previously predicted, further highlighting the need for immediate measures to mitigate the effects of global warming.

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31 January 2011

The expansion of what are commonly known as ‘dead zones’ in the world's oceans are growing in size and consequentially further exposing certain fish stocks to higher levels of overfishing, a new study has found.

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29 November 2010
The 16th Convention of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is taking place in Cancun, Mexico from November 29th to December 10th. Here you will find information about the event as it relates to Seas At Risk's work and specifically GHG emissions from ships.

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