Meet Heiko Blessin from JBL, one of our amazing Elkhorn-level sponsors!
Protecting the habitats of marine animals is at the forefront of their corporate philosophy, which is why they've come on board to help us in our mission...
What is your earliest memory of the ocean?
I have two: One was the TV series FLIPPER and the other was when I was snorkeling for hours in the Mediterranean sea when I was 10 years old on vacation.
What is your favorite marine creature?
There are two: I love all kind of sharks, from the great white shark to the epaulette shark; and the wonderpus, an octopus, which can imitate animals. I have seen most of them and still enjoy every single minute I am with them in the ocean!
Have you experienced a healthy coral reef ecosystem? If so where, and how did it make you feel?
I have seen coral reefs in all oceans of our planet. I think the healthiest ones I have seen were around Indonesia, such as Manado or Lombok. The comparison between healthy reefs and reefs that have been effected by El Nino like the Great Barrier Reef, the Maldives or other problems like in the Caribbean is terrible. The difference between a reef in perfect condition and a destroyed reef is just unbelievable!
Have you seen a badly degraded reef system? How did that make you feel?
Extremely sad. It’s like visiting a graveyard. I just returned from reefs in the Indian Ocean around Mauritius and the Seychelles and have seen many reef in terrible shape. But nowadays, you can see destroyed reefs almost everywhere.
What concerns or scares you the most about climate change?
We are talking about the emissions of cars a lot in Germany. Then I have heard that the world's eight largest ships emit as much CO₂ as all the world's cars put together.
Why do we always discuss the little things and ignore the biggest impacts?
Why do you, personally, care about coral reefs?
I studied marine biology because I was fascinated by the ocean. I started diving when I was 12 years old and from then on I experienced the changes all around the world. The coral reefs are the largest ecosystems on our planet and we have very successfully destroyed most of the tropical rainforests. Hopefully we can protect the reefs – but I am not sure about this anymore!
Why is protecting and restoring coral reefs relevant to your brand?
Our company JBL is doing expeditions to most of the places on this planet, where we can see aquarium fish in their natural habitat. During these trips we have experienced perfect reefs, almost dead reefs, and dead reefs. We believe that it is our duty to make a small contribution to protect the reefs and rainforests. By caring for animal species in aquariums and terrariums, we are already preserving many species that are unfortunately extinct and will soon become extinct. But we have to start one step earlier and protect the habitats of the animals. This is part of JBL's philosophy!
Why should the average person care about coral reefs?
Everybody who comes to any ocean, can protect the sea a little bit. No plastic or garbage in the ocean. Respecting sensitive habitats. And everybody should personally be active in any kind of nature preserve: Tropical rain forests, protecting whales or sharks or protecting the coral reefs – the most endangered ecosystem of the planet
In your opinion, what are some of the most powerful tools at our disposal that we can apply to the mission to save coral reefs?
The most powerful tools are not in our hands. Politicians must legislate to protect the reefs. Most people only do something when they are forced to do it by law. But laws are only useful if they are monitored.
But since the politicians are asleep, it is up to us to show what is possible. Often, it is only then that politicians wake up and see what a small group of people have already achieved voluntarily.
What do you think are some of the easiest ways that the average person can join the mission to save coral reefs from extinction?
If you are personally not able to remove waste from a reef or plant corals onto the reef, you can support organizations, who are protecting the reefs. CRF™ is very transparent and you can see what CRF is doing with donated money. You can even visit CRF™, like we did, and join them while they are working under water. But not everybody is a diver and many people haven’t ever seen a live coral reef. That’s why we need TV, YouTube, documentaries, and cinema! Movies are also very powerful and open the eyes of many people!
Do you think there is hope for our coral reefs? Why?
Very difficult question! In the past we heard that the forest will die – but forests are still holding on. We (humans) are always waiting until it is five minutes to midnight on the Doomsday Clock. Sometimes we've been lucky and it has been successful, other times we've failed! But I am a positive person and I am pretty sure that we will save our beautiful coral reefs around the world. This generation and the coming generations have already started taking action around the world. I know projects in the Philippines that provide kids with diving masks. They experienced the beauty under the surface of the ocean and told their parents to stop polluting the ocean with waste. That is a start, which gives hope!