London is a coastal city, linking us to the ocean via the tidal River Thames which flows 95 miles through the city from its tidal limit at Teddington in West London out to the North Sea between Essex and Kent. Along its length many freshwater rivers drain into it, bringing water down from the upland areas of a vast river basin. It is one big system influenced by the tides, rainfall and of course our own impact through development and industry.
The River Thames built our city through maritime trade linking the UK to the rest of the world. The Thames remains a vital and vibrant working river, bustling daily with freight, passenger ferries, tourist ferries and recreational boats. Every day thousands of people walk along its banks sampling the many venues, attractions, cafes and restaurants or outside of the city centre finding tranquillity along the Thames Path and the foreshore mud-larking or simply watching the world go by. The Thames is equally vital for wildlife. It is home to the most nationally significant fish nursery areas in the North Sea and more than 300,000 birds that fly here from Africa for the winter.
TEP has always taken a landscape scale and increasingly a whole system approach to thinking about and working with the tidal Thames and the Greater Thames Estuary complex. We believe that when you look at the system as a whole and understand it as being so, we can make better, more sustainable decisions about how build, manage and shape the landscape which includes our blue spaces.
It is because of this way of thinking that over the last five years we have become involved in various initiatives which have ‘ocean literacy’ at their heart.
Ocean literacy is defined as an understanding of the ocean’s influence on you and your influence on the ocean. An ocean-literate person understands:
- the essential principles and fundamental concepts;
- can communicate about the ocean in a meaningful way; and
- is able to make informed and responsible decisions regarding the ocean and its resources.
The ocean is the defining physical feature on our planet Earth—covering approximately 70% of the planet’s surface. There is one ocean with many ocean basins, such as the North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Indian, Southern and Arctic.
The Thames is our local bit of ocean that we influence everyday as individuals through the consumer and lifestyle choices we make and as organisations through our work.
We are members of the Marine CoLABoration which focuses on communicating about the value of the ocean and we’re currently working on two projects which are underpinned by and carry ocean literacy messages that directly impact the Thames.
Because everything we do touches the ocean.
“London alone drinks 2 million plastic bottles of water daily. The Port of London Authority collects around 250 tons of debris and rubbish from the tidal Thames each year, most of which is plastic.”
Thanks to funding from the Oak Foundation and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, we are core partners of a high profile pan-London campaign in led by the Zoological Society of London, and in partnership with Communications Inc. and Forum for the Future to reduce the amount of single-use plastic water bottles flowing into the Thames, out to the sea and contaminating the ocean.
Through this campaign we aim to highlight the fact that plastic is recognised as one of the most significant and growing sources of pollution, threatening ocean health and as a result empower the public to think about plastic waste and the impact this has on the ocean.
We have made an exciting new documentary presented by our President and renowned naturalist Chris Baines and introduced by Sir David Attenborough. The film is a fact-filled odyssey along the River Thames, as it meanders from Richmond through London and out to sea exploring the Thames fascinating and ever changing ecology and meeting the passionate people who work along her whilst also showing the important impact the Thames has towards the ocean.