Everybody has a responsibility to do whatever they can to protect our sensitive and dying oceans. Although people may not realise it, the ocean performs a number of essential functions for the planet, without which, human existence would not be possible. Atmospheric temperature stabilisation, greenhouse gas absorption, food production, and climate control are just some of the things which the ocean does which benefits our everyday lives[sc:1].
However, the health of the ocean is threatened. Pollution, overexploitation, and global warming are destroying the ocean as we know it, and are affecting its functionality at the same time. Sea surface temperatures are increasing, sea water is becoming more acidic, and crucial fish stocks are being decimated. Here’s what you can do to help protect our oceans:
- Eat Sustainable Seafood
Global fisheries are collapsing, and around 75% of the world’s fisheries are either fully or overexploited. This is obviously not sustainable, and something needs to be done. You can help by ensuring that any seafood you consume is sustainably sourced. Ask restaurants where they source their seafood. Buy ‘line caught’ or ‘sustainably harvested’ seafood. Or even better, look for a mark of approval from a marine conservation organisation[sc:2].
- Reduce Fertilizer Use
Excess fertilizers usually end up caught in stormwater drains after heavy rain, and make their way to the ocean. This can result in algal blooms which deplete oxygen levels in the surrounding ocean and creates a ‘dead zone’ which contains few or no other organisms. The best example is the Gulf of Mexico, where an area the size of New Jersey is affected every year. Use less fertilizers or, if possible, use none at all[sc:2].
- Reduce Plastic Use
It is estimated that up to 4.5% of the world’s plastic production each year enters the ocean. This equates to around 12 million tons of plastic, or enough to cover every foot of coastline on the planet[sc:3]. Plastic is extremely harmful to a huge number of marine organisms. It is responsible for the deaths of turtles, whales, and other vertebrates every year. Toxins leached from plastics can be passed along the food chain to humans, causing cancer and other devastating diseases. You can help reduce plastic pollution by recycling whatever you can, never littering, and buying products with minimal packaging[sc:4].
- Support a Cause
Join a marine conservation group such as Sea Shepherd (my personal favourite), the Marine Conservation Society, or Oceana, and follow their efforts to save the oceans. You can aid their causes by donating, volunteering some of your time at events – either locally or not – and by educating your friends and family about marine conservation and its importance in our lives.
- Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Global warming and climate change are adversely impacting the ocean every day. Sea surface warming and ocean acidification are two of the major negative effects of climate change, and they are affecting species worldwide. You can reduce the effects of climate change by reducing your greenhouse gas emissions. Do this though simple actions such as walking or cycling instead of driving, conserving electricity at home, and reducing heating use to when it is really necessary[sc:5].