The ocean is the heart and the lungs of our beautiful blue planet. No matter where you live, you are connected to the sea. The ocean in trouble, and that means so are we. But there are things each of us can do, and together we still have a window of opportunity to turn the tide for the better.
At Blue Ocean Network, we believe every day is World Oceans Day. Most people are familiar with the 4 R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Refuse – to help diminish the damage to our blue planet. Here are ten additional things you can do to be the change we all want to see in the sea:
1. Mind Your Carbon Footprint and Reduce Energy Consumption
Reduce the effects of climate change on the ocean by leaving the car at home when you can and being conscious of your energy use at home and work. A few things you can do to get started today: Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs, take the stairs, turn your computer off, and bundle up or use a fan to avoid oversetting your thermostat. Support clean alternative energy solutions and innovations.
2. Make Safe, Sustainable Seafood Choices
Global fish populations are rapidly being depleted due to demand, loss of habitat, and unsustainable fishing practices. When shopping or dining out, help reduce the demand for overexploited species by choosing seafood that is both healthful and sustainable. Or just choose not to eat seafood.
3. Use Fewer Plastic Products
Plastics that end up as ocean debris contribute to habitat destruction and entangle and kill tens of thousands of marine animals each year. To limit your impact, carry a reusable water bottle, store food in nondisposable containers, bring your own cloth tote or other reusable bag when shopping, and recycle whenever possible. Avoid single use plastic like straws, bags and bottled water.
4. Help Take Care of the Beach
Whether you enjoy diving, surfing, or relaxing on the beach, always clean up after yourself. Explore and appreciate the ocean without interfering with wildlife or removing rocks and coral. Go even further by encouraging others to respect the marine environment or by participating in local beach cleanups. Keep lights off at night on turtle nesting beaches, and support sustainable development initiatives.
5. Don’t Purchase Items That Exploit Marine Life
Certain products contribute to the harming of fragile coral reefs and marine populations. Avoid purchasing items such as coral jewelry, tortoiseshell hair accessories (made from hawksbill turtles), and shark products. Squalene found in cosmetics is derived from sharks.
6. Be an Ocean-Friendly Pet Owner
Read pet food labels and consider seafood sustainability when choosing a diet for your pet. Never flush cat litter, which can contain pathogens harmful to marine life. Avoid stocking your aquarium with wild-caught saltwater fish, and never release any aquarium fish into the ocean or other bodies of water, a practice that can introduce non-native species harmful to the existing ecosystem.
7. Support Organizations Working to Protect the Ocean
Many institutes and organizations are fighting to protect ocean habitats and marine wildlife. Find a national organization and consider giving financial support or volunteering for hands-on work or advocacy. If you live near the coast, join up with a local branch or group and get involved in projects close to home. Sign petitions to help these organizations promote ocean-friendly legislation and sustainable ocean policy.
8. Influence Community Change through your Choices.
Research the ocean policies of public officials before you vote or contact your local representatives to let them know you support marine conservation projects. Consider patronizing restaurants and grocery stores that offer only sustainable seafood, and speak up about your concerns if you spot a threatened species on the menu or at the seafood counter. Do an ocean presentation at your local school – kids love it! Support ocean artists and film makers by attending their shows and festivals. Do your homework and purchase products that reduce your impact on the planet – manufactured from sustainable sources. Buy local produce and organic when possible.
9. Travel the Ocean Responsibly
Practice responsible boating, kayaking, and other recreational activities on the water. Never throw anything overboard, and be aware of marine life in the waters around you. Choose eco-friendly hotels and resorts whenever possible. If you’re set on taking a cruise for your next vacation, do some research to find the most eco-friendly option.
10. Say No to Dolphin Shows.
Thanks to documentaries like Black Fish and The Cove, the general public is becoming increasingly concerned about the practice of keeping marine mammals in captivity. Do your research, and encourage such attractions to change their business models by not spending your money to see these animals in captivity.
You don’t have to read a text book to learn about the ocean. There are many wonderful writers who spin real life ocean tales that teach you about the sea. While the old classics are always good for a second or third read, look up the recent ocean works of Carl Safina, Wallace J. Nichols, Liz Cunningham, Marah Hardt, Sy Montgomery, Charles Moore, Susan Casey, Peter Neill, Drew Harvell, Hob Osterland, Ellen Prager, David Helvarg, Sylvia Earle and so many more!
Whether you live by the ocean or not, all life on Earth is connected to the ocean and its inhabitants. The more you learn about the issues facing humanity’s vital life support system, the more you’ll want to help ensure its health—then share that knowledge to educate and inspire others to be the change we want to see in the sea.
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