June 8 is World Ocean Day. It was first introduced in 1992 and became officially recognized by the United Nations in 2008. The purpose of this day is raise awareness of the critical role of the sea. Apparently the ocean doesn’t get an entire month even though it makes up for about 71% of the earth’s surface. It also produces half of the earth’s oxygen, regulates the climate, provides food and medicine and even benefits the US economy to the tune of 282 billion in goods and services which provides employment for almost 3 million people. And, that’s just scratching the surface which is why it’s so important to save the ocean.
To say that every living thing on earth is dependent on the ocean would not be an over statement. In recent years though it has become a significant concern that ocean levels and temperatures are rising. It has also been discovered that pollution, both chemical and plastic are jeopardizing the delicate balance of the ocean ecosystem. This could have catastrophic consequences.
The good news is, whether you live near the ocean or far away you can be doing something to help. This problem is huge and there are many factors but if we all pitch in we can make an impact. Here are 10 meaningful things you can do to help save the ocean!
1. Sustainable Fishing
One of the biggest threats to the ocean’s ecosystem is over fishing. The US is the global leader in sustainable fishing. Buying American fish or joining a community supported fishery (CSF) can make a huge difference. To find a CFS check out localcatch.org.
Since 90% of seafood is imported though it may be difficult to find American. We do have very strict import laws. But, to improve your chances of getting fish that was sustainably caught be sure to patronize markets and restaurants that are committed to sustainability. Even simply asking about sustainable fishing helps to create demand.
Another important consideration regarding sustainable fishing is broadening the types of fish you eat. Most Americans eat only 5 varieties of fish. It is important to consider trying some new types of seafood. A helpful tool for selecting seafood is, the Montery Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch App. It can help you make wise choices as a consumer. It even gives sushi advice!
2. Pet Considerations
While we’re thinking about what kind of fish we’re eating we should also be thinking about what’s in our pet food. Make sure that you check the ingredients. You can use your new app to make sure that all of the ingredients are sustainably fished. Pet food regulations are much looser so this is very important.
This might sound a little silly but it needs to be mentioned. Please don’t flush kitty litter down the toilet. You should really reconsider what you are putting into your plumbing in general. Chemicals found on and in things you put down your sink or toilet can leach into ground water. Ground water feeds into other waterways and ends up in the ocean.
While we’re on the topic. Just because something came from a body of water doesn’t mean it should go back. If you have an aquarium don’t release your fish into the wild. The same goes for fishing. Catch and release should only be practiced in the same body of water. Also, if you have a salt water aquarium make sure that the fish you keep weren’t removed from the wild. These types of practices can be very disruptive to the ecosystem.
3. Protect Mangrove Forests
What is a mangrove forest?
Mangrove forests grow along the coastlines of over 100 countries. Mangrove trees are specially adapted to be able to grow in the sandy shallow earth and can tolerate the salt water. They are extremely important not just to the ocean but also to the environment as a whole. They increase fish populations, trigger phytoplankton growth and they sequester 3 – 5 times (per unit area) more carbon than tropical rain forests. Mangrove forests also prevent erosion, and decrease industrial waste in the ocean. They even greatly decrease the impact of tsunami’s and hurricanes.
How to protect them?
Mangrove forests are primarily jeopardized by aquaculture. This is the practice of ocean farming. Because of their proximity to the shoreline shrimp farming effects them the most. Avoid buying cheap shrimp from unknown sources in Asia. It is best to stick with wild caught American varieties.
Coastal development and tourism also threaten mangrove forests. Not only is deforestation a problem but infrastructure also impacts the sustainability of these forests. It is important to pressure the government to protect these lands and to educate people regarding their importance. If you travel to a mangrove forest please be sure to practice leave no trace tourism. Don’t leave or remove anything. And, be mindful of your environment.
4. Avoid Chemical Contamination
This might sound like a simple thing but it not entirely straight forward. Even if you live nowhere near the ocean the chemicals you use on your body and around your house effect it. Again, anything you put into your pipes or on your lawn and garden ends up in the ground water. We all know where that leads.
These are the chemicals it is most important to avoid:
- fertilizers and pesticides
- harsh cleaning products
- sunscreen containing oxybenzone or octinoxate
Instead of harsh cleaning products consider using natural alternatives like baking soda, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide.
For sunscreen alternatives it is best to stick with mineral sunscreen. For more information please see my article “Is Sunscreen Safe”.
Also, don’t forget to make sure that you dispose of hazardous materials properly. It is extremely bad for the ocean and the environment in general to not take care with this. Things like batteries, oil, paint, and medications should not simply be thrown in the trash. If you aren’t sure if something you’re tossing has unique disposal requirements google it or call your city or town office.
5. Buy local, organic and non-GMO
This matters for the same reason your chemical use does and then some. It is very important to support sustainable farming practices. Runoff from agriculture is causing extreme destruction including a dead zone in the ocean the size of Kentucky!
You should be particularly attentive to the EWG dirty dozen list. Be sure to only purchase organic produce on this list. Also, look for non-GMO and organic soy, corn and wheat products. These foods are commodity farmed using a ton of chemicals that are thought to be predomanently responsible for the dead zone.
The other consideration is that climate change is having a huge impact on the ocean. Minimizing CO2 output by purchasing local and making other small lifestyle changes such as carpooling and switching to energy efficient appliances helps save the ocean too.
6. Respect marine life
When you head to the beach or out on a boat be sure that you are being respectful of the habitat you are entering. You are a visitor but many species live there. Do not disrupt nests or other animal breeding areas. Don’t feed wildlife and don’t litter.
Avoid purchasing items that are made from animals. This includes things made from sharks, like shark tooth pendants and things made from tortoise shells and hair. This also includes decorative coral and jewelry made from coral. It is impossible to know how the vendor sourced these products and you don’t want to contribute to the destruction of marine life.
7. Be a responsible beach goer
Hey, it’s summer and we all LOVE the beach! There’s nothing wrong with that! Just keep in mind that whether you are at the ocean or a local lake or river you have a responsibility. It is your job to make sure that you leave things better than you found them. Take your trash with you and if you see any other litter take that too. But, don’t take anything else. It is very important not to disrupt the environment so it is best to leave shells and stones where you found them.
8. Reduce plastic
There is a trash island in the ocean and most of it is plastic. Micro plastics are being ingested not only by marine life but also by us. We should be concerned about the amount of waste we produce in the use of plastic. And, we also need to be aware of the environmental cost of manufacturing it.
There are so many ways to reduce plastic use that I could (and likely will) create a whole post about this. The easiest 1st step is refusing single use plastics like produce and grocery bags, straws and utensils. There are many simple and inexpensive alternatives. I recommend investing in a few of them. You could also consider simply doing away with these items all together. For example, most people could go without straws.
Many products now come in alternate packaging. It is best to purchase products in other packages but be aware that sometimes they are plastic lined. Pay attention to these sneaky plastics.
Many people have stopped using glitter because it is a microbead. But most people don’t know that many hygiene products contain them as well. They are commonly included in exfoliants, body washes and even toothpaste. Check ingredients labels for “polythylene” and “polypropylene”.
If you must use plastic please remember to recycle it. Unfortunately only about 9% of plastic gets recycled. That’s a whole lot of unnecessary trash & a bunch of it is floating around in the ocean!
9. Get Involved
There is a significant amount of legislation surrounding ocean preservation not to mention trade regulations. It is very important to make sure your voice is heard! Call your state or federal congressional representatives and make sure that they know where you stand. If this is an important voting issue to you, let them know that too. To protect the ocean we need continued trawling bans and sustainable fishing regulations.
You can also contact your local or state government and pressure them to pass a single use plastic ban. In some states and municipalities you can even start a petition drive yourself to get this issue on the ballot. Check it out! Maybe you’ll be able to get single use plastic prohibited in your city or state!
Grab a few friends, make it a party or go yourself and spend the day doing a beach cleanup. You can also clean up a local park or green space. Litter anywhere, especially plastic is a threat to the ocean and wildlife.
There are many organized clean ups you can join in on too. Some are even really cool voluntourism events. To find a cleanup event go to oceanconcervancy.org. You can also use their site to create your own clean up event. International Ocean Cleanup day for 2019 is Saturday, September 21.
10. Spread the word
We need all of the help we can get to save the ocean. So, make sure that you spread the word! Remember to ask your local markets and restaurants to carry sustainably caught fish. Introduce your friends and family to a new type of seafood by including it in your next family meal. Make other’s aware of plastic alternatives. Get your friends and family involved in contacting legislators and participating in clean ups. Every little bit counts!
Share this post to help save the ocean. We need all of the help we can get! Don’t forget to comment below and let us all know which step you’re planning to implement 1st!
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