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Have you ever wondered how to protect endangered ocean animals? From land animals like the chimpanzees to ocean animals like the blue whale, approximately 2,270 species are listed as endangered or threatened globally under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Of those listed species, about 150 of them live in the oceans in United States waters.
Of the critically endangered species, some are closer to extinction than others but the most heavily damaged populations, like sea turtles, sharks and whales, are in decline because of humans.
Each ocean species plays a vital role in keeping the ecosystem healthy and balanced, and now more than ever they need our help! Find out why these animals are endangered, and tips for how to conserve ocean animal populations below.
Why are Ocean Animals Endangered?
You Can Help Ocean Animals
Educate Yourself & Others
All life on Earth is directly connected to the ocean and its inhabitants. The more you learn about issues threatening this vital ecosystem, the more you’ll be able to help protect its health and balance.
Next, use this knowledge to inspire others! Get involved in your community working with groups protecting the ocean and its animals. Share links to conservation organizations in your social media and keep up to date with the latest news about endangered species and conservation efforts.
Connect to life underwater through advocating for our oceans, its animals, and our future by educating others with your knowledge.
Travel the Ocean Responsibly
Traveling ocean-friendly means practicing responsible boating, kayaking, and other recreational activities on the water. Be aware of marine life in the waters around you, both animal and plant, being careful not to do harm to either.
When traveling on the water, never throw anything overboard. Use reusable food and drink containers to prevent waste, and bring a trash bag for any waste you may find.
Although ships cause harm to our seas in their own way, if you’re set on taking a cruise for your next vacation do your research to find the most eco-friendly option available.
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Global warming is a hot topic in the ocean conservation world, because of the damage caused by acidification. As the acidity of the oceans increases, it has devastating impacts on ocean life, like coral, plankton, shellfish and the many fish and mammals that feed on them.
You can take simple daily steps to help with this threat right now. Reduce global warming and your carbon footprint by taking the following steps:
- Drive less, walk more
- Make sustainable diet choices
- Use less electricity
- Use less water
- Don’t buy ‘fast fashion’
- Plant a garden, and plant native trees
- Eat local
- Make sustainable purchases
The fact that our oceans are becoming more acidic is frightening, but together we can start to bring the oceans back to a healthier state by changing our behaviors at home.
Make Sustainable Diet Choices
Our actions on land have a direct affect on our oceans, and our diet is one of the biggest threats. Our agriculture practices on land are causing destruction to our seas, largely due to industrial animal agriculture.
Besides the endless stream of antibiotics and hormones given to farm animals which are excreted and end up in our waterways, there are several more dangerous issues with our agricultural practices.
Industrial animal agriculture directly contributes to sea temperature rise and ocean acidification because it is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all transportation combined. It’s also very water intensive, requiring 660 gallons of water to produce just one hamburger. The meat and dairy industries use nearly 1/3 of all freshwater in the world today, while also polluting our oceans with waste runoff. This makes it the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution and habitat destruction today.
Eating a plant-based diet may be the easiest way to make a big positive impact on our oceans, and you can start doing it today!
Make Sustainable Seafood Choices
Our diet choices significantly impact the environment, specifically our oceans. From what we eat, to the way we harvest, process and ship- every day we can choose what kind of impact we want to have on our seas.
Global fish populations are being rapidly depleted due to human demand, loss of habitat and unsustainable fishing practices. Although eating no seafood is better for our oceans than eating any seafood, if it’s a part of your diet, ensure you’re buying sustainable options to do as little harm as possible.
Eat locally as much as possible. Eating seafood sustainably means eating species that have a healthy population, and whose harvest minimized bycatch of other animals and impacts on the environment. Remember that you can use every purchase to support the kind of world you want to live in.
Help Clean the Beaches
The trash littered in our environment can be hazardous to marine life, and there are plenty of ways for you to get involved in helping to reduce the litter.
Whether you join a beach clean up crew, or spend a nice day on your own, help clean up a local beach, park or roadway. This prevents the litter from making its way into the marine environment, and causing harm to our ocean animals. If you’re looking for a way to get involved with a group locally, contact your local coastal zone management office or department of environment protection to find out if they organize any cleanups.
Make Sustainable Purchases
Ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It’s the name given to the vast amount of plastic and other debris floating in the North Pacific Ocean. Plastics stay around for hundreds of years and cause great harm to wildlife both entangling them, and leaching toxins into the environment.
The simple way to combat this growing issue is to stop using so much plastic! Buy things with less packaging, and use reusable bags and containers for both food and drinks whenever possible.
Buy local to help lessen shipping materials, and don’t buy into ‘fast fashion’ and the newest tech. Making sustainable purchases means using, consuming and creating the least waste possible.
Be an Ocean-Friendly Pet Owner
There are several ways you can be a responsible pet owner for our oceans, find several of these simple practices below.
When choosing a diet for your pet, read their food labels to choose sustainably caught seafood options. The seafood in pet food can be caught through commercial overfishing, and is damaging our oceans. Use your dollar to support sustainably protecting our seas.
When it comes to waste, pick up after your dog and never flush cat litter. Both canine and feline waste can contain pathogens harmful to marine life, and if flushed or left in the environment will likely end up in the ocean.
If you’re set on owning an aquarium, don’t stock it with wild-caught saltwater fish. Also never release aquarium fish into the ocean, or any body of water. This can introduce non-native species or bacteria into the existing ecosystem.
Connect to Marine Animals Responsibly
Exploring the natural world is a great way to get inspired to protect it. If you’re looking to view marine life up close and personal, take the proper steps to do so responsibly and without harming the ecosystem or the animals.
Consider planning a whale watching, diving trip or other excursion with a responsible ocean operator. Be cautious of “swim with dolphins” type of excursions, which often aren’t humane or safe for the dolphins or people.
You can also watch marine life from the comfort of the shore, by going tide pooling- a fun activity exploring around rocks and other underwater objects that are exposed during low tide.
Volunteer to Protect Marine Animals
If you live near the coast, there are likely local volunteer opportunities for you to get involved protecting the oceans inhabitants. There are groups protecting sea turtle nests, wetlands, giant clams and many more! Contact local conservation organizations in your area to find out more.
If there aren’t existing programs in your area, you can always volunteer on field expeditions through local research groups. Do your research, and ask local organizations working to protect the oceans for more information.
Support Organizations Protecting the Oceans
There are so many wonderful organizations fighting to protect and conserve our ocean habitats and marine life. Find a local or national organization you support the mission of, and consider giving your financial support.
You can also support these organizations by offering free services, volunteering, and by advocating for the cause!
Organizations Working to Protect Our Oceans
We often forget that our future relies upon our ability to keep our oceans healthy. We also often forget that our actions on land directly affect our oceans and the life in it.
We can choose actions which support a healthy ocean ecosystem, like banning plastic bags and changing our diets, or we can choose to continue practices which greatly harm the oceans. The latter has caused many marine animals to be placed on the endangered species list because of our destruction, largely happening out of sight, out of mind.
We hope you take the time to educate yourself and others about the future of our oceans and the small steps we can take to protect the animals in it. Are there things you do to protect marine life, either from your home or while visiting the coast?
Please share your tips and opinions with us and others in the comments below!
Megan Jones is the lead author of Seaside Planet. She is an avid surfer, scuba diver, and travel enthusiast who takes any opportunity she can to spend time in the ocean. You can learn more about Meg and the rest of the editorial team here.