Did you know that more than 100,000 marine animals die each year from plastic entanglement? Oceans, seas and coastal areas create an essential component of Earth’s ecosystem, and are dependent upon our responsible ocean use. Covering more than two thirds of the planet’s surface, our oceans are critical in creating a sustainable future.
Threats to our oceans and marine resources are threatened by human activities. Reducing their ability to provide crucial services to the planet, the deterioration of our coastal and marine habitats is negatively affecting our well-being worldwide.
How are we being affected?
Threats to our Oceans
- Global warming is causing sea levels to rise, threatening coastal and marine populations.
- Our oceans are polluted with garbage. Waste has accumulated in such quantities, that in the Pacific Ocean a mass has accumulated over twice the size of Texas.
- Factories and industrial plants discharge sewage and other runoff into the oceans and seas.
- Pesticides and other nutrients used in agriculture end up in coastal waters. This results in the depletion of oxygen, killing marine aquatic life.
- The military use of sonar can harm and even kill marine life, such as whales and other mammals.
- Oil spills are polluting our oceans and killing wildlife.
- Human food consumption is affecting our oceans. In fact, 31.4% of fish stocks are either fished to capacity or overfished.
- Air pollution is responsible for nearly one-third of the toxic contaminants that enter coastal areas.
You can help change this, and protect our oceans. Find our 8 responsible ocean use tips below!
Be a Responsible Ocean User
You don’t need to go out of your way to help protect our oceans. There are many ways to reduce your negative effect on our planet, some of which only require simple changes. Responsible ocean use means simple daily routines which support sustainably protecting the seas we need to survive!
1. Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
A carbon footprint is essentially the total emissions created by an individual, or an organization. Reducing your carbon footprint is a great way to make a positive impact, with lots of available resources to get started. Some examples include:
- Drive less, or more efficiently.
- Unplug your devices, and turn the lights off.
- Be a responsible consumer.
- Travel responsibly.
- Plant a garden, and plant trees.
- Stop eating (or eat less) meat.
- Eat locally, and buy organic when possible.
- Don’t buy ‘fast fashion’ or ‘fast technology’.
- Support clean energy sources.
Educate yourself on your carbon footprint, and find ways to reduce it even more below!
2. Use Less Plastic
Problem: Many plastics end up as ocean debris, contributing to habitat destruction and ocean pollution. The plastic entangles, and even kills, more than 100,000 marine animals each year- such as seabirds, dolphins, whales, sea horses and more.
Plastic waste can also encourage the growth of pathogens in our oceans, according to a recent study. Scientists found that corals which came in contact with plastic had a significantly increased chance of contracting diseases.
Solution: To limit your impact, start using reusable equipment. Carry a reusable, and BPA free, water bottle, use non disposable food containers, bring your own reusable bags to the grocery store, and always recycle the plastic you do buy.
3. Make Responsible Purchases
Problem: Certain products on the market contribute to the destruction of marine habitats. Some may even lurk on your shelves. Educate yourself before making purchases to ensure you aren’t contributing to the destruction of our seas.
Solution: Avoid buying marine life decorations like coral and shells, as well as purchases which support using animal parts like tortoise and shark products.
Use products, such as reef safe sunscreens, skin, hair and cleaning products from companies who support eco-friendly practices. Do your research before you buy.
4. Take Care of Your Beaches
Problem: Litter on our beaches can end up in our ocean, adding to existing pollution and waste.
Solution: Whether you enjoy relaxing in the sand, snorkeling, diving, or paddle boarding- clean up after yourself and others. Although you may not be directly responsible for the mess that someone else left, consider it a service to the beach that you love, and a community effort to keep it clean.
Bring a bag with to the beach for trash that you may find. Consider separating any recyclables for proper recycling disposal. Bring reusable containers with you to the beach, such as water bottles and food containers, to generate as little waste as possible.
Related: Easy Ways to Protect the Beach
5. Stop Eating (or Eat Less) Meat
Problem: Emissions from agriculture contribute significantly to climate change, and we have the opportunity to address it by rethinking our diets. As global demand for food grows, agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, biodiversity loss and water pollution worldwide.
Solution: Eat sustainably. One of the largest actions you can take to combat climate change is to eliminate (or reduce) your consumption of meat. Incorporate more plant-based food into your diet, and support companies making convenient plant-based options found at nearly every grocery store.
Buy locally grown foods, and choose organic when it’s available. Local food creates less emissions through travel, and organically grown means no harmful pesticides in the environment.
6. Support Organizations Working to Protect the Oceans
Support organizations locally and beyond that work diligently to protect our seas. Find some below.
- The Ocean Conservancy
- Sea Shepherd
- World Wildlife Fund
- The Nature Conservancy
- Coral Reef Alliance
- Project AWARE
...and many more!
Before supporting an organization, research its mission and core values. Find out what they do, how they do it and if there are ways you can get involved!
7. Influence Change Locally
Problem: With convenience at its prime in a throw-away culture, we must influence change with our leaders to create a sustainable future.
Solution: Research the ocean policies of elected public officials in your area before you vote. Contact your local representatives and let them know that you support marine conservation projects.
Consider supporting only restaurants and grocery stores that offer sustainable food choices. Remember that every dollar you spend counts, so speak up about with your daily purchases to support what you stand for.
You, as a consumer, have the power to make change.
8. Travel Responsibly
Problem: Transportation is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. From leisure travel to business trips, large vehicle cultures and more- travel is at its peak.
Solution: Always practice responsible transportation on and off the water. Responsible ocean travel means never throwing anything overboard, and being mindful of the marine plants, animals and others around you.
Certain areas should be avoided, especially those protecting species. If you’re set on taking a cruise, do your research to take the most eco-friendly option possible. Travel only when necessary, or when the outcome does more good than the emissions caused by traveling.
Being a responsible ocean user means educating yourself and others. It means practicing daily routines to help make a positive impact, and avoiding purchases which cause harm.
All life on Earth is connected to the oceans and its inhabitants. The more you know about why it’s vital and what’s threatening it, the more you can do to help protect it. When you know more, share the knowledge to help inspire others!
What inspires you to protect our oceans? We would love to hear about it in the comments below!
Megan Jones leads the editorial staff of Seaside Planet. They are a multidisciplinary team of outdoor adventurers, water sports lovers, and passionate beach goers. You can learn more about Meg and the rest of the editorial team here.