The Eco Friendly Ocean Guide: Ways to Sustain Oceans and Sealife
By Gabrielle Whitney
The ocean is by far one of the most important that we have here on earth. These massive expanses of water cover a whopping 71% of the earth. They contain some key species and ecosystems that keep our planet going. Every creature and thing on earth relies on the ocean to survive.
Sadly, the ocean is in danger as a result of things such as climate change, over fishing and pollution. It may seem daunting, but one action, one person has the power to make small steps towards changing the world and saving our ocean. As long as we all do our part for ocean sustainability, we will be on our way to a healthier ocean and planet.
Here are some of the key things that you need to know about ocean sustainability and how you can help.
There are so many reasons why the ocean is important to our day to day lives. Just to begin with, the ocean actually creates over half of the world’s oxygen. This oxygen is created by a little plant called phytoplankton. This little plankton behaves in a similar manner to our trees. It absorbs the carbon dioxide, and then it releases oxygen. These little creatures are some of the smallest marine life on the planet, but they are so very vital to keeping us alive.
Furthermore, the ocean covers a large part of the earth’s surface. This means that it’s vital for regulating the climate, as the ocean is what moves the heat from the equator into the poles. This has a huge impact on our weather and climate in general. Without our ocean to help regulate the temperature, certain areas are susceptible to experiencing extreme weather, and this means that there will be some areas that simply are not habitable. The ocean is also able to regulate droughts and rain.
The ocean is home to many different creatures, and in fact, a lot of different creatures depend on the ocean. We don’t even know about all of them yet, that’s how vast the ocean is! Every single creature in the ocean plays a big role in the ecosystem.
The ocean is also a huge food source for human beings and other animals alike. In fact, the ocean is one of the main sources of protein on the planet, accounting for around 15.7% of the animal protein that people eat around the world. Not only that, but the ocean is also responsible for algae and sea planets, which are often used for cooking things such as sushi, dulse and sea grapes.
In a slightly less dire situation, we also simply enjoy the ocean. To begin with, the ocean is close to many of the best holiday destinations. When we are by the ocean, we can swim, sail, surf or simply just relax next to the sparkling ocean. Things like cruises also couldn’t happen without having the ocean! Hanging out by the ocean is a great way to connect with other people outside of the emphasis on technology.
Another thing that you may not know is that the ocean actually has many therapeutic properties. Certain medications come from underwater originally. Seeing, smelling or feeling water often makes us happier and more peaceful. Being near the ocean has actually been proven to directly affect our moods.
Finally, the ocean is responsible for a lot of jobs. In fact, many careers are related to activities in the sea. The sea is responsible for jobs such as sailors, fishermen, biotechnology, shipbuilding and repair, offshore gas and oil and transport in general.
How Does Our Daily Life Impact Ocean Conservation?
The planet is comprised of over 7 billion people, so it’s only natural that we have a large impact on the ocean. We are having a lot of positive impacts on the ocean, but unfortunately a lot of negative ones too. Our constant burning of fossil fuels can result in ocean acidification.
In addition to this, the ice in the sea has been melting at a more consistent rate over the years that have gone past as a result of climate change. This is great for humans because it means that boats can travel through the arctic more easily, but it’s not great for the animals and in the ocean. No sea ice is damaging for certain arctic animals such as polar bears and the walrus.
The increased amount of boats also means that there’s a higher risk of noise pollution. This can interrupt communication between animals, and can cause physical damage to their hearing. This is actually pretty dangerous, though it may not initially seem like a huge deal.
Furthermore, greenhouse gas emissions can increase how acidic the ocean water is, which can impact on the growth of certain plants and animal species in the water.
Another key problem comes down to overfishing of species. Some fisheries choose to gather marine life for food in very drastic ways, including mass scale fishing operations. As a result of this, some larger fish species have reduced in population over the years, and this can interrupt ocean food chains. As you may imagine, this causes havoc in marine ecosystems.
Ocean pollution can have a huge impact on marine life too. Things like trash can kill many marine creatures, and oil spills can be toxic to fish and other marine species. This has wiped out massive amounts of fish through the ages.
How Ocean Conservation and Sustainable Living Are Linked
By changing our habits and how we behave, we can have a big impact on our planet. Ocean Conservation is all about protecting our oceans from any further damage and helping to keep them healthy. Living sustainably means that you aren’t using unnecessary resources, or making more environmentally friendly choices where you are able to. This can come down to choosing products that use recyclable packaging, for example, rather than plastic. It could be reducing your food waste, or it could be taking the bus or train instead of driving to reduce the number of fossil fuels used.
Sustainable living, then, is closely linked to conserving the ocean. As we’ve already discussed, things like using fossil fuels can have a bit impact on the climate and as a result, on the ocean. By living in a considerate way on land, we protect our fellow creatures that live in the sea, we preserve the ocean resources so that they can be enjoyed and experienced for many years to come.
Ocean Conservation is, in a way, an extension of this. Ocean conservation could be making sure that you check the label on your sea items to check that they have come from sustainable fishing. You could do small things like volunteering to help with a beach cleanup – the possibilities are truly endless.
Eco Friendly Habits that Prevent Ocean Degradation
It’s possible to make the ocean a happier place if we all work on creating more eco friendly habits. Even changing just some of your habits can help to preserve the ocean in the future. Of course, there are a lot of things that you can do to help to save the ocean from degradation. Here are a few of the things that you can do to live more sustainably and protect our planet.
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Reducing your carbon footprint is a great way to help to save our oceans. You can do it in a number of different ways, too. To start with, you’ve probably heard all about the 3 R’s before, but if not – we’re here to remind you! Making sure that you reduce, reuse and recycle can help to manage waste in a sustainable way. Actually though, there are 5 R’s that you should remember, with the final two components being refuse and rot.
When we say refuse, what we mean is that you should stay away from any single use plastic, or any paper products. This means opting for products that have reusable packaging. This means that there are less things to go to landfill, which ultimately means less waste.
Reduce essentially means to buy less of what you were originally planning to purchase. This requires some awareness of the things that you actually need and are going to use, rather than just buying things in bulk that you aren’t going to use.
When it comes to reusing, things can get a little more fun. When you are reusing an item, you’re trying to find a way to avoid throwing an item away and giving it another use. For example, you could reuse a plastic bottle as a vase – you could even decorate it (with sustainable things, of course!). Why get rid of that slightly worn down TV cabinet when instead you could upcycle it to make it look brand new? This is pretty handy for people that are trying to save money too, as all you need is a new lick of paint to make things look fresh and new in an instant.
The next component is rot. To enact this part, you could invest in a compost system where you can put any scraps of food, or you could also try to find a food scrap drop off center near to you.
Finally, recycle! If you have no way of refusing, reducing or reusing an item, then make sure that you recycle the item properly into the appropriate recycling bin. You may need to do some research on your state’s recycling laws.
You can also use more sustainable travel options, such as cycling to or walking to work instead of getting the car. This can also help you to stay active. If you are unable to cycle to work, try taking public transportation instead.
You should also make sure that you manage your utilities in a sustainable way, such as turning off any appliances when you aren’t using them, using lower thermostat settings and using sustainable fluorescent lightbulbs in your home. You could also change the way that you consume energy, for example using green energy such as solar and wind instead.
Sustainable Water Use
Water is precious, and you should try to avoid using more of it than you actually need! Not only that, but you should save a few dollars every year because you aren’t using as much water. Conserving the water we get from the ocean is as simple as a few small habits.
To begin with, make sure that you turn off your tap whenever you aren’t using it. There’s no need to keep the water running when you are doing things such as shaving or brushing your teeth. In fact, keeping the water running for tasks such as these can waste around 4 to 5 gallons of water on average. Instead of doing this, maybe you can just plug the sink when you are shaving and remember to turn the water off until you are ready to have a wash.
You should make sure that you are sensibly using your water in general. For example, soak your dishes in the warm water rather than just scraping them off under running water. When you are using your dishwasher or doing the laundry, only do so when the machines are full. There’s no need to use these items if the machine is only half full. Besides, you will also get better value for money! You can also try to spend a little less time in the shower, or fill the bath up to half way instead of completely full.
When you’re out in your garden, try to make sure that your sprinklers and hose are watering the actual lawn, rather than your house or the sidewalk to make sure you’re getting the best use out of it. You may also wish to use more energy efficient devices that help you to save waters. For example, a low flow shower head if you like to partake in a long shower. You may also wish to get a low flush toilet which users less water in a flush but they still work just as well.
Limit Your Use of Single Use Plastic
Reducing the amount of single use plastics that you use from your life is a great way to start living a more sustainable life. The ocean is full of plastic, and it’s a real problem. Thousands of animals die every year because of discarded plastic, whether that’s because they have ingested the plastics or because they have gotten tangled up in them.
One simple thing that you can do is switch from single use plastic bags to reusable plastic bags. You can find sandwich bags that have zip locks, and you can simply wash them and reuse them again and again. This is ideal for use in a sack lunch or for work.
Instead of getting a bottle of water in a plastic container from the vending machine, you can save the planet and your wallet by simply investing in a reusable water bottle. In fact, there are many of great options on the market that can keep your drinks cool or hot. You could probably keep one out in the sun for hours and your drink will still be ice cool.
Speaking of drinks, stay away from those plastic straws when sipping on that ice cool lemonade! If you’re a big fan of straws, there are some fantastic glass straws, or straws made out of stainless steel that you can reuse. A lot of food places will also use things such as plastic cutlery and containers for takeaways, so if possible you should try to bring your own cutlery if you know you will be eating out somewhere tand they don’t have sustainable materials for their cutlery.
Instead of grabbing a plastic bag from your local grocery store, you can instead bring your own bag. Many stores will have large bags that you can use to carry your groceries in that you are able to reuse wherever you want to, both inside of the store and in other places too. Primarily, you should avoid using the plastic bags if you are able to.
Buy Ocean Friendly Products
When you’re buying a product, always take a moment to check whether that product has been designed to be ocean friendly. Some products may contain harmful ingredients that are not good for marine life or the ocean eco system, such as certain sunscreens.
Things such as microplastics from various items such as body wash, clothes and toothpaste can make their way into the ocean through your wastewater. Sadly it simply isn’t possible to recover them becaus they are small, so check whether these items contain microplastics.
Pay attention to the different ingredients included in a product. Any company can advertise that their product is marine or eco friendly, but looking further into the ingredients they use may tell a different story. Check to see if the product has any certain certifications or labels that will tell you whether it’s marine friendly.
Some ingredients in things such as luxury products are made out of species such as tortoiseshell or coral that are in danger of extinction, so it’s important to be extra vigilant when shopping. Avoid any cosmetics that may contain shark squalene, souvenir conch shells, and nautiluses and other animals. Stay away from any hair accessories made out of tortoishells or cosmetics that contain traces of teeth and fins.
One thing that you should stay away from in particular is products that contain microbeads. These things can negatively affect many marine creatures. You can stay away from any products containing polythelene or polypropylene on the labels as these usually contain microbeads.
Keep the Coral Reef in Mind
Whether you live close to the sea or not, you have a responsibility to take care of our coral reefs. Taking care of the coral reefs doesn’t have to be difficult!
Make sure that when you are visiting coral reefs that you are responsible and safe when you are snorkeling and diving. Ensure that you don’t touch any reefs when you are diving, and make sure that you don’t anchor your boat on the reef. By contacting the reef you may end up damaging the coral animals, and an anchor may kill them. If you are able to, park your boat using a sandy bottom or use moorings if you are able to.
You should also try to use a reef friendly sunscreen. There are some ingredients in sunscreen that can harm corals, so make sure that you educate yourself on the safer choices for coral. Avoid sunscreens that use oxybenzone and octinoxate as their main ingredients, as they can be toxic to corals. Try to instead opt for sunscreens with non-nano zinc oxide as the active ingredient.
You can also make sure that when you are taking care of your lawn that you choose to use green products for pesticides and fertilizers that aren’t going to harm the marine life and coral reefs.
Consider Your Travel Methods
When you are next planning on traveling, make sure that you book through a travel company that is committed to protecting the wildlife of the ocean, and make sure that they employ guides that know all of the best practices and rules to keep our planet safe. Make sure that when you are traveling you are also respectful of the marine life and environment.
Be a Responsible Pet Owner
You may not realize it, but your actions as a pet owner can have a huge impact on the ocean. For instance, cat litter can be rather harmful to the life under the ocean. As a result of this, it’s important that you don’t just flush it down the toilet, because it can get into the ocean with the rest of your wastewater.
In addition to this, when you are trying to buy pet food, have a look at the labels to make sure that the ingredients are safe for the environment.
It extends from just furry pets too! If you have a fish tank in your home, make sure that you don’t buy any wild caught saltwater fish. It’s also important that you don’t release a fish that isn’t native to the area into the ocean. It can mess with the marine eco system in that area.
Things You Can Do to Help Ocean Conservation
In addition to changing our actions in every day life, there are also things that we can do to directly help to save the ocean.
Sustainable Consumption of Sea Life
Understanding how to consume sea life in a sustainable way is the first step to making sure that we protect the creatures out in the ocean. That often starts with sustainable fishing and selecting products from fishermen that practice sustainable fishing.
So, what is sustainable fishing? Sustainable fishing is designed to ensure that there will be plenty of ocean wildlife still remaining in the future. Sustainable fishing has a number of advantages. The most obvious advantage is that sustainable fishing helps to protect marine life by preventing over fishing. Sustainable fishing has particular methods to ensure that no animals are harmed, and there is no waste with it either. It also creates less waste.
Sustainable fishing consists of essentially asking yourself a number of questions when fishing to make sure that no marine life is harmed in the long term. If you are going fishing, clarify whether there are actually enough fish left in that ocean area. It’s important that the fish in the area are not taken in abundance to ensure that the fish population remains healthy.
Choosing the correct fishing method is also important too. There are a number of sustainable fishing practices. For example, hook and lining, where you catch a fish on a pole, is a sustainable practice as it means that fishermen are able to release bycatch quickly, creating less waste. Other methods include harpooning, trolling, traps, purse seining and longlining.
When fishing, you should make sure that you use tackle without lead as lead can cause some health issues for the wildlife if it gets swallowed. In fact, it can also kill certain birds. You should also practice catch and release fishing if you are able to. When you are fishing, also make sure that you are using all of what you catch. If you eat what you end up catching, you can turn some of the remaining parts that are not edible into compost to keep your lawn fed.
Safe Fish List
When you are buying seafood products, you should also make sure that any fish are on the Safe Fish List. There are thousands of fish that are safe and sustainable to eat. In order to find out if it’s on the safe fish list, look out for a MCS or MSC label which will tell you as much. Some examples of fish on the safe fish list include tuna, cod, haddock, prawns and mackerel. Some fish to avoid are Peruvian anchovies, Bream and cockles.
Dispose of Litter Near Beaches
The more people that go to the beach, the more potential litter there will be. This means that trash can take up the beach and make its way into our precious oceans. This can be easily avoided by simply picking up your litter and putting it into a trash can instead of onto the floor. It takes very little time to do and it’s certainly worth a couple of minutes of your time at most.
If you can, you should also try to encourage friends and family members to follow in your footsteps to ensure that no litter gets into the ocean. In fact, if they see you putting your littler in the trash can they may be more likely to do the same, reducing the amount of litter cluttering up our ocean.
If possible, make sure that you also recycle any litter that you have. Try to clean up any litter that you see too, as that can make a massive difference. You’ll often find that if other people see you trying to make a difference that they will too. It could even be a good bonding experience!
In addition to all of these things, it’s also important to make sure that if you smoke you are disposing of your cigarette butts correctly. You may not think this to be the case, but cigarettes are harmful to the ocean. Cigarette filters contain thousands of little chemical ingredients. These ingredients are very harmful to marine and freshwater fish. By correctly disposing of your cigarette instead of throwing it on the floor, you are helping to save the ocean.
Join a Beach Clean Up
Sometimes people just don’t remember to put their trash away, or are simply too lazy. To rectify this issue, there is a way to do your part to save the ocean while also bonding with others. Participating in a beach or a river cleanup can be hugely beneficial to making sure that our oceans are kept nice and clean. You may wish to just go to a beach and collect the waste on your own or with your loved ones. Otherwise, you may also wish to support an organization with its cleanup. There are some massive cleanup events out there that are definitely worth supporting.
So, what happens in a beach cleanup and what do you need to know? Well, to start with, it’s definitely worth investing in a decent pair of gardening gloves. These will help to make sure that your hands don’t get too dirty. The organizer may provide you with these but you may feel more comfortable with a pair of your own. You may also wish to bring a bag with you, containing waterproof clothing, drinks, snacks and some reef safe sun lotion. Be prepared for it to take some time, though they generally last between one to two hours.
When you are at the cleanup, there are also some guidelines to consider. First of all, make sure that you keep an eye on the tide. If it’s an event set up by an organization the tide will likely have been checked anyway, but if you’ve arranged it yourself then this is something you will need to monitor. Be careful when walking, especially on slippery rocks or muddy areas. Be wary of any glass, needles or syringes you may encounter. You should also make sure that you bring a first aid kit with you in case of any accidents, at least if you are organizing the event yourself.
If you enjoy going diving, you can also help to get rid of any waste that’s under the ocean’s surface. You could even arrange a group meetup to do this.
Take Measures to Prevent Oil Spills
If you are driving your own boat or know a friend or family member that is, you should also make sure that you take measures to prevent any oil spills. Oil spillages usually tend to happen during refueling and bilge discharge.
Proper maintenance of your watercraft is essential for ensuring that you prevent oil spills. Make sure that you tighten any bolts on the engine in order to stop oil leaks, as bolts can sometimes shake loose when the engine is running. Also make sure that you replace any damaged hydraulic lines and fittings before they get to a point where they fail. Sometimes lines can disintegrate gradually from exposure to the sun and heat, so it’s important to make sure that you check on them on a regular basis.
In addition to this, make sure that you get a drip pan or an oil tray for your engine. Something simple will suffice for this, such as a paint tray.
When you are fueling up, try to avoid any overflows when you are refueling. You can do this by having an awareness of your tank’s capacity, and make sure that you have enough room to expand on the fuel. You should also make sure that you turn your bilge pump off when you are fueling your vessel, then turn it back on once you are finished. To catch any drips, use something absorbent.
If you do end up spilling some oil, make sure that you manage any spills in the correct manner. You should try to contain them and then clean them up using some absorbent pads. You should let your coastguard know about it in addition to your state spill response office. You need to let the fuel dock staff know that it has happened too so that it can be dealt with appropriately.
Support Marine Conservation Organizations
Spreading the word about the great organizations dedicated to changing the future of our oceans can be a great way to help out. Simply speaking out can be enough, whether this is over social media or in an event. You should tell your friends and family about your favorite organizations. Redirect people to documentaries or information produced by these organizations.
Many of these organizations rely on the donations of environmentally conscious individuals like you in order to keep them running. Even a tiny donation can make a big difference, especially if thousands of people just like you are making donations. Charity fundraisers and other events can also be very helpful.
Brush Up on Your Ocean Knowledge
Knowledge is power, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to conserving the ocean. The more information that you know about the ocean the more change you will be able to incite. We live in an age of information, so there are a bunch of different ways that you can educate yourself on marine life and the ocean. You can check out documentaries and wildlife conservation websites, books, art exhibits, museums and so much more. If you teach, there are also resources online to help you to spread the word to your students or anyone else that’s interested in knowing more about the ocean.
Some other things that you can do to help include volunteering to teach people about marine conservation. There are plenty of courses out there to teach you more about it. In fact, you may even wish to pursue a career in the field. Even just raising awareness can make a massive difference in changing the world for the better.
We still don’t know everything there is to know about the ocean, so it’s important that our ocean is alive and healthy so that we can learn more about it.
As people that live on and enjoy the earth’s wonders, we have a duty to protect it. Not only for ourselves today, but also for future generations, and for the other creatures that surround us. It may seem like such a huge feat to make a difference, but it doesn’t have to be rocket science. As we’ve already covered, the ocean is responsible for such a large part of our day to day lives, it’s imperative that we protect it.
You can start by taking small actions, like changing the way that you use your utilities, using fewer single use plastics where you are able to, and generally using less of the already limited resources.
On a larger, more direct scale, you can also help with direct ocean saving efforts. This can be by doing things such as buying sea products that have been sustainably sourced, avoiding any endangered species, organizing a beach clean up or simply just supporting an ocean saving organization.
With the right knowledge and a large joint effort, we are all capable of making our planet a better place for tomorrow. One habit or action truly can make all the difference.
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