THE OCEAN CRISIS
“But what can I do about it?”
It can be hard to know where to start when it comes to being more environmentally conscious in our day to day lives. We also often question whether what we’re doing is actually making an impact. But we need to start thinking about the accumulation of everybody’s small actions. Even making conscious decisions such as turning off lights, or disposing of rubbish correctly can make a difference. We’ve outlined some of the things you could do to help improve the current ocean crisis. By working together we can truly create a difference, inspiring each other, companies and even governments.
In the past 50 years the ocean has absorbed 90% of the excess heat created by burning fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide makes our oceans more acidic. It is estimated that around one third of manmade CO2 makes its way into the ocean, which equates to about 22 million tons a day. This can cause acidification of the water, which affects the health of the marine life. This can cause disruption in where fish swim, bleach coral reefs, change how marine species reproduce, speed up sea-level rise, and alter weather events on land.
You can reduce your carbon footprint by adopting some of these simple measures:
Overfishing is damaging our oceans. Global fish populations are rapidly decreasing due to high demand and unsustainable fishing practices. Choose sustainable seafood to help keep fisheries and fish stocks healthy. Do this by always checking labels and by researching or asking the restaurant. Logos, such as – Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification’s blue tick, are used for wild fish. It indicates that a fish comes from sustainable waters, is not over-exploited and is not endangered.
It is estimated that 8 million tons of plastics enter our ocean, this is on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that currently circulate our marine environments. Plastics that end up in the ocean contribute to habitat destruction and entangle and kill tens of thousands of marine animals each year. One major issue is single use plastics, such as non-reusable water bottles, take-out packaging, plastic bags, and straws, as these contribute to a large proportion of plastic waste. Plastic can also be found in things that you don’t expect like liquids, and in clothes. In fact clothes contribute a lot of plastic to our oceans due to their fibres going into water while being washed.
Things you can do to limit your impact are:
Rubbish on beaches can cause damage to local wildlife and also be washed out into the sea. It can also be picked up by the wind, get stuck around the necks of birds and other animals. Rubbish is left by people enjoying the beach, so make sure you take yours with you and if you see some that is left, pick it up. You could also participate in local beach clean ups. They happen worldwide and can usually be found as events on platforms such as Facebook.
Here are some beach cleans happening soon that are local to Margate:
We continue to host beach cleans throughout the year to continue to get to know our community better and educate and inspire people to care for their local environment. We also reward people who do their own beach cleaning. Those who bring a bag of rubbish to our shop, or tag us in a photo on Instagram are given a discount for their efforts.
There are many products directly linked to harming endangered or threatened species, unsustainable fishing methods and pollution. Products that are made from ocean species can have a detrimental impact to the whole ecosystem. These are usually purchased while on holiday and brought home.
At home some products that should avoid being used are; pesticides, fertilisers, weed killers as these can be very harmful for our oceans. Pesticides and weed killers use dangerous chemicals that can easily get into our water systems. And if you live close enough to an ocean, they’ll likely end up there. The excess nutrients from fertilisers can be carried by rain and wind to various water systems. Once in rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans, it creates algae growth at an unnatural rate. The algae’s natural toxins can not only poison marine life and use up the oxygen in certain areas of water, making it impossible for anything else to survive.
Medicines have been detected in groundwater and in marine life , likely from being flushed or washed away down the sink. Many other ‘beauty and health’ products pose a threat to our oceans. Around 4,500 wet wipes were found in a 154 square-meter portion of the Thames river in 2017 as many people flush them down their toilets. Other dangerous products include cotton balls, floss, cat litter, insecticides, vegetable oil, paint. What you can do is use biodegradable alternatives and dispose of them in the right manner. It should say what best to do on its packaging.
It’s important for you to be the person that brings things to people’s attention. Many people may not be aware of the ocean crisis or simply do not know what they can do. This could be in terms of friends or family members, but could even include going to your local council or even the government. Don’t be afraid to let people know where they are failing to be environmentally friendly. Help by giving them obtainable alternatives, such as speaking to a local shop, cafe or restaurant about different packaging they could use.
Research candidates environmental and ocean policies before you vote. Electing people that support good ocean policies can help us protect marine life and our oceans. Also, follow up with them regularly to remind them of policies, or contact your local representatives to let them know about marine conservation projects.
There are many institutes and organisations who are fighting to protect ocean habitats and marine wildlife worldwide. Find one of these and consider giving financial support or volunteering. Not everybody has access to the ocean but perhaps you could speak to them about implementing initiatives within your local community, as most likely these people will not have a connection to the ocean. You could also see if they’re holding a fundraiser or collecting supplies for a cleanup effort, so let people know and start collecting things from people yourself.
Here is a list of some organisations and charities:
When booking your next holiday consider booking your trip through a responsible travel company that’s committed to protecting wildlife. At your destination make sure you don’t interfere or hurt any local marine life while on the beach or doing activities such as snorkelling. Also, if you feel uncomfortable about something, such as an experience with dolphins, then speak to your travel agency. Be vigilant when making purchases while away too. Make sure that products don’t contain any animal derived ingredients and materials that could harm wildlife such as coral, shells or shark based products.
The ocean is a crucial part to the planets survival and we are all linked to it throught the breaths that we take daily. Many people feel disconnected to the ocean and feel like it isn’t an important part of their everyday lives. Education is the key to empathy. The more people learn about the issues facing this vital system, the more they’ll want to help. This can be done through means such as; books, documentaries, websites, museums, art exhibits, and more. Also always check for updates in your local area to see if they need help with something such as an oil spill.
It is also important to know why you are making these changes and what impact they have. Learn how plastic bottles effect the ocean or how clothes can put plastic into the ecosystem. Or even how different colours or types of plastics make it more difficult to recycle them. All of this can now be found online if you do a simple search.
And don’t forget to share this knowledge. Whether you’re a school teacher or just somebody chatting to friends. It’s important to bring everybody into the conversation and let them know the importance of making these changes.
Being an advocate for the ocean can be as simple as speaking out about the importance of helping it. If something is really bothering you or you feel like nothing is being done in your community, then you could even start your own initiative such as organising beach cleans in your local area. And remember not to feel like you aren’t doing enough. Just starting to make small changes can make an impact.