The ocean is essential for all life on Earth, including humans. To ensure a sustainable future, we must protect and preserve healthy marine ecosystems.
“With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you’re connected to the sea.”
— Sylvia Earle
Oceans cover 71 percent of the planet and are home to important species and ecosystems that we rely on for food, livelihoods, climate regulation and more. According to the National Ocean Service, the ocean produces more than 50 percent of the planet’s oxygen and it regulates our climate and weather patterns. Saving our oceans can sometimes feel like an overwhelming task, but if we all pitch in, we can make a big difference.
Here are 10 lifestyle choices that – when adopted – can help protect and restore our oceans for future generations.
1. DEMAND PLASTIC-FREE ALTERNATIVES
Oceans face a massive and growing threat from plastics. An estimated 17.6 billion pounds of plastic leaks into the marine environment from land-based sources every year—that’s roughly equivalent to dumping a garbage truck full of plastic into our oceans every minute. And plastics never go away!
We must urge companies to provide consumers with plastic-free alternatives and say no to single use plastics such as straws, plastic cutlery, coffee cups, water bottles, plastic bags, balloons, plastic-wrapped produce and take-out food containers.
2. REDUCE YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT
Carbon dioxide, a known greenhouse gas, is making our oceans more acidic. This is contributing to the loss of corals on a global scale as their calcium skeletons are weakened by the increasing acidity of the water.
You can reduce your carbon footprint by adopting some of these simple measures:
• Ride a bike, walk or use public transportation rather than driving a car.
• Turn off the lights when you leave a room.
• Put on a sweater in the winter instead of turning up your thermostat.
• Have some fun with your diet. If you eat meat/seafood, buy sustainably caught wild seafood. It is a renewable resource that requires minimal freshwater to produce and emits less carbon dioxide than land-based proteins like beef.
3. AVOID OCEAN-HARMING PRODUCTS
There are many products directly linked to harming endangered or threatened species, unsustainable fishing methods and pollution. For example, avoid cosmetics that contain shark squalene, jewelry made of coral or sea turtle shell, souvenir shells of conchs, nautiluses and other animals, and single-use plastics like straws and water bottles that can end up in our oceans. These products support unsustainable fishing and threaten important species and ecosystems.
4. EAT SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD
If you eat meat/seafood, choose seafood that is healthy for you and the oceans from well-managed, wild fisheries. We know it’s hard to know what fish are okay to eat, which is why you can turn to these helpful resources:
• Refer to these top chefs for sustainable seafood recipes.
5. VOTE ON OCEAN ISSUES
Electing public officials that support good ocean policies can help us protect marine life and our oceans. Do your research on candidates and make an informed decision, then exercise your right (and responsibility) to vote. And don’t let Election Day be the last time they hear from you. Follow up with your candidates and elected officials regularly to remind them of policies you care about.
6. CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVES AND LAWMAKERS
Your representatives and lawmakers might not know how important these issues are that face our oceans. But they will if you tell them. It’s up to constituents like you to make lawmakers aware of the crises facing marine life and our oceans. Don’t be shy!
7. EXPLORE THE OCEANS
“People protect what they love.” – Jacques-Yves Cousteau
Get outside and explore the oceans around you! If you don’t live near the ocean, visit your local lake or river to learn how your watershed connects to the ocean. There are plenty of online opportunities to explore the oceans, too. And be sure to read up on fun and interesting facts about all kinds of animals - from sharks and seals to octopuses and clownfish.
8. LEAVE NOTHING BEHIND
As beach crowds increase, so does the amount of trash left behind or blown away. Don’t let your day outside contribute to the destruction of our oceans. Remember to leave nothing behind but your footprints — collect and dispose of your trash.
9. SHARE YOUR OCEAN HEROICS WITH FRIENDS, FAMILY AND COWORKERS
Tell people what’s going on with the world’s oceans and what they can do to join you in making a difference. Spread the word about petitions, share fun facts and join the conversation on social media.
10. JOIN AN OCEAN CONSERVATION ORGANIZATION
The origins of the ocean conservation movement and its efforts to address ocean pollution can be traced back to the 1950s and 1960s. During this time, numerous organizations emerged with a strong dedication to raising awareness about the critical importance of protecting our oceans. Their collective efforts significantly influenced the United Nations’ adoption of the Law of the Sea Convention, establishing universal ocean laws that countries are expected to uphold.
Presently, there exists a multitude of organizations actively combating ocean pollution and advocating for ocean conservation. In this regard, it is essential to highlight the following ten prominent organizations that play a vital role in this ongoing endeavor. Familiarizing yourself with their work can contribute to a greater understanding of the efforts being made to safeguard our oceans.
Ocean Conservancy was founded in 1972 to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Since then, they become one of the leading advocacy groups working for the protection of marine habitats.
They create a science-based solutions for a healthy ocean and wildlife communities that depend on it, and work to restore sustainable fisheries and reduce the human impact on ocean ecosystems. They educate the public and advocate for the policy changes. To achieve that they conduct several programs amongst which also the International Coastal Cleanup program that gathered millions of volunteers to clean beaches worldwide in the past 30 years.
Based in Washington D.C, Ocean is one of the largest international advocacy organizations working for the conservation of ocean. They were founded in 2001 to focus solely on oceans and ‘’achieve measurable change by conducting specific, science-based policy campaigns with fixed deadlines and articulated goals’’.
Oceana conducts targeted campaigns advocating against the collapse of fish populations, marine mammals and other issues related to sea life that emerged from pollution and industrial fishing. They are also involved in conducting campaigns that target to end major sources of ocean pollution, including shipping emissions, oil, mercury, and aquaculture. Since they were founded, Oceana has won more than 225 victories and protected nearly four million square miles of ocean.
Greenpeace International is an environmental NGO with offices in over 55 countries and seat in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Besides other activities, they conduct several programs in ocean conservation and marine environment.
By using their worldwide networks, they advocate for big corporations to reduce their plastic usage to end the flow of this material into oceans. They also advocate against unstainable industrial fishing practices, ocean acidification and climate change.
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international environmental advocacy NGO working to safeguard the earth, its people, plants, animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends.
Based in New York City and with a network of more than three million members and online activists, including around 700 scientists, policy advocated and lawyers located across the world, NRDC advocates for the protection of oceans from exploitation and pollution. They support the adoption and implementation of laws that save the marine life and take necessary steps to preserve oceans by preventing destructive fishing practices and coastal communities from offshore drilling.
SeaLegacy is an NGO that was formed by a group of experience and renowned group of storytellers, photographers and filmmakers working to make oceans healthy. With combination of decades of experience in conservation, photography, and communications, and the latest technologies, they work to build a healthy future for oceans.
Through expeditions they lead a team of the world’s best filmmakers and photographers where they capture the threats below oceans. They also conduct campaigns to spread the word and use media to impact lasting and sustainable change. Last, but not least, they implement inspiring projects around the world to create healthy and abundant oceans, providing one solution at a time.
Project AWARE is a global NGO and a movement for ocean protection supported by a community of adventurers. They experience ‘’first-hand how quickly overfishing and pollution can alter underwater life, irreversibly damaging ecosystems that are critical to marine health’’.
To address these challenges, they take action to create both local and global change for the ocean and communities who depend on it. Their local actions are aimed to protect the most vulnerable marine species and decrease pollution. Project AWARE’s team of dedicated individuals works across the work to champion policy change and engage a community of volunteers to fuel their conservation work.
Bahamas Plastic Movement was founded in 2014 by Kristal Ambrose who was sparked by a plastic pollution at her home country. She launched this NGO to raise awareness and find solutions to this issue, which greatly affects the ocean.
They believe that through research, education, citizen science and policy change, they can create a healthy marine and terrestrial environment free of plastic pollution. Their mission is to ‘’build a community of education and activism around plastic pollution’’ by empowering Bahamians to contribute to the environment through their cultural practices that are pivotal in executing changes at the policy level.
PRETOMA is a marine preservation NGO based in San Jose, Costa Rica, and made up of biologists, naturalists, conservationists, and citizens who are concerned over the plight of the sea turtles and the marine habitat in general.
PRETOMA works with a mission to ‘’protect, conserve, and restore, the populations of sea turtles that use the marine environment of Costa Rica to either nest, feed or migrate’’. They work with social groups that interact with the sea turtles, including coastal communities and fishermen. They also conduct research to assist in protection of ocean resources and encourage sustainable fisheries in Costa Rica and Central America.
Oceanic Preservation Society is Colorado-based NGO focused on promotion of marine conservation and environment. It was established by photographer Louie Psihoyos in 2005, and since then they made some award-winning documentaries, including the documentary Cove that deals with horrific stories of the annual Taiji dolphin hunt.
They use film, photography and social media to inspire, empower and connect a global community of activists fighting to protect the planet. They use the film to inspire and raise awareness and catalyze action, and together in collaboration with activists, artists, engineers and other actors span the globe.
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is Washington-based marine conservation organization taking direct actions to save the ocean. They were founded in 1977 by Captain Paul Watson in Vancouver, Canada, with the mission to conserve and protect all marine wildlife.
Today, they have thousands of ‘’Sea Shepherds’’ working in over 40 countries and campaigning against the ocean pollution. They provide ships, equipment, technical advice, and consultation to many partners, including local communities and governments worldwide. They successfully stopped ocean habitat destruction in many countries, including Benin, Gabon, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico and others, as have facilitated hundreds of arrests, the seizure of dozens of poaching vessels, and the confiscation of thousands of illegal nets.