6 Ways To Be An Ocean Advocate


The ocean covers more than 70% of the earth, provides half of our oxygen, and is home to some of the most incredible animals and diverse habitats on our planet.


Sadly, climate change, global pollution, and destructive industries have put our oceans under more threat than ever.



With Cop26 beginning, the climate crisis is about to be given the long-overdue platform it deserves, with global action at the forefront of the agenda. Radical change is essential, and while a strict new policy and committed government support will drive the biggest change, we as individuals have the power to protect our planet through our own everyday choices.


Eco-anxiety is very real right now, but if we all do something and take responsibility for our own actions, we can help pave the path to saving our beautiful planet, cleaning up the oceans, and preserving the Earth for generations to come.


So, here are 6 ways you can make a difference!



1. Avoid Eating Seafood


Mass trawling and overfishing have destroyed delicate ecosystems in many parts of the ocean; some species have been overfished to the point of near extinction.


Now, I am not saying all fishing is bad, many countries rely on fish for sources of protein, and have sustainable methods in place, however, commercial fishing methods are unethical. Trawling traps damage the seafloor and kill marine life such as turtles and marine mammals that get caught in the huge nets, which contributes to harmful algae blooms and oxygen-deficient dead zones.


What you probably didn’t know is that 1/3 of the fish caught are used to feed farmed animals. This not only includes farmed fish but also livestock, meaning our oceans are being unsustainably fished to feed animals in an industry that plays a huge role in our current climate crisis. Unfortunately, fish farming is not as sustainable as we first thought…


Fish farming causes the destruction of natural habitats such as mangroves, while also spreading disease and infections to wild fish and damaging natural ecosystems from pesticides, discharge of waste, and other harmful chemicals in the process.


The fishing industry is also responsible for a huge amount of plastic pollution in our oceans; the debris left behind, known as ghost gear, is harmful to animals who can become entangled in it or ingest it, which can eventually kill them.


Ideally, try to avoid fish and other kinds of seafood, but if you do decide to eat it, always try to buy foods that are sustainably caught.



2. Use Non-toxic Beauty Products


We all brush our teeth, wash our hands, hair and bodies several times a day- that’s a lot of products! What we wash down our drains every day, eventually enters the ocean. Water treatment plants cannot break down all the chemicals in conventional beauty products, therefore, some of these harmful chemicals make their way into the ocean.


Many of these chemical ingredients can’t break down in aquatic environments either, which causes aquatic toxicity that harms marine life and disrupts the ecosystem balance. Watch out for parabens, triclosan and sulfates in particular- they are no friend to the ocean!


Surprisingly, the big brands are always the worst, so choose to support companies creating high-quality products using non-toxic ingredients. There’s no shortage of eco-friendly options available now that you can use knowing they are better for the planet and for your health too!


You may remember the huge uproar in 2018 about microbeads and the damage they were causing to marine life; after that, many companies entirely removed them from their products (YAY!). This shows the real power of consumers - if we refuse to buy these harmful products, the companies that produce them will be forced to change to more sustainable and ocean-safe ingredients.



3. Avoid Single-use Plastic


It’s no secret that plastics are choking our oceans. At least 8 million tonnes of plastic enter our oceans every year, killing an estimated 100,000 marine mammals and turtles, and 1 million seabirds annually. As plastics are so lightweight and don’t break down in landfills, they can easily be picked up by the wind and carried into the rivers and seas.


The tragic images of animals tangled up in man-made waste dumped in their home, where it should not be, serve as stark reminders of the damage our excessive use of plastic is causing.


While it is difficult to entirely avoid plastic, we can all do our best to choose plastic-free options when we can. Single-use items such as plastic bags, straws and takeaway cups are some of the worst culprits; carrying reusable shopping bags, water bottles, coffee cups and cutlery are simple ways to avoid unnecessary plastic when out and about.


Here are some tips for cutting back on single-use plastics!


  • Seek out zero waste and refill shops, they are growing in popularity all the time and allow you to buy what you need without any plastic packaging.


  • Try out some eco-friendly beauty products, you can get toothpaste in glass jars, solid shampoo bars, bamboo toothbrushes, even plastic-free make-up!


  • Or, why not try making some of your own products, the internet is full of ideas for everything from DIY deodorant to bathroom cleaners; it’s fun, and you can finally find a use for all those glass jars sitting in the cupboard!

  • It’s important to recycle correctly, too; disposing of plastic properly means it should not end up in the ocean. I say “should”, because developed countries often export their plastic recycling waste to other countries, and depending on that country’s ability to recycle the waste, depends on if it can be disposed of correctly.


  • Plastic bags usually cannot be recycled with hard plastic, however, many supermarkets will collect them to recycle, so it’s worth saving all your soft plastics and taking them with you when you shop.



4. Buy Clothes Made With Natural Fibres


Man-made materials such as polyester and acrylic shed tiny microfibres that enter the water system every time we wash them; sometimes as many as 100,000 per wash.


Microplastic pollution caused by washing synthetic textiles is actually one of the main sources of microplastics in the ocean. Washing synthetic clothing in washing machines creates microplastics as the fabrics rubbing together causes friction, which then releases the microfibres. These microfibres are not caught by water treatment plants because they are too small so eventually, they enter waterways where they are ingested by marine life with disastrous effects on the whole ecosystem.


Microplastics will effectively, never biodegrade, they just break into even smaller particles and have been found in everything from beer to honey to bottled water. They have entered our ecosystem, and we don’t really know the long-term impact that will have.


The best way to avoid creating even more microfibres is to opt for organic cotton, bamboo and hemp fabrics which are more ethical choices and do not shed plastic microfibres. You can also reduce the abrasion that causes synthetic clothes to shed by using an eco fabric softener, washing at lower temperatures, packing your machine fuller and using an eco laundry liquid instead of powder.


You can also get a washing machine filter that will catch up to 90% of microfibres or washing bags that will do a similar thing.



5. Organise A Beach Clean


Sea Shepherd hosts regular beach cleans all along the coast, it’s a great way to get involved, meet like-minded ocean advocates and make a tangible difference.


Also, check out your local environmental organisations, they may also arrange beach cleans!


By physically removing the plastic and man-made waste from our coastlines we can reduce the chances they won’t enter the ocean.


If there isn’t a beach clean near you, why not create a group yourself? Get a few friends involved and enjoy a day at the beach at the same time; you might inspire others to join in and do the same. If organising a beach clean isn’t for you, next time you go to the beach, pick up any rubbish you find and dispose of it properly. If everyone did that, we would collectively create a big change.



6. Reduce Your Carbon Footprint


Rising sea temperatures are caused by rapidly increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, largely caused by burning fossil fuels. We rely on the oceans to absorb the CO2 emitted into the atmosphere, but as the ocean temperatures rise, they become less able to do this.


High levels of carbon dioxide in the ocean not only rises sea temperatures but also creates ocean acidification which harms marine life, disrupts ecosystems and will, of course, negatively affect humans too.


If we don’t protect the ocean, it can’t protect us.


All the usual things like eating more of a plant-based diet, being mindful of energy use, avoiding flights when possible, taking public transport, recycling, composting, buying local produce, avoiding fast fashion and being a conscious and ethical consumer, in general, will all contribute to reducing global carbon dioxide levels.



Protecting the environment directly affects the health of our oceans, so keep being an eco-warrior in whatever ways you can- it all helps!





Written by Jenna Clyne


BIO: Jenna is an artist and writer with love and respect for nature at the core of her work. She can frequently be found foraging, taking photos, exploring green spaces, and daydreaming about travelling the world again. She does not like being away from the coast for too long, seeing the ocean feels like coming home.



References


https://amberoot.com/blogs/blog/how-much-of-total-plastic-pollution-does-synthetic-t extiles-make-up


https://www.climatechangenews.com/2012/01/24/warming-oceans-face-co2-tipping-p oint/


https://www.environmentalscience.org/environmental-consequences-fishing-practices


https://www.iucn.org/resources/issues-briefs/ocean-warming


https://www.oceancleanwash.org


https://www.sas.org.uk/our-work/plastic-pollution/plastic-pollution-facts-figures/


https://www.seashepherd.org.uk/


https://www.surgeactivism.org/fishandtheenvironment



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