Our oceans are vast and hugely complex ecosystems, making up more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface and home to a remarkable 700,000 species. They’re also critical to human survival, with experts estimating that they’re responsible for up to 80 percent of the oxygen we breathe.
Sadly though, our oceans are under threat with global warming causing sea temperatures to rise, posing a risk to marine life. Ocean acidification—caused by rising CO2 levels—is also impacting shellfish and coral reefs, while overfishing is affecting the balance of our ecosystems (although it’s not quite true that our oceans will be empty by 2048). By now, you’ll also know that our reliance on single-use plastic, as well as the millions of microplastics that get released from our clothes, pose a threat to sea creatures, too.
What’s clear is that urgent action is needed to protect our oceans and the marine life that inhabits them. To mark World Oceans Day on 8 June, here are six things we can all do to help now.
Eat less fish
One key takeaway from Netflix documentary Seaspiracy is that we are overfishing our oceans, with an eye-watering 2.7tn fish caught globally every year. That’s why reducing our consumption of fish is one major way we can help and allow fish populations to replenish. Eating certain types of seafood—including farmed mussels and clams, and Alaskan sockeye salmon—also has less impact on our oceans, experts say.
Avoid single-use plastic
We know single-use plastic is a big no-no—and by now, most of us have invested in a reusable water bottle and KeepCups for our takeaway coffees. Still, avoiding plastic can prove difficult, particularly when it comes to groceries and household goods. If possible, shopping at local farmers’ markets can help reduce packaging waste, as can refill services for cleaning products.
Take part in beach clean-ups
Given how big an issue plastic pollution is, taking part in clean-ups is a practical way of stopping it from ending up in our environment and potentially harming wildlife. Find a clean-up event near you via organisations such as Ocean Conservancy and the Parley Global Cleanup Network.
Reduce microplastics from your laundry
Shocking research has found that 12m microplastics can be shed during a single load of laundry, with the tiny particles of plastic found as far adrift as the Arctic. Luckily, there are easy things we can all do to help, including avoiding synthetic materials, investing in a microplastics filter and washing your clothes less often.
Look for blue beauty
Beauty products can also be harmful to our oceans, from the packaging to the ingredients. Avoid products that contain squalene, which comes from shark liver and is used for hydration, as well as chemicals such as oxybenzone, which are found in sunscreen and can lead to the bleach of coral reefs. Instead, look for brands who are using eco-friendly packaging or offering refills, as well as those who offer recycling schemes to return your empties.
Donate to ocean charities
Another way we can help our oceans is by donating to charities that are protecting them, including Oceana, Sea Shepherd and the Ocean Conservation Trust. You can also support smaller organisations such as GreenWave, which is working to train and support regenerative ocean farmers.