Today is World Oceans Day, a time to remember the two thirds of the planet’s surface that as land dwellers we often forget about, but which play a crucial role in our lives.
We depend on the oceans for more than fish. They generate most of the oxygen we breathe, regulate the climate, clean the water we drink and absorb carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas responsible for climate change. But the sad reality is that they are in a poor state of health, and we are responsible.
During our circumnavigation on Stella Maris the oceans became our home, and getting so close to them opened our eyes not only to their beauty above the surface and below, but also to the impact mankind has on the marine environment.
We had the privilege of seeing creatures in their natural environment, swimming with dolphins in Belize and Cocos Keeling, sea lions in the Galápagos, reef sharks in French Polynesia, and a humpback whale mother and calf beside the coral island of Niue. In the atolls of the Tuamotus in the Pacific and Chagos in the Indian Ocean we snorkelled on breathtakingly beautiful coral reefs, mesmerised by the diversity of life.
But the far-reaching impact of human activities was evident on even the most remote islands we visited from the plastic bottles, flip flops and all kinds of other man-made detritus littering the shores. It’s estimated that over 40% of the world’s oceans are heavily affected by mankind’s activities, and few if any areas remain untouched.
The threats to the oceans are enormous: intense over-fishing, seafloor damage from bottom trawling, huge numbers of turtles, dolphins, sharks and seabirds killed as bycatch from fishing with longlines, pollution, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, and rising sea levels from climate change.
So it’s time we stopped asking what the oceans can do for us and ask what we can do for the oceans. Because governments fail to act doesn’t mean that as individuals we should not. As I said in my post about SeaWorld, if we all act together we can bring about change, so here are a few simple things we can do:
1) Reduce our energy consumption
2) Only buy sustainably sourced fish
3) Use reusable shopping bags
4) Keep beaches free of litter
5) Never purchase items that exploit marine life
6) Use fewer plastic products and recycle whenever possible
And please don’t buy tickets to watch incarcerated mammals perform tricks for you at SeaWorld or any other marine park.