As most people know, 70 percent of our planet’s surface is covered in water, and therefore everything from global weather patterns to the ecosystem is affected by even the smallest change in our oceans and lakes. They contain diverse life forms, which provide us with food, and marine plants, which supply about 50 percent of the oxygen we breathe. This goes to show that all living things on Earth rely heavily on the oceans for sustenance and with increasing threats from overfishing, pollution, climate change and more it’s no wonder marine conservation has become such a hot and crucial topic. Simply put, our oceans are vital and conservation is what makes the difference between preserving life on Earth or not. The stakes for ocean health have never been higher.
That said, if 2020 taught us anything, it is that humans are resilient and will band together against any threat to the global population. When the pandemic hit, it forced the world into stasis and although this had a devastating impact on the economy, our oceans experienced a reprieve. Fisheries suspended trade, air travel and shipping stopped, thus reducing carbon emissions, and the list goes on. It showed that while change overall doesn’t happen overnight, we can still take some much-needed steps to conserve our oceans. Every positive action, no matter how small, can have a beneficial effect in the grand scheme of things.
Be an ocean warrior
Sign up and speak out. Be an advocate for the ocean and talk about its importance to life. Small actions can lead to big impact solutions, especially if you join with others. Azraq’s Marine Debris Campaign brings together volunteers and communities to keep beaches and waterways clean and safer for marine life while collecting data for national analysis. Azraq is committed to promoting and facilitating family-friendly clean-up activities on our coasts and rivers to support the protection and conservation of their local marine environment.
Reduce your carbon footprint
With excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, our oceans have become warmer and more acidic, which has resulted in mass coral bleaching. This, in turn, makes it harder for corals and organisms to grow and reproduce. Being conscious of your energy consumption at home and work can make a huge difference in reducing your carbon emissions. Make changes to your lifestyle: leave your car at home whenever you can, eat less meat (the meat industry is a whole other can of worms), take the stairs more often and switch to fluorescent bulbs and other energy-saving practices.
Make healthy food choices
Overfishing is one of the biggest threats to ocean health, particularly the coral reefs, and the global fish population is rapidly declining due to high demand, loss of habitat and unsustainable fishing practices. You might also want to steer clear of seafood, particularly older or larger fish, to avoid consuming the harmful toxins which have bioaccumulated in the fish over time due to the food chain.
Say no to single-use plastics
About eight million tons of plastic are dumped in the ocean every year. Plastic bags, straws and non-reusable water bottles are just some of the things that end up as ocean debris, contributing to habitat destruction and endangering marine life. To limit your impact, reduce your use of single-use plastics in your daily life. Opt for a reusable water bottle, recycle whenever possible, use non-disposable containers to store food and invest in a reusable shopping bag.
This is without doubt the most important step one can take, as education often leads to action. Land and sea are more intrinsically linked than many of us realize and our actions usually have an impact on marine life, whether directly or indirectly. There is a wealth of knowledge and resources out there, from books and websites to documentaries. The more we increase our ocean IQ, the more inclined we are to take action and possibly inspire others to do the same.
In the words of the American environmental scientist and marine ecologist Jane Lubchenco, the ocean “is too big to ignore.” For a long time, it seemed infinite, untouchable and unaffected by anything, but that has changed. With our unsustainable fishing practices, plastic pollution and immense carbon emission, we soon realized the ocean was not immune to ruin and can, in fact, die out. No matter how big this problem may seem to fix, we must still try, as the repercussions from the alternative will be catastrophic.
• Words by Natalie Banks, founder and director, Azraq is a volunteer-run, not-for-profit entity in the UAE that focuses on protecting, defending and conserving marine life and enables partnerships with government, private entities and individuals for the good of the UAE and its marine environment.