How to protect the ocean, even when you’re not diving
Scuba divers, by and large, love the ocean. And as a natural consequence of that, they’re interested in protecting it for ocean conservation.
What can you do to protect the ocean when you’re away from it?
Turns out, a lot!
Here are 10 things you should not do if you want to protect the oceans.
1. Don't Use Plastic Bags
In particular the thin, semi-transparent ones you find in supermarket produce sections and similar.
These are so thin that they often rip, and can only be used once, meaning more of them are used.
They’re also lighter, so more likely to be carried by the wind to the sea (or river or other body of water, from where they can be transported to the sea), and because they resemble jellyfish when they float, and many animals eat jellyfish, such as turtles and numerous others, who then risk choking to death on the bag.
Bring a reusable shopping bag, and don’t bag your produce in individual bags.
2. Don't Use Plastic In General
While plastic bags, and the small, transparent ones in particular, are the worst culprit, all plastic products can be problematic for the ocean if they find their way there, which they often do via our waterways.
So reduce, reuse, and recycle your plastic.
3. Don't Dump Trash
Because of the waterways that cut through the majority of the Earth’s land mass, many things that are discarded, even far inland, has a tendency to make their way to the oceans.
So while throwing a soda can along the roadside may seem benign, it isn’t.
Not only is it unsightly and bad for the local environment, there is a risk that it can make its way to the oceans and become a problem there, such as the infamous Garbage Continents in the both the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean.
So use trash cans, it’s why they’re there.
4. Don't Throw Everything Out
But don’t just use the trash cans, use the recycle bins, too.
Throwing everything into the trash means it ends up in the incinerator or landfill, and not only can debris and particulates from here reach the oceans, having things discarded also means new resources need to be used to make new stuff.
5. Don't Eat Seafood
Seafood is healthy, and tastes good, so what’s not to like?
Well, most fish populations, if not all, around the world are so overfished that they are on the brink of extinction.
And the really bad news is that the types of fish you like, are most likely the ones that are worst off.
This isn’t some cosmic joke, but a simple matter of demand. The more popular the type of fish, the more it is fished, and the more endangered it likely is.
If you’re not ready to give up on seafood, at least use the WWF’s guide to sustainable seafood.
6. Don't Buy Coral and Other Marine Items While Travelling
When travelling, we often see bits of coral sold as souvenirs, along with seashells and similar.
Don’t buy these.
The coral is often broken off living corals, doing considerable damage, and seashells are fished and their inhabitants left to die as the shell dries in the sun.
And even if the shell was found abandoned, they still serve a purpose in the ecosystem.
Go diving and take pictures of the shells and corals instead.
It's good to know A Scuba Diver's Impact On A Coral Reef.
7. Don't Produce A Lot Of CO2
Your carbon footprint matters greatly for the oceans.
The oceans are actually our primary repository for CO2, so the more we put out there, more needs to be absorbed by the oceans, which acidifies them, making them harder to live in for animals and reefs.
8. Don't Just Leave Organic Food On The Shelf
While the health benefits of organic foods are a basis of ongoing debate, their benefit to the oceans is pretty clear.
By using less harmful chemicals in the production, less of these harmful substances are washed into our waterways, groundwater, and oceans.
And a pesticide that kills pests on land can muck up an eco-system on a reef.
9. Don't Use Sunscreen
Yes, I know, always wear sunscreen. But wear sunscreen with as few harmful chemicals as you can.
When you dip in the oceans or a lake, or when you shower, the sunscreen on your skin gets washed off and enters the waterways (yes, even the waterproof stuff).
And the more harmful stuff it contains, the more damage it can do.
Look for sunscreens that are organically certified and has as short a list of ingredients as possible.
10. Don't Keep A Salt Water Fish Tank
Aquariums are filled with fish, and most of these are caught.
And while you can try to ensure that they are caught in a sustainable way, documentation at this point can be difficult to obtain.
So either skip the water tank altogether, or only fill it with fish that have been bred in captivity.