SEADAN

CONSERVATION

Monthly Articles

July 2020

ARIANNA LAGUNAS

By

Arianna Lagunas

Marine Biology,

Underwater Resource Management.

Indiana University

Bloomington, IN 47405,

United States of America

Introduction to Marine Conservation & Why protecting the ocean is so vital

There is no doubt that the health of the ocean and the vulnerable organisms that call it home are under tremendous threat. Although coral reefs only cover 0.1% of the ocean floor, they support 25% of all marine organisms, and by 2050, scientists predict that 90% of the world’s coral reefs will be dead. Although enormous efforts are being made to protect vital marine ecosystems and threatened species, the harm facing wildlife both in and out of the water continues to call for more immediate action. Marine conservation involves the protection and restoration of marine ecosystems, species, and resources which calls for the limitation of human-caused destruction, formation of new policies, management of Marine Protected Areas, scientific research, public education, and reducing pollution.

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Why is marine conservation so vital?

The ocean serves as the planet’s ultimate life support system. All life forms originated from the ocean billions of years ago, and today, it provides organisms, both aquatic and on land, with the air, water, and food they need to survive. Humans also depend on the ocean not only to survive but to thrive. Whether you live near the coast or hundreds of kilometers away from it, your wellbeing and the future of our entire species depend on healthy oceans.Coral reefs protect us from severe storms and floods. The ocean’s economy produces billions of dollers

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in goods and services. Marine natural products are a source of disease-fighting medicines. The ocean regulates the earth’s climate and water cycle. Finally, the ocean is an important source of food. To protect the ocean, we need to eliminate the mindset that it is so vast and abundant that our actions do not harm it. In reality, the ocean is vulnerable,and our activities have done immense destruction. It is now our responsibility to reverse the damage through marine conservation and to ensure healthy oceans for future generations to come.

How the ocean is getting polluted and its effects?

The most prevalent threat that marine environments and species face all around the globe today is marine debris entering the ocean, including materials such as microplastics, neglected fishing gear, single-use plastics, rubber, paper, metals, styrofoam, and more. Marine debris threatens not only the environment but also the economy, our security, navigational safety, recreational activities, and human health. Humans living both near the coast and hundreds of kilometers away from it contribute to this problem. On the coast, many tend to leave trash on the beach where the wind blows it into the sea. Offshore facilities such as oil rigs also dump waste directly into the ocean.

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Vessels abandoned at sea also contribute to the problem, as they degrade over time into debris. Surprisingly, however, most of the marine debris originates from far inland. Anything discarded on the ground’s surface, such as fertilizer, car oil, pesticides, and especially plastic will travel to the ocean through rivers, streams, and storm drains. Wind is also responsible for blowing trash into the waterways that connect to the ocean. The majority of debris that enters the ocean is plastic, and unlike other types of trash, it takes hundreds of years to biodegrade. This allows plastic to accumulate into large garbage patches, such as the one in the Pacific Ocean that is twice the size of Texas! Plastic ruins marine habitats, as it blocks the sunlight from reaching the plants, algae, and corals that many species depend on. A countless number of marine species worldwide have been harmed by marine debris, as they often become entangled in plastic and mistaken it for food. For example, sea  turtles often confuse plastic grocery bags for jellyfish. Also, turtles, fish, and birds become entangled in the plastic rings that hold six-packs of cans together. Even tiny pieces of plastics that are only 5 mm small could

have harmful effects, even for us humans, as many fish mistaken it for food and, as a result, our seafood becomes contaminated. The consumption of plastic causes fish to feel full even though they are becoming malnourished. In addition, plastics release harmful chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) into their bodies which interrupts their reproductive system. Over time, these chemicals build up in the organism’s body, and top predators who consume them will absorb the chemicals as well. In effect, this harms organisms in the entire food web, including humans who consume highly contaminated seafood with toxins and debris.

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Although the oceans are in critical condition, there has never been a better and more exciting time for marine conservation. According to experts, we have the knowledge and technology that we did not have even 50 years ago that is necessary to drive change. By using it effectively and urgently, we can reverse the damage that has been done and ensure healthy oceans for generations to come. No matter where you live, your economic standing, and whether or not you are a diver, everyone can help to protect, save, and restore the ocean while at the same time saving money. Here are 10 simple ways you can help protect the ocean.

1. Donate and volunteer

If you have the money, please consider donating it to organizations conducting scientific research and fighting to protect the oceans. Only 1% of all donations annually go towards marine conservation. Immediately, this needs to change as money is what makes scientific research, the development of technology, beach-cleanups, and the passing of laws possible. If you do not have money to donate, the next best thing you can contribute is your time. Volunteer with beach- cleanup organizations, and if you do not live near the ocean, volunteer to help pick up trash, which otherwise can likely end up in waterways.

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DONATE FOR NOBLE CAUSE

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2. Vote responsibly

Government leaders are directly responsible for the well-being of our planet. Although not everyone can become a politician, many of us can use the power of voting to drive the necessary change. Take time to educate yourself on political candidates and support those who will pass legislation, put an end to ocean pollution, no longer allow unsustainable fishing practices, and provide more funding towards environmental management and protection.

3. Reduce carbon footprint

The ocean absorbs the excess carbon dioxide that humans release into the atmosphere, resulting in ocean acidification and bleached coral reefs. To prevent this, we must reduce our carbon footprint. Simple acts such as unplugging devices, carpooling, riding your bike, onserving water, eating more plants, line-drying clothes, and switching to sustainable clean energy all add up to make a significant difference.

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RECYCLED PLASTIC

4. Use reusable plastic products

90% of daily plastic products, including water bottles, plastic silverware, straws, coffee-cup lids, and containers are used once and thrown away instead of being recycled. Consequently, millions of metric tons of plastic wind up in the ocean every year. These products, however, can easily be replaced with the reusable versions. Instead of relying on plastic bags at the grocery store, bring your own reusable ones instead. Also, using reusable straws, silverware, and bottles is a simple and easy switch, and it will not take long before it becomes a habit.

5. Properly dispose of hazardous materials

While the government is responsible for preventing hazardous chemicals and waste products from entering the ocean, everyone can do their part to help stop these toxic materials from entering our ocean. Hazardous household wastes, such as batteries, paint products, pesticides, cleaning products, motor oil, mercury, all forms of electronic waste, and more, can be easily disposed of at your local Household Hazardous Waste Collection Center for free. By doing so, these materials will not end up in the ocean, where they degrade marine resources and habitats.

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6. Pick up garbage

Next time you are walking down the street and spot a piece of trash, pick it up and properly dispose of it. Little acts like this go a very long way. That one piece of garbage that you picked up could have prevented an animal from ingesting it, possibly even choking and dying from it. You will be surprised too how many people, especially young kids, will follow your good example as well.

7. Buy eco-friendly products

Before purchasing something, conduct research beforehand about the eco-friendliness of the product. Several products contain harmful chemicals that cause bleaching and other issues for corals. A few examples include sunscreen, cosmetics, cleaning products, and more. It is also vitalto avoid luxury products made of marine animals, such as corals, manta rays, turtle shells, and pearls. Remember that consumers drive the market, meaning that products are made because they are in demand. By buying items that are better for the ocean, companies will respond by producing more that are eco-friendly.

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8. Eat sustainably

Being an advocate for marine conservation does not mean you have to stop eating seafood. Although it would be more effective to stop eating it altogether, by simply reducing your intakeand buying from the local market, you help reduce the harmful impact of overfishing. If you do choose to eat seafood, download the Seafood Watch app to find recommendations for the most sustainable choices at your favorite shops and restaurants.

9. Educate yourself

Although the problems that the ocean faces every day can be overwhelming, it is critical to stay up to date with the news and politics. Knowledge is power, and awareness combined with action is what drives change. You can educate yourself by reading online articles, watching documentaries, watching the news, and attending an ocean conservation event. Events like this are one of the best ways to not only learn more and help make a difference but also to connect with like-minded individuals who share your love for the ocean.

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10. Spread the word
A well-known quote by conservationist Baba Dioum states, “In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught." By sharing our love for the ocean and inspiring people to take action, we will get assistance for marine conservation work as people are more likely to protect what they love. Scuba divers especially have a responsibility to promote marine  conservation, because they experience our planet’s blue heart in a way that most people never will.

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