Why We Should Protect Our Oceans
If you don’t live by the ocean, you may not think about the impact human activities have on the ocean in your day-to-day life. However, it’s important to remember that many of our everyday habits, from unwrapping a snack to shopping at the store, can affect our waterways.
On the flip side of the coin, the oceans have an impact on our daily routines too. After all, we rely on our oceans for recreation, transportation, climate regulation, jobs, and, of course, oxygen! When we harm the ocean's ecosystem, we hurt ourselves as well.
Here are three of the biggest threats our oceans face, and why you should care about them— no matter how many miles away you are from the coast.
Top 3 Biggest Threats Our Oceans Face
While humans are responsible for most of the damage caused to our oceans, that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything to help. The first step to protecting our oceans is understanding the biggest challenges to the ocean ecosystem and the threats to ocean life. From there, you can take simple, sustainable actions to make an impact and protect our oceans.
Climate change is the single greatest threat to our ocean habitats today. As temperatures rise due to the increased amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, our oceans feel the heat. Global ice caps are melting at an alarming rate, causing ocean levels to rise. This poses an immediate threat to the habitats for Arctic animals, such as polar bears.
As ice caps melt, the salinity of the water changes. The ocean’s salinity directly affects the ocean’s temperature and density. As the temperature of ocean waters increase, aquatic animals struggle to breathe due to less dissolved oxygen in the water. Ocean acidity increases as well, affecting wildlife and destroying marine life habitats, like coral reefs.
Solutions to Climate Change
While these realities of our oceans can be hard to hear, there are things we can do in our day-to-day life to help combat climate change. The most impactful action people can take to save our oceans is to reduce their carbon footprint. This means decreasing the activities that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
One of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint is by limiting your meat consumption. The commercial meat industry is one of the largest contributors to methane and land deforestation. Swap out meat in your meals with fruits, veggies, and other plant-based proteins.
Traveling also is a main contributor to our carbon footprints. Try planning a staycation or working from home in order to limit your traveling. If you do decide to travel, try using more sustainable alternatives, like public transportation or travel by trains instead of planes.
Shopping locally is another easy way to limit your carbon emissions. When shopping online, the product often has to be shipped across the world, resulting in carbon emissions and destruction of ocean habitats. By shopping locally, you reduce the distance the product needs to travel while also supporting the local economy!
While all these actions seem small, they can help alleviate some of the stress on marine life and their ocean habitats.
Destruction of Marine Environment & Wildlife
Commercial activities are causing destruction to marine habitats and the wildlife that lives within them. With changes in legislation and techniques, the commercial fishing industry poses a major threat to ocean animals and their habitat. Knowing some basic facts on ocean habitat destruction can help us think about how human decisions impact marine life.
Bottom trawling is one fishing practice that wreaks havoc on 1.3% of the ocean floor a year. This equates to nearly 2 million square miles of destruction annually. Bottom trawling is easier for fishing companies, as they get a greater catch, but the practice devastates the habitat below. This destruction also releases carbon that’s been trapped in our sea floors, adding to the ever-growing climate change problem.
Perhaps the most devastating result of bottom trawling is that up to 90% of what is caught is considered bycatch — marine life that cannot be sold or used. This is a sad and alarming waste of marine life and is especially devastating to endangered or dwindling species.
Solutions to Ocean Habitat Destruction
Like with our impact on climate change, there are solutions to reducing the destruction of ocean habitats and marine wildlife. Getting to know where your seafood comes from and how it was caught is important. Many seafood packages in grocery stores have labels that say if the seafood was sustainably sourced. Only purchase seafood from reputable companies who are committed to protecting ocean habitats through sustainable sourcing.
You can also eliminate your seafood consumption altogether by reaching for plant-based proteins instead. This decreases the demand for commercial fishing, ultimately resulting in less ocean habitat destruction.
The third largest threat our oceans face is the massive amount of pollution that enters our waterways and oceans. Once in the ocean, pollution directly impacts both ocean animals and their habitat.
Plastic is one of the largest polluters and threats to marine ecosystems, with nearly 300 million tons of new plastic being produced each year. Perhaps even more devastating is the fact that 14 million tons of that plastic ends up in oceans instead of landfills or recycling facilities. It’s estimated that 80% of marine debris is plastic-based, both on the surface of the water and in the ocean floor sediment.
Once plastics land in our oceans, they do not degrade. Instead, plastic pollution is broken down into microplastics — small plastic pieces less than five millimeters long. These microplastics don’t only harm ocean animals, they also threaten our quality of food, health, and coastal tourism.
Solutions to Plastic Pollution
There are easy steps you can take to help decrease the amount of plastic pollution in our oceans. Limit your use of single-use plastics in your daily routine. Instead, invest in biodegradable and reusable options. For example, opt for reusable canvas bags instead of plastic bags during your next shopping trip. If you do use plastic products, try to recycle or upcycle whenever you can. For example, reuse old takeout containers for food storage.
Shopping sustainably made clothing brands can be another great way to minimize plastic consumption. Brands like Socktopus Ink give new life to plastic products by upcycling them into eco-friendly socks.
Help Protect the Oceans with Sustainable Clothing
Although we may not think about it every day, our oceans are critical to our livelihood. When the oceans suffer, humans do, too. From food, to weather, to the air we breathe, each of us is completely dependent on the ocean. The three primary ways humans contribute to the threats facing our oceans today is through climate change, destruction of ocean habitats, and plastic pollution.
Luckily there are easy ways we can help limit our carbon footprint and help reduce ocean pollution. Start your efforts to protect our oceans by focusing on one aspect of your life to make it more sustainable. For example, choose to research and purchase clothing from sustainable brands like Socktopus Ink. By supporting companies that focus on core values like sustainability, we can all work together to help save our oceans.
It can seem like saving our oceans is an overwhelming task, but it starts with one person, and that person can be you!