How Are Humans Endangering Aquatic Animals?
Many of us are not aware of the ways in which human actions affect the lives of marine life animals. Even for those who don’t live near the ocean, your actions play a significant impact on ocean life. From your morning commute to your afternoon grocery shopping, every action we take can play a role in the dangers facing marine life.
The largest factors threatening marine life include climate change, habitat destruction, and food supply depletion — all of which are results of human actions. Industrialization has led to an increase in carbon emissions, expediting climate change and raising the temperatures of ocean waters. Mass oil production has resulted in the destruction of thousands of miles of ocean habitat. Commercial fishing has caused a depletion in fish populations, resulting in a massive disruption in the food chain.
Plastic pollution is one of the largest threats facing marine life. As a result of the increase in plastic consumption across the world, there is now more plastic in the ocean than fish. This increasing amount of plastic pollution in our oceans endangers over 700 species daily.
Due to the negative impacts of human actions, over 5,000 marine life species are now facing serious threats to their existence. In order to understand how we can help reduce these threats, we must first learn more about the animals that are endangered.
5 Endangered Ocean Animals
All types of marine life species are impacted by the actions of human life. Whether they live on land or deep in the sea, these animals’ lives are endangered by the reckless activities of humans.
Here are five endangered ocean animals you can help save.
Hawaiian Monk Seal
Native to the Pacific Islands, the Hawaiian Monk Seal is facing the threat of extinction as a result of human actions. Its unique location makes it even more prone to endangerment, as this is the only place this species is found. While this seal is protected under law, there are many threats that lead to it being an endangered sea animal.
One of the largest threats facing the Hawaiian Monk Seal is food scarcity. Climate change and commercial fishing has depleted local food sources. With the limited amount of food supply, young seals must compete with other aquatic animals for their meals.
Commercial fishing and plastic pollution are also issues leading to the decline of this species. Fishing gear like wires and plastic netting can entangle around the seals, causing them to become trapped and drown.
Climate change causes more extreme weather conditions, like severe storms and flooding. As a result, storm erosion and rising sea levels have destroyed the habitats of the Hawaiian Monk Seal. Certain islands that were known for pup births have completely disappeared.
More direct human interactions have also played a negative role in the species’ population. What may seem like harmless interactions, like intentional feeding or swimming with seal pups, have actually caused population declines.
While certain organizations have helped the Hawaiian Monk Seal’s population partial rebound, its current population is only one-third of the size it used to be.
Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle
Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle is the smallest sea turtle in the world, and was named after a fisherman who helped discover it. They are found mostly in the Gulf of Mexico, but can also be found in the New England/Mid-Atlantic region.
While this turtle’s population used to be extremely abundant, it now faces the threat of extinction as a result of commercial fishing, climate change, and ocean pollution.
One of the biggest impacts of commercial fishing is bycatch. Bycatch is the unintentional catching of marine life that cannot be used. For the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle, it is often entangled in fishing nets, causing them to drown.
Climate change is an integral factor in their decline as well. The nests of sea turtles are extremely sensitive to temperature. In fact, the sex of hatchlings is determine by the temperature of their nest, warmer temperatures leading to females and cooler temperatures leading to males.
As temperatures continue to rise globally, this causes an imbalance in the population between males and females. As a result, sea turtles are not able to reproduce at a sustainable rate, putting the species at risk of extinction.
The Hammerhead Shark is another threatened marine animal, found in the Pacific Islands, Southeast, and West Coast of the United States. They are moderately large and named after their distinctive hammer-shaped head.
Similar to the Kemp’s Ridley Sea turtle, bycatch places an immediate threat on the Hammerhead Shark’s population. Unsustainable commercial fishing practices also lead to overfishing.
The food chain is a very delicate part of nature, where even the slightest disruption can cause a ripple effect among all species. As fish populations are depleted due to commercial fishing, Hammerhead Sharks are forced to travel further for food. They also have to compete with other species for the limited supply, causing the impact to spread to other marine life.
As a result of these threats, Hammerhead Sharks are facing critical endangerment. One specific species, the great hammerhead, is estimated to have as few as 200 remaining in the ocean. Another type of species, the Scalloped hammerheads, are estimated to have lost up to 80% of their original population.
Found all over the world, the Blue Whale is a spectacular species, as it is the largest animal to ever be on this planet. Near the United States, they are specifically found near Alaska, New England/Mid-Atlantic, the Pacific Islands, the Southeast and the West Coast.
Unfortunately, commercial whaling has significantly impacted the blue whale population. While major changes in legislation have helped partially restore its population, commercial fishing activity still threatens the lives of these animals.
Vessel strikes are a huge threat to blue whales, especially close to shipping ports and shipping lanes. Blue whales also face the threat of entanglement in massive fishing nets or large collections of plastic pollution.
Another less known threat is ocean noise pollution. Many animals use ocean noise to communicate with each other. Noise pollution can be confusing or damaging to marine animals. When loud noises interfere with the blue whales communication patterns, it has the potential to disrupt their migration patterns.
Many organizations across the globe are working tirelessly to save this endangered species and restore the blue whale population.
Indicated by its name, whale sharks are one of the largest animals in the world. They are sharks, not whales, although they have some whale-like characteristics. Found in the open waters of tropical oceans, whale sharks typically live very long lives.
Unfortunately, due to the endangerment of human activities, whale sharks are now dying faster than they can reproduce. This is another species that is extremely threatened by commercial fishing, especially bycatch. Most of the time, marine species do not survive by catching, even if they are thrown back into the ocean.
Plastic pollution also has a negative impact on the whale shark species. Oftentimes, plastic pollution is mistaken for food by these animals, leading to the accidental ingestion of toxic plastics. Since the whale shark is unable to digest these items, plastic waste builds up in their digestion system, causing them to become sick.
Whale sharks are gentle giants that face unfortunate threats to their existence due to the actions of humans. While there is no exact estimate on how many whale sharks are left in the ocean, it is important to help reduce the threats facing these beautiful creatures.
How to Save Endangered Sea Animals with Easy, Everyday Actions
While sometimes it may seem like helping endangered species is out of our control, these species are often at risk due to actions we take everyday. Even if you do not live near the ocean, there are ways you can help.
Reducing your carbon footprint is one of the best ways to help protect the oceans. Using fossil fuels can contribute to your carbon footprint, which can in turn cause climate change. As temperatures rise, marine life species face massive threats like food depletion and habitat destruction. You can help reduce your carbon footprint by traveling with eco-friendly alternatives like biking, electric vehicles, and public transportation.
Limiting your use of plastic is another way to help save endangered marine life species. You can repurpose plastic by reusing takeout containers, buying reusable glass containers, and properly recycling plastic. Purchasing products made out of repurposed plastics, like our Socktopus, Ink. eco-friendly socks, is one easy way to keep plastic waste out of our oceans.
While these may seem like small actions, doing these things can help us save and protect endangered sea animals.
It’s Easy to Do Your Part to Help Protect Endangered Ocean Animals
Humans pose multiple threats to the ocean ecosystem and the creatures that live within it. Climate change, habitat destruction, and plastic pollution are all threats created by the everyday actions of humans. As a result, many aquatic species like the Hawaiian Monk Seal, Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, the hammerhead shark, the blue whale, and the whale shark face endangerment to their existence.
While marine life species endangerment is a very big problem, that doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference. There are easy, everyday things you can do to help protect the ocean. Help save sea animals by reducing our carbon footprint, reducing waste, and shopping for sustainably-made products.