Protect Our Oceans: Be the Change You Want to Sea

Venus sea fan, Gorgonia flabellum. Photo by Erin J. Burge.

Yesterday might have been World Oceans Day, but it’s important to celebrate the ocean year round. The ocean links humans all over the planet and provides us with countless resources, including food, climate regulation and most of the oxygen we breathe.

The effects of oil spills and pollution, invasive species, warming water temperatures, ocean acidification, and overfishing remind us that while the ocean may seem vast and mysterious, it is a fragile system that needs our protection. A study released in Science in 2008 shows that over 40 percent of the world’s oceans are heavily impacted by human activity.

“The health of the ocean directly affects us and our children’s health. The ocean provides earth’s oxygen, food, medicines, and many other services. Yet, the ocean’s health is declining,” said Dr. Paul Boyle, senior vice president of conservation and education for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). “People think they can’t do much, but individual actions really do add up,” added Dr. Boyle.

Here are five simple steps you can take right now to help the ocean everyday.

Eat Sustainable Seafood

The Monterey Bay Aquarium runs the Seafood Watch program, which helps consumers and businesses make ocean-friendly seafood choices. Download your Seafood Watch Pocket Guide from their website or get the app, recently named one of five apps that can save the world. Take the Guide with you when you go to the grocery store or restaurant to make wise seafood choices.

Recycle And Eliminate Plastic

The majority of the trash invading our ocean is plastic and it’s ending up down the mouths of wildlife or in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Use durable, reusable grocery bags, buy glass, paper and bio-plastic when possible, and compost and recycle everything you can. You can also volunteer to help clean-up your neighborhood, beaches, and river banks.

Grow A Greener Garden

Rain washes fertilizer, pesticides and chemicals off your lawn and garden into the ocean. Pesticides harm stream, river and ocean ecosystems. Fertilizer run-off causes harmful algae and bacteria to grow in the ocean, using up all the oxygen in the water and create ‘dead zones’ where most marine life can’t survive. Substitute chemical fertilizer with organic fertilizer, compost or mulch.

Save Energy

By reducing your energy consumption, you lower your carbon footprint and help slow the effects of climate change on the ocean. Upgrade to compact fluorescent light bulbs and Energy Star appliances. Take public transportation and watch the thermostat.

Learn About Animals That Depend On Ocean

Visit your local AZA-accredited aquarium and zoo to see and learn more about marine and coastal wildlife. There is no substitute for experiencing these animals for yourself, and you’ll want to ensure the health of these important and beautiful creatures.

Polar bear at the Detroit Zoo. Photo by Dino Ferri, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.

Millions of people acting together really can make a difference. See for more that you can do to protect ocean health.

Stay tuned for future posts, where I will write about my own adventures on finding and eating sustainable seafood in the nation’s capitol!

Linda Cendes

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