Words by Natalie Banks, Founder and Director, Azraq
As most people know, 70% of our planet’s surface is covered in water, and therefore everything from global weather patterns to the ecosystem is affected by even the smallest change in our oceans and lakes. This massive body contains diverse life forms, including marine plants which supply about 50% of the oxygen we breathe in, as well as for food and it’s many other uses. This goes to show that all living things on earth rely heavily on the oceans for sustenance. But, with increasing threats from overfishing, pollution, climate change and many more negative actions, it’s no wonder marine conservation has become such a hot and crucial topic. Simply put, our oceans are a pretty big deal, and its conservation is the very link between preserving life on earth or not. The stakes for ocean health have never been higher.
With that being said, if 2020 taught us anything, it is that humans have resilience, and our willingness to band together against any threat to the global population is unparalleled. When the pandemic hit, it forced the world to stasis, and although this had a devastating impact on the economy, our oceans experienced a moment of reprieve, even if for a short time. Fisheries suspended trade, air travel and shipping stopped thus reducing carbon emissions, and the list goes on. It showed that while change overall might seem like a big feat that won’t happen overnight, there are still some necessary steps we can take to do our part in conserving our oceans. Every positive action, no matter how small it may seem, can have a beneficial effect in the grand scheme of things.
Be an ocean warrior
Sign up and speak out. Your part can be as easy as being an advocate for the ocean – speaking of its importance to continued life on earth. Remember big impact solutions can happen with minor advocacy. While you are less likely to individually stop some of these negative actions, there are existing efforts you can join. Azraq’s Marine Debris Campaign brings together the efforts of volunteers and the community to keep beaches and waterways cleaner and safer for marine life while collecting data for national analysis. Volunteers involved in Azraq are committed to promoting and facilitating family-friendly coastal and river clean-up activities in support of the protection and conservation of their local marine environment.
Reduce your carbon footprint
Herein lies two problems – climate change and ocean acidification. With excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, our oceans have become warmer and more acidic, which has resulted in mass coral bleaching. This, in turn, makes it harder for corals and organisms to grow and reproduce. Being conscious of your energy consumption at home and work can make a huge difference in reducing your carbon emissions. Make changes to your lifestyle – leave your car at home whenever you can, eat less meat (the meat industry is a whole other can of worms), take the stairs more often, switch to fluorescent bulbs and other energy-saving practices.
Make healthy food choices
Overfishing is one of the biggest threats to ocean health, the coral reefs in particular and the global fish population is rapidly declining due to the high demand, loss of habitat and unsustainable fishing practices. You might also want to steer clear of seafood, particularly older or larger fish, as you might avoid consuming the harmful toxins which have bio-accumulated in the fish over time due to the food chain.
Say no to single-use plastics
About eight million tons of plastic are dumped in the ocean every year. Plastic bags, straws, non-reusable water bottles are just some of the things that end up as ocean debris, contributing to habitat destruction and endangering marine life. To limit your impact, reduce your use of single-use plastics in your daily life. Opt for a reusable water bottle, recycle whenever possible, use non-disposable containers to store food and invest a reusable shopping bag.
There is no doubt that this is the most important step one can take, as education often leads to action. The land and sea are more intrinsically linked than many realize and our actions usually have an impact on marine life, whether directly or indirectly. With a wealth of knowledge and resources out there – from books and websites to documentaries, increasing your ocean IQ by learning about it, the challenges it faces and how we can protect them, the more inclined we are to take action, and possibly inspire others to do the same.
“The ocean,” as American environmental scientist and marine ecologist Jane Lubchenco said: “is too big to ignore.” For the longest time, it seemed like this infinite, untouchable body that could not be affected by anything. But, that notion changed. With our unsustainable fishing practices, plastic pollution, and immense carbon emission, we soon realised the ocean was not exempt from ruin, and can, in fact, die out. No matter how big this problem may seem to fix, we must still try, as the alternative poses more catastrophic repercussions.