Over 70% of the earth is covered by water, be it seas, rivers, lakes or ponds - and only 20% of our seas have been explored. Whilst the ocean is a source of fear for some, with its massive depths and expanses, others see it as an opportunity - an opportunity to understand something brand new.
However, the richness of what lies below the surface is often the reason why our oceans are being exploited and broken down more and more, day by day, sometimes even by the smallest human influence.
There are many ways that we as a global collective can incite change and make a difference within our oceans. The biggest journeys begin with the smallest of steps, and that ideal can be applied here. By making the smallest lifestyle changes, we can combat the deterioration of life in our waters. In this article, I'm going to take you through some of the ways that you can make small changes in your lifestyle that will have a big impact on the life below the water.
Be more conscious of where your waste goes.
According to figures published by SloActive in 2020, over 50% of the world's coral reefs are dead. This is an astounding, scary number - considering how many lifeforms are supported by and live within the coral reefs. It is a dire crisis when taking into account how this links to climate change, with rising water temperatures across the globe. Coral reefs can die due to many factors - be it the climate change, overfishing, pollution or habitat destruction.
One of these factors that humans often contribute the most to would be pollution. This could be through pumping harmful substances into the water such as oil, or littering. At least 14 million tons of waste ends up in the ocean every year, choking coral reefs when it lands on them. Coral reefs are living, breathing organisms just like you and I - you wouldn't want to be covered in and choked by rubbish, would you?
There are many ways to become more waste-conscious, most of them being tiny things that don't make much of a difference to YOUR daily life, but have a big impact as a whole. Not using single-use plastics such as straws, cutlery, plastic bags and takeaway drink cups. Most of these items aren't recyclable, resulting in landfills, which make their way into waterways if not properly managed. We've all seen the pictures of turtles with straws up their noses and ducks with beer can rings around their necks. Let's just remember that when these things happen that the animal cannot help itself.
Check out this article for more on the dangers of excess plastics on the environment, both in and out of the sea.
If you're going to eat seafood, make sure it's sustainable.
Eating seafood is not, in itself, the problem. The biggest problem with the fishing industry is the way that mass fishing is carried out. Most of the mass, industrial fishing that's done across the world is done in ways that aren't sustainable, and are harmful to not only the actual fish but to the seafloor as well. One of the most harmful ways of fishing is also one of the most widely used - bottom trawling. This method uses a large, weighted net attached to an industrial fishing trawler, which is then dragged across the sea bed.
There are multiple reasons why this method does more harm than good - the main one being that as it trawls its way across the seafloor, the trawling net often pick up species that aren't being fished. The size of these nets means that they can sometimes even tangle up dolphins, large tuna and very rarely, smaller sharks. When the net comes back up, it will often be that these so-called 'bycatches' are dead. However, they are still thrown back into the sea. When thousands of fish are being caught up in these nets, about 70% of these will be bycatches, therefore unnecessarily depleting life below the waters.
To combat this issue and make sure that you're not taking part in these sorts of industries, there are a few ways to make sure that your fish is sustainable. Avoid eating fish that are considered endangered such as bluefin tuna, plaice, hake and swordfish. Most fish bought from supermarkets will have labelling on them to identify the conditions it was caught under are RSPCA certified safe, or have a 'dolphin safe' label on the packaging.
Cut down your emissions.
As the climate warms up, so does the ocean. The temperature of the ocean has risen by 1.5F since 1901 - which doesn't sound like a lot, but it rings alarm bells in the heads of people who are concerned about life underwater.
Warmer seas mean that there'll be less spawning of important species such as pollock or cod - commercially fished species. If we continue fishing at our current rate and continue to eat as much seafood as we do, then something has to change. By 2050, it is estimated that the spawning and emergence of these fish will decrease by 58% if the seas carry on rising in temperature.
There are many simple things you can do to cut down emissions. Simply by taking public transport more and reducing the number of cars on the road, or riding a bike instead of taking public transport. There are multiple levels to reducing emissions, and it's not something that you can do alone - just one person doing this isn't enough. It has to be everyone, or things will never change. Also reducing your meat and dairy intake can reduce emissions by cutting down the amounts of machinery used in meat and dairy farming.
It doesn't take much to make these changes and try to bring back what once thrived under the sea. It will take a long time, but if everyone bands together and gives it their all, then I truly believe that the ocean will thrive once again.