What Can You Do To Protect Oceans? Advocates, Scientists Weigh In

For World Oceans Day, we asked nonprofit leaders and scientists what they thought people could do to improve the health of oceans and coasts. Their advice ran the gamut.

Written by Jessica Leber Published on Read time Approx. 4 minutes
In honor of World Ocean Day 2018, hundreds of students from New York City schools gathered at City Hall to advocate for the city to pass a bill banning styrofoam.Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

At Oceans Deeply, we write about the oceans every day, but on World Oceans Day, June 8, more people than usual are paying attention. In that spirit, we gathered just a few thoughts from an eclectic group of experts and advocates on what people can do in their own lives to improve the health of oceans and coasts.

Pierre-Yves Cousteau, founder of Cousteau Divers and the youngest son of the famed ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, was featured in an Oceans Deeply article published this week. Writer Erica Cirino reported on how his organization is helping to design new marine protections near the Greek isle of Santorini, through a grassroots collaboration with the local community of divers, fishers and scientists. He gave Cirino a simple mantra to share: “Eat less meat. Use less plastic. Buy less stuff.”

Tony Long, chief executive of the nonprofit Global Fishing Watch who also served in the British Royal Navy for 27 years, told Oceans Deeply this week about new tools his group has launched that will help track fishing activity all over the world, shedding light on illegal fishing (look for an article on our site on Monday).

He told us in an email: “You can’t save what you can’t see! For all too long, most of what is happening out on the ocean has been out of sight and therefore out of mind for far too many people. Therefore, it is a real challenge to demonstrate and communicate why this ocean is so important to us all, personally, and indeed for all life on our blue planet. So what can people do? They can make the invisible visible. We need to demand that governments and business share what they are doing with our oceans; be more transparent in their activity and their intent.” He also suggested taking your kids to the sea or connecting them through virtual reality and in schools online.

Olivia Blondheim, a member of the EarthEcho International Youth Leadership Council and a recent college graduate who will be pursuing her PhD in the fall, gave one of the opening talks at this week’s gathering of hundreds of marine scientists and oceanographers in Washington, D.C., where they discussed the effects that climate change is having on the world’s oceans.

She told Oceans Deeply that one strong action individuals can take is to become involved in protecting your local body of water – even if you don’t live on the coast. If everyone in the world did so, she said, the oceans would be a much healthier place.

Shawn Heinrichs, a cinematographer, photographer and marine conservationist involved in filming the acclaimed documentary “Racing Extinction,” spoke recently with Oceans Deeply about the connection between art and conservation and his new exhibit in New York (look for an interview on our site next week.)

In 2012, more than 5,000 Los Angeles kids, teachers and volunteers formed a massive kid-designed shark and shield to raise awareness about plastic pollution. (Lou Dematteis/Spectral Q via Getty Images)

He told us that one of the most important actions people can take is to “commit to becoming informed about how your everyday behavior and consumption habits are having a serious impact on the oceans.” That includes understanding where your seafood comes from and how it is caught, he said, but it doesn’t just stop at what fish you eat: “Consider the meat in your diet, and understand that a lot of livestock is fed fish meal, and that runoff from livestock farms is also killing off marine habitats.” He also agreed that it would help if everyone paid closer attention to the many products we purchase that contain plastics.

On Tuesday, Erinn Muller, science director of the Mote Marine Laboratory’s Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration, told an audience at Capitol Hill Ocean Week in Washington, D.C.: “The biggest thing I think our young people can do is be advocates for coral restoration, for research and for climate change policies. You’re a powerful voice and people are listening, and now is the time to be those advocates.” (Read more about her work to save corals in an article we published in May.)

On the same panel, Luiz Rocha, curator of fishes at the California Academy of Sciences, noted the power of the media devices in everyone’s pockets: “We can amplify the message a lot. Even if you just have 10 followers on Twitter, that’s 10 followers on Twitter – it’s better than nothing. You can make your opinion known, you can amplify other people’s messages. You can talk about it.”

Finally, 19-year-old Ben May, executive director of Think Ocean, a network of high-school students advocating for oceans, shared this astute observation with Oceans Deeply at the same conference: “Young people are the people who have passion. Young people are unjaded – they are the people who haven’t been corrupted by the whole world. They still have idealism … so my biggest piece of advice for people my age and younger is that if they care about a topic, whether it’s the oceans, whether it’s the forests or anything that has to do with the environment – call people out when they are doing something wrong. Tell people how they can do better. Always have a positive attitude. You never want to have pessimism on this sort of thing. Don’t say, ‘You’re the reason the world’s been bad.’ Say, ‘Here’s how you can do better.’”

Erica Cirino contributed reporting. 

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