For those of us who don’t live near the ocean, it can sometimes be difficult to see how important the ocean is to our daily lives. But aren’t our bodies made of water? Don’t we use water to wash our hands, to shower, and to prepare our food? Don’t we eat seafood? In preparation for World Ocean Day on June 8, 2022, we wanted to take a look at some of the threats facing our oceans and what we can do to help protect them and the animals that live there.
Did you know that what seafood you choose to buy has a monumental impact on our oceans? There are over 171 tons of fish harvested every year. That’s a lot of fish! Removing so many fish from our oceans can have a wide variety of negative impacts. Non-sustainable practices can cause overfishing which can deplete fish populations. For humans, this can mean we may lose a food source if we cause extinction, but it also means that we can cause other ocean creatures like otters to lose a food source and to then experience population decline if they don’t find a suitable replacement. Some other issues we can see with non-sustainable fishing practices include by-catch and habitat destruction. Fortunately for us, there are easy to use resources to help us find sustainably sourced fish! Check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch website and app for easy ways to find what the best options are when shopping at the store or ordering at a restaurant.
Being careful about how much and how we remove fish from the ocean isn’t the only way we can help though. We should be vigilant about what we put INTO our oceans as well. Every year, humans add millions of tons of plastic into our ocean. These plastics will never biodegrade; they will simply break down into smaller and smaller pieces which become harder and harder to clean up. Many different ocean creatures ingest plastic because they mistake it for food. This in turn can mean that we will be eating plastic if we eat fish that consumed plastic. However, many ocean creatures that eat larger plastics may not be able to survive, like sea turtles mistaking plastic bags for jellyfish. This sounds pretty bleak, but we can help stop the addition of plastic to our ocean by reducing the amount of plastic we use in our daily lives. At restaurants, you can ask for no straw with your drink. At the grocery store, bring reusable bags and avoid using plastic bags. At the coffee shop, bring your own thermos or tumbler for your favorite beverage.
World Ocean Day is a time for us to connect with people on a global level to celebrate our shared ocean that connects us all. This year’s focus is on protecting at least 30% of our blue planet by the year 2030 (30×30). Leaders in over 90 countries have already adopted the 30×30 goal! According to the World Ocean Day network, less than 17% of land and 8% of the ocean worldwide is currently protected. You can make your voice heard though by sending a letter to your nation’s leaders saying that you want them to support the 30×30 movement. Use this link to sign and send your letter today and join the movement! To learn more, come out to the Lehigh Valley Zoo on June 8, 2022 for a fun day of ocean themed activities and educational opportunities!
Written by Tara Mlodzienski
Lehigh Valley Zoo | Schnecksville, PA