Ocean Issues

The oceans cover more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, and yet they’re one of the least-understood habitats on the planet. And unfortunately, they’re one of the most threatened–by things like climate change, overfishing, bycatch, plastic pollution, and more. More and greater efforts to protect the oceans and the life they contain are vital.

If you care about ocean issues, here are some things you can do:
Ban intentional balloon releases across Suffolk County, New York
Stop supporting Icelandic whale hunts
Prevent plastic trash from getting into the oceans

Ban intentional balloon releases across Suffolk County, New York
ACT BY July 15, 2019

Balloons have come to define celebrations of all kinds, from anniversaries to birthdays to marriages to births. However, helium and other gas-filled balloons are commonly lost and also intentionally released into the skies. And just as balloons go up, they must come down: And as they do, they snag on trees, electrical wires and buildings, and blow across land and sea.

According to marine research organizations such as the Ocean Conservancy, Mylar, plastic-foil and latex balloons are among the most commonly found floating trash around American shorelines. And they also end up in parks, roadways and residences. Balloons and other types of plastic litter are not only unsightly but pose grave danger to wildlife and the places in Suffolk County (and beyond) that they call home. That people would intentionally send plastic litter into nature is unconscionable.

You can help push Suffolk County to implement its own law banning the intentional releases of helium and other gas-filled balloons! Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker is now sponsoring a bill that would do just that. Come out and show your support at a public hearing on Tuesday, July 16, 2019, at 2pm EST at the Rose Caracappa Auditorium (General Legislature) in Hauppauge, New York. If you cannot attend, but would like to submit a public comment to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, email your letter to Legislator Anker here.

Read this public comment submitted by the Safina Center for some inspiration.

Stop supporting Icelandic whale hunts
Iceland, with its beautiful nature and wildlife, has become a popular tourist destination in recent years. However, Iceland continues to hunt whales despite belonging to the International Whaling Commission, which placed a ban on commercial whaling in 1986 to try to bring an end to the practice worldwide. What’s more, the Icelandic government just announced it will allow for around 2,000 whales to be killed over the next five years.

Much of the meat from the whales caught ends up on the dinner plates of tourists–there is no longer a strong local demand for whale meat. You can help make a change by refusing to eat any whale meat offered to you if you visit Iceland. And maybe you will reconsider visiting Iceland all together. Show your support for keeping whales alive by going whale watching in countries that do not participate in whaling. Japan, Norway and Iceland have continued whaling despite international efforts to conserve–rather than hunt–whales.

CALL OR WRITE Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir asking that her country adhere to international agreements to stop commercial whaling. Here’s the number to her office: Tel. +354 545 8400. And the address: Stjornarradshusid vid Laekjartorg, 101, Reykjavik, Iceland and the telephone for the minister of Environment and Natural Resources: Tel. +354 545 8600. And the address: Skuggasund 1, 101, Reykjavik, Iceland. Email for Ministry of Env:, and email for prime minister’s office is Call and write!

Prevent plastic trash from getting into the oceans
Plastic pollution is a global issue affecting land, air and water, all over the world. It’s a problem that’s very visible in the oceans, as plastic tends to travel far and wide through the sea. Humanity’s decades of plastic overuse, poor waste management practices and bad littering habits have led to the natural environment being completely filled with plastic items and particles called microplastic. Both intact plastic items and microplastic pose a threat to the health of wildlife, and humans too! Cleaning up plastic out of the environment is a good way to bring attention to the issue, but experts say it is critical to focus on preventing further use of plastic and the mismanagement of plastic waste.

Here are some ways you can help reduce plastic pollution in the oceans:

  • Avoid purchasing food and products wrapped in plastic
  • Use a reusable water bottle. Don’t buy bottled water or other drinks
  • Don’t use products that contain microbeads. (Check by using the Beat the Microbead website and app)
  • Cook at home more often; eat takeout less
  • Buy secondhand items since they usually don’t come in packaging
  • Recycle the plastic items you do use (instead of throwing them away in the trash)
  • Support legislation banning or taxing plastic bags, styrofoam and other plastic products
  • Buy things in bulk to cut down on plastic packaging
  • Bring a reusable shopping bag to stores, and a reusable garment bag to your dry cleaner
  • Avoid using fossil fuels, byproducts of which are used to create plastic (not to mention, contribute to climate change)
  • Support campaigns that encourage less use, or an end to the use, of plastic. We encourage you to check out the OneLessStraw Campaign, organized by conservation nonprofit One More Generation (OMG), which was founded in 2009 by then 8.5-and-7-year-old brother and sister duo Carter and Olivia Ries

(cover photo: Short-beaked common dolphins in the Great South Channel, off Martha’s Vineyard. ©Carl Safina)