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Ocean Issues

(above photo: Great South Channel, off Martha’s Vineyard. ©Carl Safina. Common dolphins.)

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. Learn more about what you can do to help here:

Prevent plastic trash from getting into the oceans. Here are some tips to help you reduce your use of plastic products, so less of it ends up 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 garment bag to your dry cleaner

Support marine protected areas. Marine protected areas serve as refuges for marine life. They’re places where fish, marine mammals, corals and other creatures can live without being exploited for human use. Nominate a marine area you want to see protected through Mission Blue’s Hope Spot program, here.

Help keep the oceans as quiet as possible. It’s well known that human-created noises from ships, oil and gas exploration and military exercises are harmful to marine creatures. You can help keep the oceans as quiet as possible by:

  • Buying locally (so you’re not supporting trans-ocean shipment of goods
  • Avoiding engine-powered recreation in sensitive ocean areas
  • Keeping your boat engine in good order, reducing the amount  of noise it emits
  • Commenting on proposals and legislation that affects marine noise
    • There are two major military exercises that would cause large amounts of ocean noise that are currently under NOAA review. While NOAA’s public commenting period remains open, you can write letters to NOAA here. A sample letter might read: “I oppose NOAA authorization of these military exercises because they would cause harmful ocean noise. Scientists are aware that increased background noise in the oceans–caused by ships, military exercises and energy exploration–can cause marine animals to change their natural behavior and experience hearing loss, prevent them from hearing important sounds, and can make it more difficult to communicate with other animals. To prevent potential deaths of marine mammals, I call on NOAA to halt the approval of these military exercises.”

Take part in a beach cleanup. Beach cleanups are a good way to remove trash from marine ecosystems, preventing harm to marine and coastal creatures. Look for cleanup locations near you through the Ocean Conservancy.

Get involved in ocean planning. Check out the following opportunities to engage with policymakers currently deciding the fate of the world’s oceans in the Eastern United States: