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:


Stop Trump from opening US waters to offshore oil and gas drilling! 

America’s coastlines are among the most amazing and ecologically important places on Earth. But Donald Trump and his administration have announced their plans to sell drilling rights off the Pacific, Atlantic, Gulf and Arctic coasts. Giving these places to the world’s biggest polluters–oil and gas companies–would harm marine life, destroy beaches and reefs, and put the wellbeing and economies of coastal communities in peril.

The best way to prevent climate change from worsening is to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Drilling for more oil and gas is an environmental injustice to the world. What’s more, Trump’s promise of more long-term jobs and energy security are unfounded. Help block the plan to exploit these beautiful places for a very dirty and dangerous energy source and instead invest in clean renewable energy resources such as wind and solar, which would create lasting jobs and energy security.

The US Department of Interior has recently opened up a public commenting period on Trump’s plan. Make your voice heard by commenting here today before the period closes!

Help protect the most important fish in the sea. Click here to download and read our Menhaden Action Paper

Humpback whale eating menhaden in waters off New York City. Photo: Artie Raslich/Gotham Whale

Support Senate Bill S-203 in Canada. Canada’s legislature is currently hearing a bill that would end whale captivity in the country. If the legislature does not pass the bill, 1) the unrestricted import of wild caught whales and dolphins into Canada can continue; (2) the export of calves from Marineland can continue; (3) the bill could be easily amended to clarify it does not derogate from Aboriginal rights in relation to carved narwhal tusks or other products; (4) the Senate will be taking no responsibility for the fact that self-aware, intelligent, social, emotional creatures are being kept in cruel confined and isolated conditions in Canada. Tell the senators on this bill’s committee that it’s time to take action to help prevent more whales from being brought into captivity. Contact them at:

The Clerk is Max Hollings:

The best way to address a senator in an email is simply “Senator _________” so ‘Senator’ then their last name.

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 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.

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.

You can also help by advocating for America’s investment in its national marine sanctuaries.  Sign the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s petition 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.