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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:
Push for Southern Resident Killer Whale conservation
Prevent plastic trash from getting into the oceans


Push for Southern Resident Killer Whale conservation
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The Southern Resident Killer Whales are a unique population of endangered killer whales living off the Pacific Northwest coast that exclusively eats salmon, instead of also eating marine mammals like many other killer whales. But salmon populations in the region are dwindling due to overfishing, habitat destruction and hydroelectric dams, and this is causing the Southern Residents to starve…because they will only eat salmon.

There are three pods, or families, of these killer whales: J, K and L. Each individual whale is named for its number and pod. The Center for Whale Research has recently confirmed that Southern Resident Killer Whales J17, K25 and L84 are dead, bringing the population down to 73 Southern Resident Killer Whales. These whales are long-lived, but reproduce very slowly. Successful births in recent years have been very rare.

It’s clear to whale researchers that the Southern Residents will go extinct if we don’t take drastic and necessary actions to save them. You can help by continuing to push Washington State Governor Jay Inslee to take actions that can help the Southern Residents. Thus far, he’s been an active supporter of legislation that can help these whales.

Here’s what to tell him: Emphasize the continued importance of increasing the number of salmon available to the Southern Residents by removing the Snake River Dams; and cutting pollution by stopping the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, shutting down fish farms, fighting toxic dumping; reducing ship traffic where whales congregate; and taking action on climate change. You can contact him online or by phone at +1-360-902-4111.

In 2019 Jonathan Wilkinson, minister of Canada’s Fisheries and Oceans unit, passed a set of rules closing some salmon fisheries and requiring increased distance between boaters and whales in a bid to help the Southern Residents. You can help push further actions to save the whales forward by also reaching out to him and showing your support of dam closures, salmon conservation, climate action, pollution reduction, an end to pipeline expansion, and increased awareness of the Southern Residents’ plight. Find contact information for Minister Wilkinson and his office here.

You can also help out the Southern Residents by making changes in your everyday life:

-Tell everyone you know about the Southern Residents and ask them to also take action.

-Stop buying, eating and ordering salmon.

-Ride your bike, walk, take public transit, carpool, and buy locally to reduce your carbon footprint.

-Buy organic, so you don’t support farmers who grow plants with toxic chemicals

-Decrease your plastic consumption by using reusable products and buying unpackaged items.

-Turn your lights off to use less electricity (some of which could be hydroelectric).


Prevent plastic trash from getting into the oceans
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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)