On June 08th, together with millions of people around the globe, I celebrated World Oceans Day, an opportunity to reflect on the importance of oceans in our everyday lives and what we can do to preserve its natural resources for future generations.
With shocking recent news announcing that marine life is facing extinction, that 36 percent of sea turtles are affected by marine debris, that numerous shark species could be extinct in just over a decade, … it’s hard to believe that the future of our oceans is in our hands and could depend on our everyday actions to protect it.
Yet, contributing to protecting our oceans and reducing pollution can be as easy as taking these few simple steps:
- Choose items at the store that come in less packaging and recycle whenever possible.
- Avoid using single use plastic items such as plastic cups, forks, bags, ….
- Participate in cleanup efforts. If you’re a diver, Dive Against Debris with the Project AWARE Foundation. The data collected from these events are critical to inform, persuade and empower policy makers and other stakeholders to establish and improve integrated solid waste management practices. Practices where we reduce, reuse, and recycle our way to an ocean free of marine debris.
- Set an example for your children. Teach them to protect the environment … or let them teach you!
Through cleanup events, the Ocean Conservancy, the Project AWARE Foundation, and the Marine Conservation Society are monitoring the types of litter that wash up on beaches and poses threats to marine wildlife. Cigarette butts, food containers, cans, rope, discarded fishing nets and plastic bottles have all been present in cleanups for the past 25 years. Cleanup participants have found enough cups, plates, forks, knives and spoons over the last 25 years to host a picnic for 2 million people.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the sources of pollution include poorly managed landfills, riverine transport, untreated sewage, storm water discharges and industrial and manufacturing facilities with inadequate controls. Coordinated strategies are needed at local, national, regional and international levels.
The recent introduction of the Trash Free Seas Act, a bill that calls for research, assessment, reduction and prevention of ocean litter, is a great step forward. But policymakers aren’t the only ones with a responsibility to deal with the issue; we all have a role to play in keeping our ocean clean and free of litter. Relying only on policymakers to fix the issue of marine pollution is not good enough.
Ending ocean pollution is an important and worthy goal. Efforts should take into account all forms of pollution and put greater responsibility on us – the consumer – to think about where that food wrapper will end-up if we choose to drop it on the ground. When debris falls from our hands to the sea, it could be there for generations to come …. so think twice, dispose of your rubbish properly and reduce, reuse, recycle!