Simple Ways Travellers Can Protect The Ocean
The ocean is crucial for travelers. It provides transport, food, recreational activities. It regulates weather. It is home to some of the most diverse ecosystems on earth, and holds many mysteries in its deep waters. As a certified diver, I have dived in a multitude of places around the world – from the cold waters of New England to the warm waters of the Great Barrier Reef, and from the dive capital of the world, Key Largo, Florida, to the distant islands in Fiji. In planning my travels, being near the ocean is always an enticing factor.
Aside from merely being a tool for tourism, the ocean is an absolutely crucial part of regulating our world. It is a resource that we use not only for human pursuits, but it regulates biological and geological processes alike, such as weather and marine life. In recent decades, shocking truths have been revealed about the human impact on the ocean. This includes ocean gyres filled with trash and worldwide coral bleaching – both of which were discussed in-depth in the Netflix documentary, Chasing Coral.
Travelers especially need to be mindful because carbon emissions from flying contribute greatly to global climate change. For the sake of divers, snorkelers, beach goers, and just everyday people, we need to find more ways to protect the ocean.
Quick Facts about Human Impact on the Environment:
- Marine algae produces more oxygen than all the trees on land combined.
- More than 8-million metric tons of trash are thrown into our oceans every year.
- Within the next 30 years annual bleaching will kill most of the world’s corals (if we don’t make a change).
- Up to 90% of the world’s coral will die by 2050 (unless we prevent it).
What is coral, and what is coral bleaching?
A coral is an animal made up of hundreds or thousands of smaller animals, called polyps, that work together with algae to create a diverse ecosystem.
The ocean temperature has been slowly increasing due to global climate change which has produced an effect in coral called coral bleaching. This occurs because the coral gets stressed from the heat, and the algae which gives coloring to the coral, leaves. If the water temperature were then to cool, the algae would return to the coral, but if the temperature is too high for too long, the coral will remain white, like a skeleton, and die.
Why should we care?
It might seem like if the coral is dying, it doesn’t really matter. You might be saying, “who cares?” But just because you can’t see the affects, doesn’t mean the issue is any less important.
“Less than 1% of people will ever put on a mask and snorkel and see the ocean firsthand. As a result, the ocean is very much out of sight and out of mind,” says Robert Vevers, the main character in Chasing Coral. But the ocean actually affects the entire planet and all of us who live on it.
Among other things, coral reefs also: protect coastlines from damage from storms and other natural disasters, provide habitats for marine life, regulate chemicals in the water and air, recycles nutrients between land and sea life, sustain schools of fish that humans use to eat, provide destinations for tourism, and MORE. Half a billion people worldwide depend on coral reefs for food and work.
Coral reefs also have been studied to produce medicines for humans. Among some drugs that have already been created include: secosteroids that treat asthma, arthritis and other inflammatory disorders and bryostatin 1 which is an anti-cancer compound. Blue-green algae has even been used to treat small-cell lung cancer, melanoma, and some tumors.
What can we do?
Spread the word!
Also check out 50 Reefs for more ways you can help!
We urgently need to make significant changes to our lifestyle and spread the word to educate people about the severity of these issues. Widespread change can be extremely difficult, and plastic is convenient. But making some small changes for the greater good of the future of our planet is not so hard. We need to shift everyone’s mindset on the environment so that everyone feels personally accountable and has some stake in it. For the sake of marine habitats, having clean drinkable water, and ensuring a future for coming generations, we need to all educate one another and make a change.
We can all make small changes to reduce our carbon emissions and our negative impacts on the environment:
- Reuse water bottles and utensils instead of getting plastic water bottles and silverware.
- Don’t use straws.
- Reuse bags when grocery shopping.
- Avoid products with extra packaging.
- Invest in alternate energy, like solar powered divices.
- Avoid fast fashion by going thrift shopping.
- Fly in economy class.
- Use more public transportation or carpool.
- Hang dry your laundry.
- Combine trips, stay longer in a specific country or only visit each place once.
- Book flights on airlines that offer carbon offsets, such as: Air Canada, Lufthansa, United Airlines and Delta.