Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ocean’s 11 things you need to know

1. What’s healthy for the ocean, and me to eat?
If you’re like me and enjoy seafood, but also care deeply about the ocean, here’s a tip that will help you make choices as a consumer that are healthy for you and the ocean. Visit and download a Seafood Watch Pocket Guide. You can click on your state on the map provided, and get the guide that’s specific to your region.

2. What harms our ocean’s the most?
Well…toxic waste, boating pollution, and garbage dumping. But, the one we can most easily control on an individual level is what most all of us have enjoyed our drinking water out of. Yep, you guess it – plastic! Why is plastic debris so common, and what can we do about it?

According to, the word plastic is used to describe a collection of artificial chemical compounds that come in just about every shape size and form.
Also, “Plastics will degrade into small pieces until you can’t see them anymore (so small you’d need a microscope or better!). Because the ocean is a cold, dark place, this process happens slower in water than on land. But, do plastics fully “go away?” Full degradation into carbon dioxide, water, and inorganic molecules is called mineralization. Most commonly used plastics do not mineralize (or go away) in the ocean and instead break down into smaller and smaller pieces. We call these pieces “microplastics” if they are less than 5mm long. Bio-based and truly biodegradable plastics break down in a compost pile or landfill, but are generally not designed to degrade as quickly in the ocean”.
This is why it’s so critical for us to significantly reduce the amount of plastic we use. An easy place to start is by purchasing reusable beverage containers, and tote bags to bring to the grocery store. Both are very cost effective, and if we all committed to using them as replacements, the amount of plastic we use annually would be greatly reduced.

3. How can I prevent harmful things from ending up in the ocean?
Sign up to clean up! If you go to the Ocean Conservancy’s website you can sign up for a beach clean up. If you can’t find one in your area, you can propose to have one at a beach close to you. Very cool, and it’s what we did here at What You Can Do.

4. Does recycling help?
Yes! Become a recycling ninja. If you recycle things like plastic, there’s a greater chance they won’t end up in the ocean. Use this link to download a recycling pocket guide from the Ocean’s Conservancy website:

5. How is marine life affected by waste products?
According to a 1980 Fish and Wildlife service study showed 45 of 50 albatrosses (90 percent) on Midway Island had plastics in their intestines. When plastic film and other debris settle on the bottom of the ocean floor, it can suffocate immobile plants and animals. In areas with some currents, such as coral reefs, debris can wrap around living coral, smothering the animals and breaking up their coraline structures”.

We’ve all seen the horrifying images of marine life caught in the plastic six pack rings. Knowing just how vulnerable marine life is, and helpless against our trash, we must do something to prevent it from ending up in their habitat where the consequences can be fatal.

6. How can I help marine life?
There are many organizations that will allow you to symbolically adopt marine life, such as the Save the Manatee Club. Funds collected by these organizations go towards efforts to help protect endangered species and their habitat.
Here are links to similar organizations:
Adopt a whale or dolphin through the Whale and Dolphin Conservancy Society:
Protect penguins and sea otters:
Here’s a link with awesome suggestions on how to protect coral reefs.

7. What’s global warming got to do with it??
According to – “Fish and other marine life could be left gasping for breath in oxygen-poor oceans for thousands of years to come if global warming continues to go unchecked.
Go to this link to read Ker Than’s article on the effects global warming will have on our oceans.

8. I like to fish, how can I help?
• Bring ALL of your trash back to shore for proper disposal in trash cans or recycling bins, including all pieces of fishing line and other fishing gear.
• Remember that it is illegal to dispose of any plastic in all U.S. waters and anywhere at sea.
• Support environmentally responsible marinas.

For more great tips, head to this link:

9. How do cleaning products affect the ocean?
According to, “detergents, degreasers, stain removers and pesticides have made our homes miniature chemical factories. Hazardous chemicals endanger the environment by contaminating our groundwater, lakes and oceans. If these hazardous products in the home are ingested, absorbed through the skin or inhaled they can cause illness that may only appear years later.

 One of the biggest culprits in ocean pollution is phosphates, common in laundry detergents and some cleaning products. The average consumer nationwide uses about 30 pounds of laundry detergent a year; all together, Americans use about 8.3 billion pounds of dry detergent and a billion gallons of liquid detergent each year! High phosphate levels can kill life in rivers, streams and oceans by causing "algae blooms." Algae slimes dense enough to suffocate marine life have been swelling around the world, especially in coastal bays. They are largely caused by fertilizing pollutants called "nutrients" in human sewage and farm runoff”.

What can we do about this? – start using environmentally friendly products like vinegar, lemon, and baking soda. Or you can purchase products that bear labels indicating they are safe for the environment.

10. How can I take action?
According to the Surfrider foundation, if you are passionate about water quality monitoring, there are 3 simple steps to have your voice heard by the big guys who make all the decisions.
1. Find your state and identify your Senator
2. Tell them to support federal funding for the Beach Act
3. Share this with your friends
For more info, head to the Surfrider Foundations website

11. Let’s all enjoy the ocean for as long as we can by keeping it healthy and clean! Being that I am from California, one of my favorite places to go on Earth is the beach! I love to snorkel, boogie board (really wish I knew how to surf), and just marvel at how awesome, important, and alive our ocean is while standing on the beach with warm sand between my toes. I am in constant awe of it’s beauty, power, and incredible species that inhabit it. Every time I see a coral reef dying, or a plastic bag dancing in the current, I am crushed. Let’s make sure that the next generations get to enjoy the same things that we do! If we don’t take action, the likelihood of this being a possibility is slim. Come on, let’s help protect our ocean…because after all, think of how much it has done for us.

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