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What You Can Do – Home & Away

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What You Can Do – Home & Away

The world’s oceans and seas are suffering; every day hear of the escalating issues – from marine pollution and overfishing to mass tourism impacting marine ecosystems.  The problem seems large, however, each and every one of us has the ability to make small changes in our day to day lives, that when combined will have a BIG impact upon the health of our seas, and decrease our contribution to climate change.

The list below outlines simple changes you can make every day, that will enable you to do your part in contributing towards a healthy marine environment.

At Home

1. Live Sustainably, reduce your carbon footprint

Aim to reduce your contribution to climate change by making small changes.  For example, leave the car at home and use alternative transport when possible.  Be conscious of your energy and natural resource consumption at home and at work; switch to fluorescent light bulbs, buying locally grown produce, all the way through to installing solar panels, low flow water taps, growing your own vegetables, and so much more!  CLICK HERE for 25+ ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

2. Careful Consumerism

What you consume directly impacts the health of the world’s oceans.  Therefore, being a careful consumer can really make a big difference. Simply by choosing ocean-friendly seafood, we can help protect the world’s oceans.  Global fish populations are rapidly being depleted due to demand, loss of habitat, and unsustainable fishing practices. At this rate, it is estimated that within 20-30 years, all viable fish stocks will collapse.  When purchasing seafood (at home or eating out), help reduce the demand for exploited species by choosing seafood that is both healthy and sustainable.  Choosing sustainable seafood is easy, check these sustainable seafood guides, or search for a guide local to your country or area.

WWF Sustainable Seafood Guide (Europe, Indonesia, Russia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore)
Sustainable Seafood Guide (Australia)      Sustainable Seafood Guide (USA)

3. Be an advocate for healthy oceans and seas

Learn what you can… and then tell others!  The more you learn about the issues facing our oceans (our life support system!) the more you’ll realise how important it is, and the more you will want to care about it. then you can share this knowledge to educate and inspire change! Simply by reading this page and passing on what you know to others, you are helping to influence the state of the ocean.

4. Beach clean up / take care of our beaches

Many coastal downs participate in beach cleanups. Check your local area for regular beach cleanups and join in, or in areas that don’t have beach clean up, organise yourself – you’ll be surprised how many others will join in.  And when recreating on beaches, always clean up after yourself – never leave any rubbish behind, never remove wildlife/coral, or interfere with any marine life.

5. Use fewer plastic products

Currently, every single ocean and sea in the world contains plastic debris; this debris contributes to habitat degradation, and either directly or indirectly kill thousands of marine animals each year. Plastics are now so common in the ocean that vast “garbage islands” exist in the world’s oceans, and every ocean/sea on the planet contains microplastics.

Even if you don’t litter, parts of your plastic waste will end up in the ocean, so the best way to limit your impact is to use less plastic.  Carry a reusable water bottle and avoid plastic bags (2 of the most common causes of plastic waste), recycle where possible.  Avoid un-necessary plastic use (ie: food wrap, excessive packaging, etc)… it’s quite simple to reduce plastic consumption.  All you need to do is start!

6. Keep toxins out of your home

Many of our cosmetics and household products contain toxic chemicals, and even just a tiny amount from each household contributes to what is a huge impact on ocean health.  Our soaps, shampoos, conditioner, laundry powders/liquids and household cleaners often contain compounds that can lead to harmful algae blooms – killing corals and choking waterways.  Chlorine bleach is highly toxic to fish and motor oil contains heavy metals that can end up in the fish we eat.  NEVER pour bleach, motor oil or other chemicals down the drain, or into sewers; check with your local council regarding disposal of chemicals.  AVOID USING and use of non-biodegradable shampoos, conditioners, laundry and dishwashing.

While Travelling or Away

Whether it be divers and snorkelers, surfers, or those that simply enjoy the view… every year, millions of people across the world flock to the coastlines to recreate on beaches, in the waves and under the water.  These millions of people have a significant impact on the health of the oceans and seas they recreate in.  From mass tourism, through to remote location tourism – irresponsible travel can cause stress and damage to a marine environment.

1. Check your sunscreen and cosmetic products

Millions of people in the water each year, means millions of people covered in sunscreen.  But unfortunately one of the main ingredients in sunblock (oxybenzone) inhibits the growth of baby corals, and kills coral polyps. Across the world coral reefs are increasingly showing damage caused by the presence of sunblock in the water.  Always travel with reef safe and biodegradable suncream – whilst not widespread in retail shops, it is relatively easy to find.

Key ingredients to avoid in sunscreen:
 benzophenone/oxybenzone, paraben, cinnamate and camphor derivatives.  Also be mindful of ingredients in shampoo, conditioner, soap etc – ensure anything you are travelling with is biodegradable and reef safe.

2. Take only photos, leave only footprints

Do not take anything from the marine environment; never collect shells, corals, rocks, or dead or alive animals.  This collecting has a direct impact upon a marine environment, particularly when millions of people across the world participate in collecting.
Take photos only… but carefully, do not touch or disturb the marine life for the sake of a photo, and limit flash photography/bright lights.

3. Be a responsible diver, snorkeler, swimmer and boat operator

When you are in or on the water – do not touch or disturb any wildlife.  Never touch, grab or stand on coral. Never touch, chase or harass wildlife.

When driving or on board a boat, ensure the boat is not damaging corals (ie: scraping or dropping anchor), or when approaching wildlife on a boat – approach and depart slowly, and do not get too close. Do your best to educate other tourist to do the same.

4. Choose your operator carefully

When choosing your accommodation, tour company or dive/snorkel/vessel operator, do some research into their environmental practice.  From commitment to conservation and sustainability, to their dive guides attentiveness and behaviour, to their food sources and waste management.  Try as best you can to choose an operator that is both aware of their environmental responsibility and operates accordingly.

5. Share your observations

Should you see any behaviours that are not appropriate from an environmental perspective, share these concerns with the operator, local council, or any other relevant stakeholders.  Often this can be the instigator for behaviour change or better management and regulation.

6. Take your batteries and plastic waste home

Batteries are wonderful when in use.. but incredibly toxic to an environment if not disposed of correctly.
If you are in a location that does not have adequate waste management, take old batteries and plastic with you for disposal when you return to a location with suitable means means to dispose of or recycle these items.

7. Donations to communities: choose wisely

When making donations or purchases in local communities, ensure you are donating to what is ultimately a sustainable and environmentally friendly practice. In some instances, well intentioned donations can lead to the enabling of inappropriate or unsuitable practice.