In Honor of the 40th Celebration of Earth Day

Coral Reef, Nemena, FijiApril 21, 2010

Top Ten Actionable Items to Best Ensure a Sustainable Ocean for the Future

The ocean is our life support system that comprises 98 percent of the world's biosphere; recycles carbon, nitrogen, water, and other essential substances; produces 70 to 80 percent of the oxygen we breathe; and contains the greatest diversity and abundance of life on our planet. The ocean works hard for us. Now it is time for us to work on its behalf.

  1. Be smart about the seafood you eat.

    Many fisheries around the world face severe declines due to unsustainable fishing practices. 90 percent of large predatory fish, such as tunas, sharks and swordfish, are gone. There are, however, some fisheries that are doing quite well, thanks to successful management, responsible harvesting, and increased stewardship. You can make a difference by eating only seafood that originates from sustainable sources and avoiding species that are overfished. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Guide can help you make decisions about which seafood to eat, including farmed seafood, and it can be downloaded on our website.

  2. Reduce your plastic consumption.

    Plastic water bottles, wrappers, bags, cigarette butts, and other unacceptable items are accumulating in the oceans at an alarming rate. The North Pacific Gyre is one of many places marine debris accumulates. Most of this marine debris is plastic, which never biodegrades. Instead it breaks down into microscopic pieces that seabirds and fish often mistake for food. By reducing your consumption of plastic items, you can help reduce the amount of harmful trash that ends up in the ocean. Think reusable.

  3. Use environmentally friendly products.

    Many household and garden products, including laundry detergent, dish soap, bathroom cleaners, flame retardants, and garden pesticides, contain harmful synthetic chemicals. Chemicals that go down the drain in your house and driveway can end up in the marine environment, even if you live 1,000 miles away from the ocean. Avoid this by purchasing environmentally friendly household and cleaning products, which are better for both the ocean and your health.

  4. Ride your bike or use public transportation.

    The oceans and their habitats are being affected by climate change. Oceans are getting warmer and more acidic, and impacts are becoming widespread. Coral reefs, the foundation of the world’s tropical marine ecosystems, are dying off at rapid, unprecedented rates. To help save these ecosystems, reduce your carbon footprint by utilizing public transportation or by riding your bike, rather than driving.

  5. Participate in a beach cleanup.

    Local communities and non-profit organizations often sponsor beach cleanups, where you can pick up trash, meet other ocean lovers, and get some exercise in the outdoors. Help protect the marine environment by participating in a clean-up event. Every time you go to the beach, pick up any garbage you see and make sure to take your own garbage back home to dispose of properly.

  6. Avoid coral jewelry and decor.

    Many homes and jewelry boxes are filled with coral that once supported vibrant marine ecosystems. Don’t degrade coral reefs by purchasing products made from corals or any other animals from the sea.

  7. Eat local, organic, and vegetarian food.

    Industrialized agriculture and livestock practices are polluting our oceans. Pesticides, antibiotics, and excess fertilizers are running off the land into rivers and oceans and causing massive “dead” zones, where no sea life can survive. You can stop this by limiting your meat consumption and by eating produce from local, organic farmers that practice environmentally friendly farming methods.

  8. Elect and support ocean-friendly political leaders.

    Educate yourself on the policies of your elected officials and know where they stand on ocean issues. Contact them and let them know that your support is dependent on their stance on marine conservation initiatives. Tell them you support the development of marine protected areas and sustainable fisheries policy.

  9. Spread the word.

    Share your love for the ocean with your friends and family and encourage them to take action. Education is a vital tool for bringing about change. Be an Ambassador of the Environment!

  10. Support a marine non-profit organization.

    Find a dedicated, non-profit group that is working to protect our oceans and the marine environment and see how you can get involved. Many of these organizations depend on committed volunteers to accomplish their goals and are always looking for more help.
    Become a member of Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society….it’s FREE!

Photo: Healthy coral reef. Nemena, Fiji. © Carrie Vonderhaar