You’ve probably heard the term conservation being thrown around quite a bit by now – unless you’ve been living under a rock – but either way, don’t worry, this is a judgement-free zone. I’ll let you in on a little secret though, until pretty recently I knew next to nothing about conservation myself. I only really started considering the subject when I decided to write this article. So, see this article as a general one about conservation written by someone who is also learning about it as she goes along.
Let’s start with the basics, what is conservation? Or more specifically, what is ocean conservation?
Marine conservation is about focussing on limiting human-caused damage to marine ecosystems and or restoring damaged marine ecosystems. This term also includes the preservation of vulnerable marine species.
Okay, great, now we know what conservation is but why is it important? What difference could you possibly be making on the larger scale of things?
The simple answer is: Yes, it is important and you should get involved immediately!
Not a good enough answer for you? Alright, how about this: We can argue about a lot of things regarding the state of our planet (and people certainly do) but one undeniable thing, is the rapid decline of our marine life and its environments.
According to research, 60% of our reefs are already seriously damaged by overfishing, destructive fishing, anchor damage, coral bleaching, coral mining and disease. Coral reefs are a vital part of the marine ecosystems since it supports 25% of all marine life, which includes 800 species of reef-building corals and more than one million animals and plant species. Over the last 100 years, 15 ocean animals have gone extinct and another 72 are on the verge of extinction (about 1 million plant and animal species).
Do you know what the sad part is about this dramatic extinction? It’s all our fault…
So, what can you do to help?
A part of me always felt like conservation was meant for an elite radical few. You all know who I’m talking about, all those girls and guys running up and down beach shores collecting litter, sporting good cause bracelets and diving with sharks whilst wearing a striped patterned wetsuit (which frankly sounds more than a little daunting to me!). Now, I don’t know about you, but I am not that girl and I’ll probably never be her. But you know what I recently discovered? That’s totally fine! You don’t have to be that person to make a difference.
I read a post on Instagram recently that expressed this message beautifully: “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
Here are some practical steps you can take that will make a difference:
- Firstly, recycle! If not just to fight global warming, do it to stop the waste from ending up in the ocean. 10% of the plastic produced by the world ends up in the ocean, that amounts to about 260 million tons of plastic a year!
- How about skipping on single-use plastic entirely? Single-use plastic includes plastic shopping bags, straws, soda and water bottles, and most food packaging. These are easy things to change by for example carrying around your own bottled water, taking along reusable shopping bags when you go shopping and using refillable travel mugs. You can now even get different kinds of straws made from bamboo, silicon or even funky stainless-steel ones like those from #ProjectAware.
- Check what’s going on in your medicine cabinets. Now, hear me out! I’m not saying you should chuck every supplement you own but it is worth it to have a look at those labels. You might actually be ingesting omega 3’s in the form of shark liver oil or calcium derived from coral reefs. There is quite a bit of debate on the matter but just make informed decisions and try to steer clear from supplements which could be detrimental to marine life.
- Become involved in local beach clean-ups or you can go a step further and start diving against debris. You can adopt a dive site and commit to collecting debris and carrying out surveys on the debris collected. This is a fun and effective way to make a difference.
- Educate yourself by enrolling in a conservation course. The more you know, the better you will be able to make a difference yourself and encourage others to do the same. See more about our Shark Life Conservation Workshops.
Every little bit makes a difference and by that, I mean you can make a difference. Just start with something easy and small and let it flow from there. And if you can inspire the next person to do the same, we might just end up making a bigger difference than we could’ve ever imagined.
by Katia E Theron