6 actions you can take to help protect our oceans


Despairing after last night’s Blue Planet? Don’t, says Emmelie Brownlee, we can all make a difference so let’s start today

If you watched the final episode of Blue Planet 2 last night, I don’t need to convince you that we must urgently act to protect our world’s oceans – and the stunning, diverse and intelligent species that live there. 

The last six weeks have made for compelling, yet heartbreaking viewing. Who can forget ‘Percy the persistent’ tusk fish, who has ‘lost his castle’ as sea acidification (from increased carbon emissions) bleaches the coral of the Great Barrier Reef?

It’s easy to feel paralysed in the face of such a huge problem. But there are so many things we can all do to make a difference, and we can get started right away. 

Refuse single-use plastic

Plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals

I’m going to be frank: there’s no excuse to still be using plastic bags, takeaway coffee cups and plastic water bottles. Invest in reusable alternatives  – our zero-waste survival kit might come in handy. It’s easy and cost-effective after the initial investment. 

Other easily avoidable, replaceable or unnecessary items include plastic cotton buds, straws, and plastic packaging. You can find out more about the plastic problem with Sky’s Ocean Rescue documentary.

Beware microplastics

With growing concerns about their impact on marine and human health, it’s great that the UK government has announced it will ban the sale of products containing microbeads from next June. These tiny bits of polluting plastic are killing fish

But this is only half the story. There are other sources of microplastics, including glitter and clothes. The biggest culprit, however, is single-use plastic which breaks down into smaller pieces – another reason to reduce your use.  

Choose MSC-certified fish, and eat less of it

Around 85% of the world’s fisheries are fully- to over-exploited, depleted, or in a state of collapse. We can mitigate this by choosing responsibly sourced fish eg certified MSC.

But ultimately, if we really want to protect fish, we need to eat fewer of them. The NHS has some tips on where to get your fatty acids from instead.

Switch to eco-products

When I moved home earlier this year, I had to buy some emergency ‘normal’ washing liquid (a very popular brand). On the back, it says ‘harmful to aquatic life, with long-lasting effects’ – it’s so messed up that we just accept that!

There are lots of alternatives to using polluting cleaning products, many of which are available in supermarkets. Or you can make your own (very cheaply) with ingredients like lemon juice, vinegar and baking soda. 

Reduce your carbon footprint

Did you know that our oceans produce more than half our oxygen via the plants that live there? And they’re dying as the sea gets hotter. As we rely quite heavily on oxygen for, you know, breathing, we need to halt this warming.

What’s more, our oceans are also the world’s largest ‘carbon sink’, absorbing around 40% of the carbon dioxide we emit. But as a warmer ocean can hold less carbon than a cooler one, they are losing this ability.

Check out these 15 ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

Lend your voice

I’m not talking about giving voices to the penguins while watching Blue Planet, as much fun as that is (I refuse to believe it’s just me that does that).

Don’t forget about the creatures we’ve all fallen in love with over the last six weeks (even the bobbit). Be a champion for our oceans, the animals that live there and the humans that depend on them (that’s all of us by the way). Let other people know about the problem, and what actions they can take.

I’ve heard it said many times that individuals can only do so much and companies need to take more responsibility for making these changes. This is true, but they need to know that the demand is there so write letters, tweet them and mention it in store.

In the words of Sir David Attenborough, “How could I look my grandchildren in the eye and say what I knew what was happening – and I did nothing?”

Learn more about One Planet Living, our vision of a world where everyone, everywhere lives happy, healthy lives within the limits of the planet, leaving space for wildlife and wilderness.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

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