In Idaho, ocean conservation is not entirely a wide spread topic. The state is far enough inland that community members do not feel the potential repercussions of their habits. However, that needs to change.
The ocean is home to some. It is not necessarily home to people, but it is home to a vast population of marine life and ecosystems that have existed for thousands of years. The ocean is so massive that is has yet to be completely explored. This world is as fragile as it is beautiful, and the habits of human waste, as well as dangerous acts of environmental degradation like overfishing, are putting the Earth’s oceans at risk.
According to the Oceanic Institute, the oceans cover at least 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and contain up to 97 percent of the Earth’s water. The oceans also contain over one million discovered species of plants and animals, with a potential of nine million species yet to be discovered. According to National Geographic, as of 2015, 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris have been picked up from beaches. Each piece of trash, plastic and microplastic debris is a potential threat to marine life — plant or animal.
Human waste is not the only issue — unsustainable fishing, shark finning, bycatch, tourism and climate change are just a few examples of the many activities negatively affecting the oceans. Climate change has caused coral bleaching, coral death caused by high temperatures, which annihilates homes and hiding places from marine life in the area.
Shark finning is the act of cutting the fins from sharks for shark fin soup. They are then released back into the ocean to die. Sharks are a keystone species to the oceans’ ecosystems, and are often faster than they can repopulate.
Thankfully, there are individuals, companies and organizations that are ready and willing to take a stand and help protect and save the oceans and marine life. Companies like Devoted to the Ocean and Sand Cloud create and sell products, then donate a portion of their net profits to select institutes and organizations. Organizations such as Pacific Marine Mammal Center and Hawai’i Wildlife Fund help save marine animals, educate people and initiate beach cleanups. Individuals who are passionate about the ocean are capable of coming together and making a difference.
When people come together, amazing things can happen. The earth is worth saving, for us and for later generations.
I love the oceans and love the creatures that live there. However, if the unsafe habits of humankind are allowed to continue, these fragile ecosystems will continue to die. The “out of sight, out of mind,” attitude is an easy one to hold, but is extremely dangerous. Individuals should be made aware of the actions of others, the consequences of everyday actions and how each person can help save the world. One person alone can cause a ripple effect that can change the more than one would think.
Mary Phipps can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org