10 Of The Biggest Threats To Our Oceans

10 Of The Biggest Threats To Our Oceans, And What We Can Do To Help Minimize The Damage

Who doesn't love a good day at the beach?

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I've been in a very beachy or ocean themed mood lately, and it probably has something to do with the fact that I am currently on vacation in Florida. Anyways, oceans cover about 70 percent of the Earth's surface and even most of that we haven't explored yet.

But, let's face some unfortunate facts, our oceans could be endangered between all of the plastic pollutions among various other things that are a threat to them.

Here is a list of some of those harmful things and what you can try to do to help minimize your impact.

1. Trash, trash, and more trash

trash

YIKES! You all probably know the story of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but unfortunately, there are still tons deep down under the surface that can't easily be picked up.

Sadly, there isn't much one can do to help with this, besides just not letting it get to that point in the first place. For instance, if you see it, pick it up and put it in a trash can.

2. Climate change

21st century ecological sensitivity

Now, I KNOW I've posted a lot of articles about this, but come on, it's important.

One way to combat climate change is to make smarter choices about how we not only eat but travel.

3. Sustainable seafood

fish

You would think that with the word "sustainable," it would be a good thing, but alas it's not. Almost a third of global fish stocks are overfished. Fish that were once extremely abundant, such as bluefin tuna, are now becoming increasingly endangered.

Of course, simply just not eating fish isn't the way to go either. A new app called seafood watch can help you keep away and pick healthier choices instead.

4. Protected areas/habitats

protected marine habitats

Specifically, marine. We all know that parks and protected areas on land help wildlife such as bears, deer, and elephants thrive. The same is true for underwater protected areas. In addition to preserving charismatic and ecologically important marine wildlife, including sharks, dolphins, and corals, protected areas in the ocean can act like savings accounts for fisheries. Fish inside such areas grow larger and generate more offspring.

The problem is that they spill beyond the boundaries of the protected area and are harvested by fisheries as a return on their investment in the park.

One way to help is to back local, national, and international efforts to set up those parks.

5. Fishing subsidies

fishing

Ah, yes. The old Tragedy of the Commons. When there is something seen as a "common" good, more people decide that they are going to go for it because they think that everyone else around them is leading to, in this case, overfishing.

There is a crucial opportunity to take a firm stance on prohibiting harmful fisheries subsidies at the 2019 ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization. We must urge our national leaders to reach an agreement to end subsidies and promote a healthy future for fish and fishermen in our global oceans.

6. Sunscreen

coral safe sunscreen

Beachgoers are in for a lovely surprise to find out that what is protecting them could be destroying corals, many of which are home to marine life.

One way to help with this is to use sunscreen that is reef-friendly.

7. Acidification

acidification

This is what I was talking about when I said that we affect more than just the surface, and it's not just an effect seen in the oceans either. Acidification is the ongoing decrease in the pH of the Earth's oceans, caused by the uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

How to solve this? Reducing our use of so many of things, like fertilizer, may help and then washing it away, or putting plastic down somewhere and forgetting about it.

8. Whaling

killer whales jumping

It's hard to believe commercial whaling still happens, isn't it?

The practice was rampant for so long that many whale species were driven to the brink of extinction. In the US, the North Atlantic right whale is down to about 350 remaining individuals.

Good news is that this is not as popular now as it was before, and the moratorium on commercial whaling Greenpeace and allies won in 1986 — honored by all but Japan, Iceland, and Norway — is slowly helping most of the great whale populations to recover.

9. Humans

i am a human being

And not just us, but the activities we do. Our species put more trash (and has a bigger ecological footprint) than any other species, and most of it begins on land.

10.  Influence your community

porky pig

Even if you are landlocked and the closest ocean is miles and miles away. Every little bit helps.

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Are Plastic Straws Really Killing Sea Turtles?

It's no secret that plastic isn't great for the environment, but how sensationalized is this topic actually becoming?

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When I first saw a video of a sea turtle getting a plastic drinking straw removed from its nostril, I was obviously upset like any other viewer would be. I care a lot about the environment and about animal life and it was upsetting to see that a product of human consumption and ignorant waste was destroying precious parts of our world. I wholeheartedly jumped on the bandwagon of "plastic straws kill sea turtles!!!" but only knew about the issue from this video and what I heard from people or saw on social media. The whole topic of plastic waste into the ocean remained in the back of my mind until the recent pledge of Starbucks to stop using plastic straws in stores by 2020 reminded me of the issue.

As the topic of plastics and their pollution of the environment (largely the oceans) has become so recently powerful I decided to do some research of my own. If I was going to tell people to stop using plastic straws because they were killing sea turtles, I wanted to be sure that I wasn't just repeating everything I heard from social media.

Turns out, plastic straws are hurting sea turtles and other marine life, but a lot of what I thought about plastic waste was exaggerated (at least from what I had heard from others). Sea birds are the most impacted creature by plastic straws, not sea turtles. About 1 million or more seabirds die every year from ingesting plastic straws and choking on them. In research from recent scientific studies, 80-90% of seabirds have some kind of plastic inside of their stomachs. Also, the ecological footprint that plastic straws alone leave on the planet is actually pretty small compared to food waste or fossil fuels.

However, all the buzz about sea turtles may come from the fact that globally 86% of sea turtle species are known to be affected by plastic debris. Overwhelming amounts of plastic garbage in the ocean have caused a steady decline of the leatherback sea turtle over the past several years, so much that they have been placed on the endangered species list. Plastics can hinder eating and consumption, breathing abilities, and even reproductive capabilities of all kinds of sea turtles.

So while plastic straws may not be killing sea turtles in hordes, they are killing sea birds, and plastic overall have caused huge and deadly effects to many sealife species. We have known that plastic is bad for the environment and the oceans for quite a while, given the fact that the Great Garbage Patch was discovered almost 20 years ago, so it's more than time to start caring about the problem. If we can eliminate single-use plastic straws that aren't biodegradable, we can stop using other single-use plastics and make a better effort to reduce our harmful impacts on the oceans. Individually, we can move towards small changes, which can move our society to a more sustainable and healthy place. If you are more interested in this topic, I would suggest reading about how you can make a change or looking at this article and checking out this scientific journal.

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Vinicius Amano

@viniciusamano

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Kudos To Disney World For Practicing Environmental Sustainability On A Large Scale

The Mouse is surely playing a large role in keeping our planet pretty.

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Tuesday, May 28th, 6 a.m., I boarded the airplane bound for sunny Orlando, Fl.

By 12 p.m., I was standing in the middle of Main Street U.S.A., facing a gorgeous view of the bright blue castle I've seen in countless movies for the entirety of my life.

According to MagicGuides.com, 52 million people visit Walt Disney World parks annually, with almost half of that number being attendance to the Magic Kingdom park, respectively.

As I walked through the intense crowds of people from around the globe, I saw an increasing amount of dark blue plastic bags with Cinderella's castle printed on them -- gift shop bags.

With the current dwindling state of the environment, I immediately became distressed thinking about how many of these massive plastic bags would wind up in the oceans or littering the streets and forests until they somewhat decompose over the course of the next 100 years.

Rest assured, a white band lining the top of the bag stated that the sea of plastic bags I saw before my eyes were entirely recyclable, and made 100% from recycled plastic.

Kudos to Disney World, this is a big step towards reaching full environmental sustainability to have a corporation like Disney to widely practice conservation in its' parks that millions of people visit yearly.

The most vital step that Disney took towards sustainability was the complete ban of plastic straws -- the only plastic straws that were dispensed at any park or resort were from Starbucks.

As for the Disney resorts, parks and restaurants, paper straws or no straw at all was given to the customer. This step is vital in the process of environmental sustainability because if plastic straws were distributed, hundreds upon thousands would wind up littering the country due to the mass amount of people visiting the parks.

The resort I stayed at, The Art of Animation Resort, offered refillable plastic mugs for you to keep when you purchase food from the cafeteria. You could refill it for the entirety of your trip free of charge -- aside from this being a huge money saver, this step eliminated the use of hundreds plastic or paper cups that couldn't be recycled.

In Disney Stores around the globe, plastic bags have been banned entirely, and reusable bags are encouraged and available for purchase at the locations, but plastic bags will not be in use.

When they are in use, like at Disney Parks, they are made 100% recyclable. Here, Disney has taken the high road in eliminating their use of plastic bags for eco-friendly ones.

Above all, the most eye-opening part of my visit was when I journeyed through the Savannah on the Safari ride in the Animal Kingdom.

As we passed every animal, our tour guide told us which animals were endangered -- but her insightful notes didn't stop there.

If we passed an endangered animal, our tour guide informed the bus full of people from all around the world why that animal was endangered -- whether it be habitat loss or it was hunted for the minerals found inside their tusks or horns.

She told us ways that we can fight habitat loss, and how we can recycle and upcycle our used or obsolete products to help fight animal extinction, such as recycling old cell phones to help save African wildlife.

Walt Disney World should be commended for their fantastic efforts towards environmental sustainability, a large corporation like Disney becoming self-aware and taking the initiative to help save the planet and educate its mass amount of visitors about how they can help save the environment is nothing short of admirable.

All corporations - no matter how big or small - should follow in Disney's footsteps and take the initiative to practice environmental sustainability to regulate the planet while we still can.

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