Every living thing depends on the ocean. Covering more than 70% of our planet& rsquo;s surface, it contains the largest diversity of life on Earth and affects everything from global weather patterns to food systems. So when we hear the ocean is in trouble from the effects of climate change, pollution and overfishing, it& rsquo;s easy to feel powerless. While many of these issues will require leadership from governments and businesses, there are plenty of small actions you can take that will make a big difference for the ocean.
1. Skip the strawsSingle-use plastics& mdash;such as water bottles, take-out packaging, plastic bags, and straws& mdash;create ocean pollution that can destroy ecosystems and endanger marine life. With 8 million tons of plastic dumped into the ocean each year, there could be a pound of plastic for every three pounds of fish in the ocean within the next decade alone. To minimize your impact, remove unnecessary single-use plastics from your daily habits. Even eliminating straws could go a long way towards reducing ocean debris. If every American sipped out of just five fewer straws per year, we could keep more than 1.5 billion straws out of landfills& mdash;and our ocean.
2. Check the labelGlobal fish populations are rapidly dwindling due to high demand and unsustainable fishing practices. Help keep fisheries and fish stocks& nbsp;healthy by choosing sustainable seafood when you grocery shop or dine out.& nbsp;The easiest way to make sure your seafood is sustainable? Look for the MSC blue fish on your seafood& mdash;a certification that ensures your fish can be traced back to a sustainably managed fishery.
3. Reduce your carbon emissionsIn the last half-century, the ocean has absorbed 90% of the excess heat created by burning fossil fuels. That& rsquo;s led to warmer waters, which can affect where fish swim, how marine species reproduce, how fast sea levels rise, and even weather events on land. Decrease the effects of climate change on the ocean by cutting your carbon footprint at home: turn off lights and unplug electronics when you& rsquo;re not using them, adjust your thermostat, walk or ride your bike to work, and demand renewable energy options in your community.
4. Travel smarterConsider booking your next trip through a responsible travel company that& rsquo;s committed to protecting wildlife, empowering local communities, and using guides who are aware of rules and best practices. Once you arrive at your destination, be respectful of marine life and habitats, such as nesting sea turtles on beaches and sensitive reef systems. And be discerning about your purchases. Purchasing certain items, such as coral jewelry, shark products, or tortoiseshell accessories (made from endangered hawksbill turtles) damages fragile ecosystems and threatens critically endangered species.
5. Increase your ocean IQThe more you learn about the ocean, the better prepared you& rsquo;ll be to inspire change& mdash;and help others do the same. Thankfully, there are many ways to educate yourself about the ocean and the challenges it faces, from books and documentaries to websites, museums, art exhibits, and more. If you& rsquo;re an educator, check out WWF& rsquo;s Wild Classroom, an online library of specially designed tools that will help you bring ocean conservation to your school.
6. Use your unique skills for goodNot a marine biologist? Not to worry. Consider joining an organization that works to protect ocean habitats or volunteering at local beach cleanups. Support local restaurants, grocery stores, and businesses in your community that offer sustainable seafood. Or contact your elected representatives to let them know you care about ocean-friendly policies.
7. Sign up, sign on, speak outBeing an advocate for the ocean can be as simple as speaking out about the importance of the vast ecosystem. Tell your friends and family why the ocean matters, and let our leaders know that you side with the ocean. Whether it& rsquo;s defending the beauty of Alaska's Bristol Bay or asking your representative to Save Our Seas, WWF& rsquo;s Action Center helps you take action now.
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