Earth Day – Protect the Blue

It’s Earth Day today.   

This year’s theme demands action to “Protect our Species”.

According to Earth Day Network, “…human beings have irrevocably upset the balance of nature and, as a result, the world is facing the greatest rate of extinction since we lost the dinosaurs more than 60 million years ago.”

Through the Protect our Species campaign, Earth Day Network wants to educate, raise awareness, change policy, build a global movement and encourage individual action[1] to slow the rate of extinction and allow species the chance they need to recover.

Healthy and safe sources of fresh and salt water are essential to the survival of our aquatic species. Whether they make their home inside the water or depend upon its resources for food – like penguins and seals – protecting our aquatic environments is essential in safeguarding millions of plants and animals.

Especially when there are so many human-generated threats putting them at risk.

Ghost Nets

Commercial nets – hundreds of kilometres of them[2] – are left behind or lost by the fishing industry and become ghost nets. Ghost nets travel with the ocean currents, tangling and killing marine species like seals, sharks, turtles and birds. They tangle and smother coral – which we often forget are living creatures, not just beautiful ocean architecture – and can introduce invasive species from other parts of the ocean into delicate coral reef habitats[3].

Harmful Fishing Practices

Overfishing depletes a species faster than it can repopulate[4]. While this is incredibly destructive for the species and pushes many, like the bluefin tuna, to the brink of extinction, it is not the only harmful fishing practice to invade our oceans.

Bottom-trawling uses weighted nets to scrape the sea bed for the intended catch – and anything else that gets in the way. It’s unselective and destructive. Bycatch is returned to the water often mutilated, dead or dying while habitats on the ocean floor are left looking like war zones[5].

Other types of industrial/commercial fishing, which can involved longlines (that either sit at the bottom or float mid-way), are also unselective and can catch unintended species, including seabirds[6].

Pollution

The National Resources Defence Council says, “…from dangerous carbon emissions to choking plastic to leaking oil to constant noise, the types of ocean pollution humans generate are vast.[7]

Plastic pollution has made headlines globally and different countries and cities are taking measures to eliminate single-use plastics like bags, straws and bottles, all of which can end up in the ocean and waterways and in the stomachs of aquatic animals.

Carbon emissions contribute to rising water temperatures and ocean acidification. The result can be disruption of natural feeding and breeding grounds, coral bleaching, and improper development in shellfish.

Everything that affects the ocean, affects the land. Communities that depend on fishing or tourism are impacted when there are no fish to be caught and no living coral to view. And that’s just a small piece of the picture.

Marine biologist Sylvia Earle calls the ocean our life support system.

While you may be far from the ocean, or any large body of water, and feel like there is little you can do, remember that things like pollution and carbon emissions are an individual’s responsibility too. Everyone can take care of their water. Whether that’s your home’s drinking water, the lake your cottage is on, or your favourite beach – taking care of what you have and what’s nearby is the best place to start.

Human actions have repercussions on the natural world. It’s time to take ownership of the consequences.  


[1] https://www.earthday.org/campaigns/endangered-species/earthday2019/

[2] https://mission-blue.org/2013/05/ghost-nets-among-the-greatest-killers-in-our-oceans/

[3] https://oliveridleyproject.org/what-are-ghost-nets

[4] https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/overfishing

[5] https://marine-conservation.org/what-we-do/program-areas/how-we-fish/destructive-fishing/

[6] https://www.msc.org/what-we-are-doing/our-approach/fishing-methods-and-gear-types/gillnets

[7] https://www.nrdc.org/stories/ocean-pollution-dirty-facts


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