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  • Writer's pictureDr.Eleonore Op de Beeck

Marine conservation

Updated: Feb 5, 2023

During my travels, I have always seeked the ocean as it's one of my greatest passions. Not only is our planet made of 70% water but we humans and all living things depend greatly from it.

The ocean provides part of the oxygen we breath as well as food to many countries.

Yet, despite the importance, we seem not to be aware of what we are doing to it, we through all kinds of waste into it from chemicals to all kinds of solid waste like plastics that do not disappear but rather gets broken down into smaller pieces than then gets eaten by marine life and ultimately gets into the food chain when eaten by humans..

In every corner of the planet I have visited, there was plastic waste, even in the remote islands of the Pacific Ocean I have found trash... Fiji, Maldives, Dominican Republic, Bahamas...every where I have encountered trash on the beach and have collected it.

Once at sea, the sunlight, wind and action of waves break down the plastic into very small particles, the micro plastics, then, are spread throughout the water column and have been found in every corner of our planet.

These micro plastics continue breaking down into smaller particles called nano plastics which ae easily eaten by fish. Another issue that we find is fibres from clothes, most of the clothes now made have some kind of plastic material made into microfibres that when washed, come loose and released into the drain and into the ocean...these again, get eaten by marine life and ultimately get's into our bodies when we consume those fish.

Millions of animals die from plastics every year, from birds to all other kinds of marine life.Every single species on this planet has had some kind of plastic encounter and have eaten some plastic fibre throughout their life span.

Another way that marine animals die is caused by entanglement or starvation. Turltes, seals, dolphins, whales...they all have been found entangled by fishing nets left by fishermen at sea, starvation occurs after a marine animal eats plastic material that gets stuck into the digestive tract as it can't be digested, leaving no room for proper food to enter to stomach, animals end up dying from starvation.

But not only at sea, land animals have been found to have plastics too, elephants, zebras, tigers, cows...the case of Cows in India is one clear evidence of this, where they eat the trash found on the streets with large amounts of plastic bags, causing impactation of the gut and ultimately death.

There is no escape from it and all we can do now is try to diminish the damage by reducing the use of plastics as much as we can as well as reducing the use of clothing that has microfibres in them or by placing a special filter in our washing machines to avoid these microfibres to enter the ocean.

Overfishing is another great threat to our oceans ,where they are being depleted from fish and it is said that by 2048 there will be more plastics in the ocean than fish.

Fishing, has been and still is the most significant driver in ocean wildlife decline. The numbers of fish caught globally has tripled in half a century.

Bycatch is one side effect from overfishing, which is the capture of unwanted sea life while fishing for other types of fish, these fish get released back into the ocean, although most of it is already dead causing the needless loss of billions of fish, along with hundreds of thousands of other marine species like sea turtles and dolphins.

Shark finning, is another major problem, although banned in many countries, as it brings so much profit , it is being done illegally.

Sharks at caught and their fins are being removed before throwing the shark back into the ocean, still alive most of the time, most sharks need to continuously swim to get oxygen through their gills, without fins this is no longe possible ending in death by suffocation.

The fins are used in China to make shark fin soup, a traditional delicacy for centuries. It is a highly profitable "business" where fishermen are taking advantage of as fish stocks are massively decreasing, shark fins are another way they are making a profit from the ocean with devastating con

Sea turtles are also in decreasing numbers due, in one hand, because some species that mainly eat jelly fish as their food source confuse it with plastic bags that look juts like jelly fish and because they get entangled with fishing gear left by fishermen.

Another reason is the decrease of nesting sites that sea turtles have as humans have started to take over the beaches, sea turtles don't have a place to lay eggs, or because of the high amount of light provided by the lighting of streets ,sea turtle hatchlings get confused and don't know how to reach the ocean once hatched.

Marine conservation, is not only taking more care of our oceans, but also of ourselves.

There are many ways in which you can help though, from reducing the use of single use plastics to recycling, to helping out during beach cleanups and creating awareness wherever you go and of course, volunteering to projects related to marine conservation.

Reducing our fish consumption has become imperative as the demand is not able to cope with the amount left at sea, not only will this help to restore fish populations but also it will increase health, as 80% of fish have been known to contain nano plastics in them and harmful chemicals like heavy metals due to all we through into our oceans that are then eaten by fish.

Get in touch if you want more information on how to help out in marine conservation efforts.

Let's protect our oceans, lets protect our marine life and ourselves!

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