Every living thing depends on the ocean. Covering more than 70% of our planet’s surface, it contains an astounding diversity of life and affects everything from global weather patterns to food systems. So when we hear the ocean is in trouble from the effects of overfishing, climate change, and pollution it’s easy to feel powerless. While many of these issues will require leadership from governments and businesses, there are plenty of actions you can take that will make a big difference for the ocean.
1. Check the label
Overfishing is the greatest threat our ocean faces, and global fish populations are rapidly decreasing due to high demand and unsustainable fishing practices. Help keep fisheries and fish stocks healthy by choosing sustainable seafood when you grocery shop or dine out. What's the easiest way to make sure your seafood is sustainable? Look for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) labels. Their blue and green fish logos on your seafood ensures your fish can be traced back to sustainably-managed fisheries and farms.
2. Reduce your carbon emissions
In the last half-century, the ocean has absorbed 90% of the excess heat created by burning fossil fuels. That’s led to warmer waters, which can affect where fish swim, bleach coral reefs, change how marine species reproduce, speed up sea-level rise, and even alter 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’re not using them, adjust your thermostat, walk or ride your bike to work, and demand renewable energy options in your community. For more ideas, visit our Green Tips page.
3. Skip the single-use plasticsSingle-use plastics—such as non-reusable water bottles, take-out packaging, plastic bags, and straws—pollute our ocean and 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—and our ocean.
4. Travel smarter
Consider booking your next trip through a responsible travel company that’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 coral 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 IQ
The more you learn about the ocean, the better prepared you’ll be to inspire change—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’re an educator, check out WWF’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 good
Not a marine biologist? Don't 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 and alternatives to single-use plastics. you can also contact your elected representatives to let them know you care about ocean-friendly policies.
7. Sign up, sign on, speak out
Being an advocate for the ocean can be as simple as speaking out about the importance of this vast ecosystem. Tell your friends and family why the ocean matters, and let our leaders know that you side with the ocean. WWF’s Action Center helps you take action now.