The ocean is the greatest source of life on our planet. It is the air we breathe, the natural habitat for some of the world’s most impressive creatures and a recreational area, or perhaps even a second home, for recreational divers. In short, it is the main and yet the most fragile link in the chain of life. Despite this, in recent times, human activity such as the vast use of plastics has resulted in the contamination of submarine ecosystems worldwide.
Within the past ten years we have produced more plastic than what was produced throughout the previous century. Almost every piece of plastic ever made still remains in some form or another on our planet. The small pieces of plastic that float upon the surface of any sea are known as “microplastics” and derive from larger pieces of plastic which, over time, disintegrated due to constant exposure to the sun, sea salt and intense waves.
The rough and uneven edges of these micro plastics allow biochemical impurities to attach themselves onto them making them highly toxic. When aquatic animals mistake these micro plastics for smaller fish or plankton, they are ingested along with their toxins. The toxins are then passed into the bloodstream and from there accumulate around the fatty tissue which surround the vital organs. When the stored fat is then required to produce energy, the toxins are released, negatively affecting the aquatic life’s metabolism, reproduction, growth as well as its hepatic and renal function. Scientists in the field claim that more than half of the sea turtles and almost all sea birds have ingested micro plastic within their lifetimes.
Thus, in order to make our lives easier we have managed to destructively intervene in the daily lives of aquatic organisms. However, it is never too late to take action. Each and every one of us can do something to dramatically decrease the quantity of plastic that is ocean bound. Here are four methods that are easy to adopt and could make a difference starting today:
Reduce in the use of disposable plastics: Completely rejecting disposable plastic from our lives is improbable, however, replacing single use plastics (i.e. coffee cups, plastic cutlery, plastic shopping bags, water bottles, etc.) with objects that are multi-purpose can drastically reduce the percentage of plastic that ends up in our oceans.
Correct methods of disposal through recycling: If the use of disposable plastic is absolutely necessary, follow through with the correct disposal of such waste by way of recycling.
Organize or participate in clean-up efforts for beaches: Effective change can be achievable through joint effort. Properly organized, clean-up efforts mobilize and enable members of society to display an interest in the ecosystems of their local beaches.
Support organizations attempting to resolve the issue of plastic pollutants: Proper education surrounding the issue is in itself a contribution. Requesting any additional, informative material will enhance your knowledge of the plastics problem. Additionally, a small contribution will support the pioneering work of organizations in this field.
Recreational divers remain a channel of communication between the underwater world and society, in which they too are members. It is our duty to not only convey our love for the protection of our seas, but through our own behavior to set an example for others to follow. Our greatest asset is our knowledge. Programs such as PADI’s “Dive Against Debris” allow us to offer the awareness to develop an environmentally healthy attitude in and out of the water.
Therefore, as you can see, proper protection of our seas can materialize not only through a joint effort, but through individual actions which may lead to a positive change in our collective behavior.
Guest Author: Andrianna Drakou