IF YOU’RE BUSY MAKING NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS, here are five for the reef that will be easy to keep. Actually, they’ll help the whole planet, above and below water.
• USE LESS PLASTIC: Plastic pollution in our oceans, on our shorelines and everywhere else, is maddening and destructive of the health of people, wildlife and the environment as a whole. To help cut down on the spread of plastic debris:
Use refillable water bottle and reject one-time use plastic bottles (This will actually save you money). The UK-based Less Plastic, which provides the above image, discusses the subject at length. And The Ocean Conservancy has a strong Trash Free Seas program.
Refuse plastic shopping bags. Buy reusable cloth or mesh shopping bags and reject the use of disposable plastic bags. More than 60 nations worldwide have acted to reduce the use of disposable bags, either banning them outright or assessing fees for their use. In the United States, more than 200 cities and counties have done so.
You don’t have to wait for a law to change things. Reusable shopping bags are cheap. Buy them and use them. It’s also less stuff to have to recycle – or throw way.
• PICK UP TRASH: Organizations like The Ocean Conservancy and Project Aware organize shoreline cleanups. If devoting a day to this doesn’t appeal to you, you can act individually. If you find trash at your dive site, pick it up and dispose of it properly. Otherwise, you have to look at it every time you go by it. If you see a bottle, plastic bag or other debris on a dive, grab it and put it in your BC pocket (and then dispose of it properly; you don’t have to keep it). Project Aware provides mesh bags especially for this.
• SUPPORT SHARK FIN LEGISLATION: House bill HR1456, the proposed Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act of 2017, would “make it illegal to possess, buy, or sell shark fins or any product containing shark fins. A person may possess a shark fin that was lawfully taken consistent with a license or permit under certain circumstances.” Here’s a site that summarizes the bill.
It was introduced in the U.S. House of representatives in March, 2017 and referred to the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans. Although it has more than 200 co-sponsors in the House, and similar bill in the Senate has 19 co-sponsors, it’s still in the subcommittee stage.
Call or write your congressmen and emphasize your support for this bill (calling is better; letter-writing is better than emailing). Here’s a site that provides names and contact numbers for your elected representatives.
Juvenile grunts and other fishes populated the underwater tangle of red mangrove roots. Photo: NOAA CCMA Biogeography Team
• REJECT FARMED SHRIMP: Mangrove forests are among the most important ecosystems on Planet Earth. Besides anchoring coastlines, filtering runoff from the mainland and providing nutrients for coastal marine habitats, they serve as nurseries for juveniles of many species of reef life.
Located mostly outside population centers and, therefore, largely out of view, they are disappearing at an astounding rate to development, logging and other factors. It’s estimated that less than half the world’s mangrove forest remains.
As much as 50 percent of mangrove destruction has been due to clearcutting for shrimp farms, especially in Southeast Asia. Worse, after two to five years, shrimp farm become unusable due to contamination and pollution, after which the operations move on to newly cleared mangrove forests.
Join the Mangrove Action Project in avoiding buying farmed shrimp. Enjoy the tasty crustaceans, just not farmed ones. Wild-caught shrimps taste better, anyway, and buying them likely supports American shrimpers.
• DONATE: Support conservation and environmental organizations like The Coral Reef Alliance, The Ocean Conservancy, R.E.E.F. and The Coral Restoration Foundation (there’s a main one based in the Florida Keys and one in Bonaire as well).
They do important work to promote healthy reefs. If you can afford to take dive trips, you can afford to give them some support.