Where to Start
So, you want to help our oceans! Educating yourself is an excellent first step. Your enthusiasm will encourage others to get involved. Every project or activity will help our oceans stay fit.
Here are a few ideas:
- If you're inland, "twin" with a school near the ocean in your country and/or a developing nation. Exchange projects, data, ideas.
- Get to know an ocean ecosystem (kelp forest, coral reef, etc.).
- Invite an oceans expert to talk to your class or school.
- Spread the word — make presentations to service clubs and community and church groups.
- Celebrate Oceans Day every June 8 in your school or community.
- Prepare a media release and/or a public service announcement about Oceans Day.
- Draw a giant whale or marine turtle on your school parking lot. Make it an annual Oceans Day event.
- Ask everyone at your school to wear blue on Oceans Day.
- Join or start an environmental club.
- Design bumper stickers and sell them to raise money for ocean research.
- Cook a meal with an oceans theme.
- Write letters to your MP on the importance of oceans.
- Use sailboats, canoes, bicycles, and feet instead of motorboats and cars.
- Conserve water at home and school.
- Find out what your community is doing about pollution.
- Paint whale silhouettes beside street drains to remind people that everything eventually drains to the ocean.
Respect Coastal Ecosystems
Both humans and wildlife depend on coasts for food, shelter, and recreation. Sometimes, these uses conflict, as in the case of the piping plover. This shorebird nests on beaches frequented by people — and that may be why the species is endangered. All-terrain vehicles, pets, humans, and cattle frighten the chicks and accidentally crush the well-camouflaged eggs.
In parts of Canada where this species nests, volunteer "guardians" protect nesting beaches during critical breeding periods. They also post notices and tell people about the bird's predicament.
Is there an ocean-loving creature in your area that needs a helping hand? If no program exists to protect that species, can you start one? These tips will give you an idea how to treat coastal ecosystems with render respect:
- If you turn a rock over, do so gently. Then put it back the way it was. Remember, you've just lifted the roof off somebody's home.
- Don't leave piles of sand or mud on the beach. Animals may burrow into these places and drift away or die when the tide comes in. Also, the piles may kill small clams or other wildlife by blocking their burrows.
- If you investigate a creature living under seaweed, always cover it up again with the wet weeds so it won't dry out.
- On rocky shores, avoid crushing barnacles or other species that live on the surface. Never move animals from one shore, beach, or tidal zone to another. Don't take sea creatures home with you.
- Leave sea shells where you find them. An empty one may soon house a hermit crab!
- Clean up all your trash. Garbage attracts predators that ear eggs and nestlings.
- Organize a shoreline cleanup and pick up litter regularly.
- Inform your school, family, and community about how plastic and other litter harms wildlife.
- Join a local group that actively combats waste in waterways. If there isn't such a group, start one!
- Contact the coastal management authority in your area. See if you can cooperate with them somehow to help species and sensitive ecosystems. Perhaps you could make signs alerting people to a vulnerable spot near you. Another example of this kind of cooperation is a program on Trinidad's north coast. There, the government and local volunteers are giving a boost to the endangered leatherback turtle by roping off critical nesting beaches so the turtle's eggs can safely incubate and hatch.
Scrutinize a Shoreline
You can learn a lot about conflicting coastline uses by studying an ocean shore or dry beach. Identify healthy and damaged habitats. List all the different ways that humans and animals use these areas. With your findings, prepare a map showing how to better manage the shoreline for people and other living things.
Shoreline Study Checklist
Here's what to watch for while studying the uses of your coastline:
- Do you see signs of conflicting uses? For instance, are roads, buildings, and wharves disrupting areas where wildlife lives?
- Do you suspect that pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers from lawns and fields are washing into the water?
- Are weeds being cleared or is sand being dumped into water to make beaches?
- Do you see litter, such as plastic bags or fishing lines, along the shore or in the water?
- Has shoreline vegetation been removed or cut down to make space for a recreational area or other land development?
- Are industries, houses, or boats pouring waste into the water?
- Do you see signs of oil along the shoreline or on the water?
- If you spot any conflicting uses of coasts, think of ways to improve the situation. You may be able to push for necessary changes — or bring about your own changes through ideas in this book.
Down the Drain
Even if you live inland, activities in your community affect oceans. For instance, all water used by people in your community is eventually flushed into the ocean. Agricultural chemicals wash into streams, rivers, and lakes along with manure from farm animals. Inland sources of industrial waste and sewage also wend their way to the ocean by air or water. Assess your community for signs of these problems. Also look for environmentally friendly practices that help oceans, such as landowners leaving vegetation growing along riverbanks to help filter water and prevent erosion, or businesses, hospitals, and schools that have reduced air and water pollution.
- Explore how your community might be contributing to ocean pollution. Use plastic bags as an example of one form of pollution. Trace how plastic bags tossed into an abandoned lot in your community might find their way to the ocean. List the problems the bags could present for an ocean ecosystem. What other forms of ocean pollution might originate from your community? Think of ways to prevent ocean pollution in your community, home, or school.
- Find out if your community has a sewage treatment plant. Make on appointment for a guided tour.
- Before you go, draw up a list of questions. How old is the plant? How much sewage passes through it weekly, yearly? How does it work? How and where does the plant dispose of the sludge left over from sewage treatment?
- Appoint someone in your group to rake down the answers. Your teacher can help. Don’t settle for confusing replies. Just keep asking questions until you understand the answers.
- Write a report on your findings and make a presentation to your school or local council.
- Write a thank-you note after your visit. Include some of your observations too. Send copies to your local council and appropriate government departments.
- If your town has no sewage disposal, or if the facility is old and unfit, organize a campaign for change.
Standing on Guard
Countries treat ocean resources found within 200 nautical miles (or 370 kilometres) of their coasts as their property. They want this imaginary boundary to stop foreign boats from taking too many fish. These areas are called Exclusive Economic Zones.
Who looks after the ocean differs from country to country. In many countries, the navy or coast guard protects the waters and keeps an eye on human activity on the ocean waves. In Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans looks after fish; Environment Canada, along with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, works to prevent and reduce pollution while conserving watery wildlife species. However, other countries, such as many African notions, cannot adequately look after their oceans because they are too poor.
About 30 countries have established marine protected areas. These special spots help guard marine ecosystems and endangered species, in addition to educating people on the oceans' importance. Countries with the most protected marine areas include Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Great Britain, South Africa, France, and Belize. How many of these protected watery spots are in your area? What kind of regulations do they have for conserving ocean ecosystems? Do you know of a spot that should be protected? What can you do to promote its conservation?
People and Countries Take Action
Around the world, more governments, agencies, and individuals are helping our troubled seas. Through many overseas projects, including research and training programs, Canada encourages cooperation among countries that depend on oceans for food and money. This approach allows developing nations to manage their ocean resources more wisely.
- In the South Pacific and Caribbean, the Canadian International Development Agency has supported better fisheries research and stronger laws to protect fish.
- The United Nations has brought together countries in Africa and around the Indian Ocean to cooperate in enforcing fishing laws.
- The International Development Research Centre helps people organize aquaculture operations, or fish farms.
Here are a few more examples of action to help our seas:
- One man on the Philippine island of Negros replanted destroyed mangroves. His crusade became a community effort when people saw that the trees attracted rabbitfish, clams, crabs, and other wildlife. Eventually, the Philippine government gave the island communities that were involved a 25-year contract to care for their coastlines.
- Conservationists are training Filipino aquarium fish collectors to use environmentally friendly nets instead of deadly cyanide, which kills corals and some fish species.
- Commercial fishermen on Canada's East Coast now bring their garbage ashore instead of tossing it overboard. Fishing boats along the Acadian shore of New Brunswick bring back about 9,500 kilograms of trash every week.
You’re Making a Splash!
Remember, every little bit you do for oceans makes a big difference.
- The ocean ecosystem you protect is an important part of the Earth's life-support system.
- Your school studies or activities help teach people how the ocean plays a part in everybody's life.
- Your anti-pollution actions ease global problems like ocean pollution and the greenhouse effect.
- Your enthusiasm and concern set a great example for others and encourage them to get involved.
- By protecting the oceans, you help boost wildlife diversity.
- You encourage more people to become responsible environmental citizens by educating them about the importance of healthy oceans.
© Canadian Wildlife Federation
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