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Live like you love the sea

June 14
12:00 2008

image Written By : VASEMACA RARABICI . The past week Fiji celebrated Environment week and World Ocean Day on June 8 with the focus given on the use of biodegradable bags bearing the message “Plastic bags kill our Ocean, but I don’t”.
This is a great initiative which saves marine life and sea birds choking on plastics bags that finds its way into the sea from drains, rivers and household sewage.
Unfortunately this initiative to raise awareness on our oceans is brought to the public eye less frequently then it’s supposed to be. Except for a handful of conservationists in the country who continue to fight for the protection of the sea, others often forget about the importance of the ocean that makes up 70% of the planet.
As an island nation with 60 per cent of the population living by the coast, the sea is our livelihood as it governs our air, our climate and our food.
Everyday world wide there is a story about ocean pollution or new scientific papers produced identifying new threats which could mean that Fiji and other small island states are in big, big trouble.
It seems there is no place on earth where human finger print is not found. This is why we need to put more emphasis to the ocean, not just on June 8 but everyday. Let’s not hope that others would bring a change but we need to make it happen.
Imagine if the world ran out of fish. It seems inconceivable. But top scientists warn that such a catastrophe may in fact play out in coming generations unless widespread awareness is raised to protect the ocean.
Dr Wallace Nichols, a senior scientist at Ocean Conservancy and a research associate at California Academy of Sciences, said that as daunting as it appears, the ocean crisis can be boiled down to three problems – we’ve put too much in; we’ve taken too much out and we are wrecking the edge.
“Who wouldn’t be concerned about the ever-expanding Texas-size “garbage patch” in the Pacific Ocean, the shutdown of West Coast salmon fishing, right whales and sea turtles drowning in fishing gear, and the summer closure of beaches due to toxic pollution?,” said Dr Nicholas.
What you can we do? Mr Nicholas suggests that “we live like we love the ocean”.
“Living like we love the ocean means putting less in, taking less out and protecting the ocean’s edge where so much life lives. Less in. Less out. Protect the edge. Simple,” he says.
“Rather than wringing our hands, hope is on the horizon. We can live like we love the ocean in many ways.”

Four ways to “live like you
love the ocean” as suggested
by Dr Nicholas are:
l Shop like you love the ocean – Buy products that are ocean-friendly. Use a canvas bag to get your stuff from the store to your car to your house, rather than a plastic bag that will stick around forever. Drink filtered tap water from a refillable glass or steel bottle instead of buying water shipped halfway around the world.
l Eat like you love the ocean – When you choose seafood, be sure it’s caught sustainably. That’s gotten a heck of a lot easier lately as more restaurants overseas are going organic and sustainable.
l Vacation like you love the ocean – visit marine parks or marine protected areas like in Waitabu, Taveuni or if you going overseas visit an aquarium. Go on a sea turtle or whale watch where your visit supports conservation. Surfing, kayaking and snorkeling are all ocean-friendly activities. Or join the International Year of the Reefs Beach Clean-up held every last Saturday of the month along the Nasese seawall in Suva.
l Vote like you love the ocean –
l Many local, state, and national politicians support bold efforts to tackle global warming, create ocean parks – our so-called “Undersea Yosemites” that Ocean Conservancy is helping to build – and better fund cutting-edge ocean science. With our votes, we must be perfectly clear: We want leaders who bring about sea change.
“We are entering a decade of progress in the culture of conservation and sustainability. Millions who care deeply about the ocean are joining to transform our relationship with the sea – they are starting a sea change,” Dr Nicholas said.
“Each of us must be part of this ocean revolution – each in our own way, each as part of a connected whole. Join for yourself. Join for others. Join for the ocean. But, when you join, please remember to live like you love the ocean.”
We should be thankful to non government conservation organizations in Fiji, including the Government’s Department of Fisheries, for taking the initiative to set up and help coastal communities manage their marine resources.
With overfishing depleting the world’s fisheries, Fiji is lucky to have already begun with its conserving its fish for the future. But while this initiative can never be overemphasized, a new and dangerous phenomenon is slowly but surely entering our shores. It is called ocean acidification.
Ocean acidification is when the sea becomes too acidic for anything to live in it. Scientists say that the worlds’carbon dioxide spewed by human activities has made ocean water so acidic that it is eating away at the shells and skeletons of starfish, coral, clams and other sea creatures.
Marine researchers knew it was happening but it was in deep water far from land. Today, this damaging phenomenon is spreading on the Pacific North American continental shelf, stretching from Mexico to Canada. Other continental shelf regions around the world, including the pacific, are likely to face the same fate.
Instead of playing a wait-and-see game we should act now and lower our carbon emission whether it be pollution from the factories or burning of plastics in our backyard.
Climate change is a ‘milder’ version of ocean acidification but both are caused by carbon emission and have severe impacts. With climate changing already affecting Fiji’s smaller islands like Kabara in the Lau group through coral bleaching and fewer fish to eat, you can only imagine what acid can do.

Ms Rarabici is the Asia Pacific Program Associate for SeaWeb. SeaWeb is a non government organization that helps the media promote a healthy ocean.

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