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6 Tips to Help Clean the Sea on World Oceans Day

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water sign fish oysters

Don't dump to the sea! This sign to protect oysters and fish, Apalachicola, Florida.

Two-thirds of the world is water -- home to mysterious and life-sustaining organisms. The world's oceans also serve as a carbon sink, helping maintain a balance as humans upset the balance with all our greenhouse gas emissions. Species like coral reefs are at risk as the world's oceans warm up, plastic bottles and debris are choking our sea life, and overfishing of seafood and fish is threatening species.

The good news, even in light of the BP oil spill, is there is a World Oceans Day. Today. Of course, most greenies already know that every day is important for our great salty body of water, but UNESCO liked the idea, and last year declared June 8, the day. Proposed on June 8, 1992, by Canada at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, it had been unofficially celebrated every year since then as World Ocean Day.

World Oceans Day is an opportunity every year to honor the world's oceans, to get kids off their Wii's and computers and celebrate what the oceans give us. It's also a time to teach kids, and even adults, how to give back. Today, my eco-friend Andreas Weil (who swims with whales!), the founder of the ocean research and education center EcoOcean, gives us his six tips on how to do your part.

1. Clean Up Plastics
Materials made from plastic often end up in open spaces or in the ocean due to their light weight (carried by the wind and water). Plastic takes years to naturally disintegrate or wear down. This type of waste can be deadly to sea turtles, cetaceans (such as dolphins) and various sea birds, killing them by suffocation. David de Rothschild and his crew on the Plastiki are currently investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch; but you can take action to stop the problem.

What you can do: Instead of using plastic bottled mineral water, use a filtering system like a Brita, or a more elaborate system that connects to your tap. For water storage, use glass bottles rather than plastic bottles. They can be re-used without the aftertaste caused when repeatedly using plastic bottles, and this also creates less waste, suggests Andreas.

Using a fabric bag or a multi-use box to wrap your school sandwich is preferable to using a plastic bag. Pack your grocery shopping in fabric bags or shopping baskets intended for re-use and not single-use plastic bags.

Use multi-use plastic utensils for picnics instead of single-use plastic utensils. You can also use biodegradable ones.

2. How to Stop Over-fishing Using Your Mouth
We now know that the food products from the sea, such as seafood and fish (and bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean), are under heavy pressure from overfishing and pollution. Many species of fish and seafood are under threat of disappearing due to overfishing.

What you can do:
Eat sustainable seafood where possible and/or try to cut down on fish and seafood. Try to avoid seafood and fish like lobster and tuna -- these species are threatened by heavy declines worldwide.

A good way of getting healthy protein is through eating seitan, wheat gluten developed by the Japanese. There are many other healthy vegetarian options rich in protein.

3. Slowing Down Greenhouse Gases and Ocean Acidification
This is a biggie -- the rising carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations on earth are a great threat to the oceans and ocean life. Since the oceans are in equilibrium with the atmosphere, excessive CO2 emissions will lead to decreased pH (more acidity) in the ocean, which will have a big impact on marine life (acid dissolves their outer shells).

For example, the process of skeleton formation in corals and other calcifying animals and plants is very sensitive to pH and these organisms will be severely damaged as seawater pH decreases. Global warming, which is also a result of increasing CO2 levels, has already been implicated in causing worldwide coral bleaching and death.

What you can do:
Reduce you carbon footprint. Use public transport where possible (see how these parents have organized a walking bus) and use your bicycle for shorter trips.

Try to avoid using a car or airplane.

Take the train (and enjoy the view).

4. Throw Less Chemicals Into the Sea
Many household cleaning products (the ones that are lethal to humans -- look at the labels!), hygienic products and chemicals end up in the ocean. They are not cleaned out of the water properly at water treatment plants, so many chemicals and common medicines have been found in the fish we eat.

What you can do:
Buy and use biodegradable products, including detergents that naturally dissolve in nature. They are healthier for your family's skin anyway. Never flush unused paints or other chemicals down the drain or toilet. Don't throw paints, solvents or other chemicals into your storm sewers. Guess where these chemicals go?

5. Stop Driving on the Beach
Yes it might be romantic, adventurous and fun, but driving on the beach, says Andreas, harms small animals like turtles, and plants.

What you can do:
Park at designated parking lots and enjoy a healthy stroll down to the beach, using your feet.

6. Get More Involved
It doesn't matter where you live, whether it's by the Mediterranean Sea in the Middle East, in Saudi Arabia by the Red Sea, or in the middle of Kansas. We are all sustained by the world's oceans.

Become a member of an environmental organization, Andreas suggests. Find other people or local groups that are working for a good cause (like protecting a beach from a housing development) and ask how you can support them. Get you children, parents and friends involved too.

::EcoOcean website (in English, Arabic and Hebrew)

Above image: Karin Kloosterman, for Green Prophet, 2010. @greenprophet

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