Healthy reefs and a healthy village in Raja Ampat, West Papua. Image by Morgan Pettersson.
Nature is such a passion of mine.
Tall trees and mountains inspire me over buildings that reach into the heavens.
The architecture of a forest allures me more than a city’s streets.
Running barefoot on a beach is more appealing than speeding around a racetrack.
Yet, as much as I love all parts of our earth, it took a recent trip through Eastern Indonesia for the world beneath our oceans to reel me in.
In the remote islands of Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, I became aware of just how magical our oceans are.
When the coral reefs and marine life are healthy, not only does it mean our oceans are teeming with life, but local communities can sustain themselves.
You might be thinking that this is quite a silly realization, especially for someone who has grown up along the West Australian coastline. Yet sometimes divine intervention occurs, and an experience cements in your mind something you have always known.
Snorkelling along pristine reefs deep in the heart of the Coral Triangle, having a turtle float along with me, and seeing all sorts of fish and coral was breathtaking.
Yet even in this remote corner of the world, there were broken reefs and bleached corals.
Our oceans are not really protected.
Compared to our world on land, only 3% of our oceans are protected.
Just let that number sink in for a minute.
That means that only an area the size of France is part of Marine Protected Areas around the world, even though the world’s oceans cover 70% of the earth.
Fifty to seventy percent of the earth’s oxygen comes from the oceans, not to mention a large amount of humans’ food.
With rising world temperatures, ocean temperatures are rising too.
What can I do as a young, female traveler to protect ocean life?
What can you do as a female traveler who cares about her earth and exploring it through travel? How can you help support the world’s oceans and protect them?
1. Pick up that plastic bottle or piece of rubbish you see on the beach.
Think that picking up one piece of trash doesn’t make a difference? Think again.
If each person picked up just one piece of trash each time they were at the beach, that would be immensely fewer pieces of rubbish going into our oceans. That would be so many fewer pieces of plastic eaten by or otherwise harming our marine life.
2. Stop using plastic bottles.
What could be better than picking up plastic bottles? Not using them to begin with!
I am an avid supporter of ditching plastic bottles to protect our earth and live more sustainably. In fact, I have already written a piece about great travel alternatives to plastic water bottles!
Doing so can also help to protect our oceans! Plastic waste is one of the biggest threats to marine life, killing tens of thousands of animals a year that become entangled in the plastic debris.
3. Make ethical seafood choices.
Seafood is a great food source rich in omega acids, but did you know that some species of seafood are being depleted?
In order to ensure that these species are protected and conserved, make ocean-friendly choices at restaurants. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has developed Seafood Watch, consisting of guides and an app that you can use to make sure you are not causing harm to our oceans when you indulge.
4. Do not purchase products made from protected species.
There are currently 2,215 marine species listed as endangered. Of these, some are sold as souvenirs. Think: the giant clam and turtle-shell jewelry.
These are protected species, and you should strive not to purchase products using them. To purchase them assists in the continued harvesting and hunting of these species and their increasing decline.
5. Volunteer with or support a conservation project.
There are many ways to get involved in conservation projects around the world. Assist with a beach clean-up, or educate communities and schools about coral protection.
If you are dive-certified, you can offer to help with coral-reef-monitoring projects.
6. Get under the water.
One of the best ways to protect our oceans is to experience them for yourself! Once you get underwater, you will begin to appreciate fully the natural beauty that exists and want to protect it too.
The world’s oceans are such an integral part of our lives, often without our realizing it. Without healthy oceans, many communities do not have food sources or sustainable livelihoods.
For me, it took traveling into the heart of the Coral Triangle to gain a deeper appreciation for the ocean.
It takes a simple act like recycling, picking up rubbish, and making ethical seafood choices to make a difference. So next time you are traveling, head for the coast, and build a new appreciation for our world’s oceans.