The world’s oceans cover almost ¾ of our planet, yet a paltry less than 1 percent of them are safeguarded against the damage humans are causing. Delicate marine ecosystems and the biodiversity they support are being eradicated at a distressing speed. Unsustainable fishing practices are depleting stocks of our most prized fish species, leading researchers to predict most marine life to be extinct in less than 35 years. Bycatch and ghost fishing are killing seabirds, dolphins, whales, and sharks. Pollution is smothering our oceans. Garbage patches and agricultural runoff and microplastic—millions of tons being introduced into the oceans every year. What can a concerned citizen do?
Get involved, of course. Join up with some great wildlife conservation programs which are enormously significant in the struggle to care for endangered and protected species and their habitats. Most of these programs allow volunteers to give their time and play a part in the effort. Why not you? Here are a few places to start.
National Geographic has for decades been the gold standard for worldwide awareness on a range of topics from the ecology to anthropology. With their Pristine Seas Project, their aim is to, “help protect the last wild places in the ocean over the next five years (2014 to 2018). This includes not only preserving areas that are pristine or near pristine, but also helping to restore areas that may have suffered some human impacts but still harbor unique features such as large animals, healthy bottom communities, and outstanding biodiversity.”
To further their mission, National Geographic works with a host of individuals from leading scientists to local community members. That is where you come in. Contact Pristine Seas and discover how the program can benefit your community.
Sylvia Earle is a pioneer of marine research. In an effort to include the public as well as the scientific community in the partnership of restoring and respecting our oceans, she has launched Mission Blue. From their website: “Mission Blue is a global initiative of the Sylvia Earle Alliance, a 501c3 organization, which was formed in response to Sylvia Earle’s 2009 TED Prize wish. Dr. Earle urged people ‘to use all means at your disposal — films, expeditions, the web, new submarines — to create a campaign to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas.’ Hope Spots large enough to save and restore the blue heart of the planet.” Here’s a link to Mission Blue’s press kit and more information on how to get involved.
International Union for Conservation of Nature
Like most other conservation groups, IUCN’s work emphasizes “valuing and preserving nature, ensuring effective and equitable governance of its use, and deploying nature-based solutions to global challenges in climate, food and development. IUCN supports scientific research, manages field projects all over the world, and brings governments, NGOs, the UN and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice.” You can become a member of the IUCN to help support their endeavors. They even offers job opportunities for those who want to dedicate themselves full time to the cause.
Marine Conservation International
“(MCI) is a partnership formed by marine scientists to enable them to pursue projects with conservation objectives in the most effective way. Marine conservation is an increasingly important priority if we are to protect the planet’s marine environment and to manage the habitat. MCI is an implementing organization that seeks financial support rather than offering it.”
One of MCI’s current projects is the study of basking sharks, a species that mankind knows nearly nothing about. These majestic filter feeders are especially vulnerable because their migration routes take them out of protected waters and into places where they can be hunted for their fins. Currently they are asking for donations to fit the sharks with satellite tracking tags. “By sponsoring or contributing to the sponsorship of a satellite tag for tracking Basking Sharks, you will play a key part in the conservation of this iconic shark species.”
Established in 2001 by a group of leading foundations, Oceana works to protect and restore the oceans on a global scale. An international organization focused solely on oceans, dedicated to achieving measurable change by conducting specific, science-based campaigns with fixed deadlines and articulated goals, Oceana in 2002 merged with American Oceans Campaign, founded by actor and environmentalist Ted Danson, to more effectively address our common mission of protecting and restoring the world’s oceans.
If you volunteer for these organizations, you might find yourself performing any number of important tasks. Gathering data and observing changes in biodiversity, contributing to the protection of endangered wildlife and ecosystems all while enjoying the privilege of seeing wildlife in their natural habitats. Protecting coral reefs, seagrass meadows, and mangrove forests. Studying sharks, sea turtles, dolphins and hundreds of other species. Data collected on these projects is used to educate governments, businesses, and communities responsible for the protection of marine areas and wildlife. Or if you don’t have time, monetary considerations are always accepted. Science is expensive. Let’s help them out.
Sources: ocean.nationalgeographic.com | mission-blue.org | iucn.org | marineconservationinternational.org