Fun fact for the day – Did you know that my name, Marissa, means “Of the sea” in Latin?
I have fond memories of going to the beach with my parents and jumping waves with my dad. I walked along the beach; fascinated by shells. As an elementary school student, I remember going to aquariums and being enthralled by even the smallest jellyfish or sea urchin! Stare at sharks – absolutely! Pet a sting ray – for sure! Learn about sea cucumbers – why not?! Later on, I was fortunate enough to take not just one, but two marine biology courses and my love of the ocean solidified! While I am not a marine biologist (I used to be on the Veterinary track and when deciding on what to specialize in, I think I would have gone with marine mammals), much of my fascination with the interconnection of nature can be traced back to those classes. After all, I believe that so much of life is connected and depends on it’s health!
The ocean is a marvelous place. It’s food chain is intricate. Phytoplankton feed small fish, which feed larger mammals, which feed apex predators. Even the slightest disturbance in this chain can be devastating. For instance, a phenomenon called “Biological Magnification” occurs when something small eats a tiny molecule (let’s look at Mercury). That tiny animal, and it’s friends, get eaten by a slightly larger fish. That larger fish now has ingested Mercury. A shark comes along to eat many larger fish and gets very sick due to Mercury poisoning. The chemical gets stored and isn’t flushed out of the system.
Many may ask, “What does the ocean health have to do with life on land?” The phytoplankton and other aquatic plants provide roughly 70% of Earth’s oxygen. If the ecosystem gets damaged enough (chemical/trash pollution, temperature change due to climate change, etc…), many of the creatures producing oxygen could die. Do you eat fish? If so – be careful as biological magnification can impact humans as well! Do you go to the beach? If so – be careful about what water you swim in! Coming in contact with polluted water can cause some adverse health issues like rashes and digestive problems. These things don’t even hit the tip of the ice berg when it comes to ocean health and land life!
This all sounds scary, especially when we look at how polluted the ocean already is due to humans, but try to look on the bright side! If humans cause a lot of damage, that means that humans can fix it! Here are some ways to keep the ocean and it’s inhabitants clean and happy:
- Skip all single-use plastics! 267 marine species have been impacted by plastic marine debris (86% of all sea turtles, 44% of all seabirds, and 43% of all marine mammals). Many birds wind up with plastic in their tummies and turtles have a hard time differentiating between a jellyfish meal and an upside down, floating, opaque plastic bag. If you’re on the beach, try to pick up any trash that you see and dispose of it properly before a dingus seagull tries to eat it!
- Eat sustainably harvested seafood. Over fishing and poor farming practices have impacted the food chain and thrown the balance out of whack! Look for labels that say “Sustainably Caught”. Click here for a Sustainable Seafood Guide!
- Reduce your carbon footprint. As climate change occurs, the ice caps melt, causing a rise in sea level and a change in temperature. A change in temperature can impact marine animal’s ability to regulate their body temperature, causing them to get sick and potentially die. Climate change can also change current patterns that animals rely on for migration. If the animal can’t migrate to their feeding or breeding grounds, the survival of that species is threatened.
- Buy ocean-friendly! Did you know that some makeup has squid or shark parts as an ingredient? Try to look for makeup without “squalene“. Also, purchasing coral, shiny, beautifully intact shells, or turtle shell jewelry typically comes from unethical fishing practices where the animal is killed for the purpose of having a part of it to be sold.
- Support ocean-friendly organizations! There are some great organizations out there that are working hard to make the ocean a better habitat whether by implementing sustainable fishing practices, reducing marine debris, educating the public about marine life, or by protecting the animals that live there, and these groups deserve your support!
- Please note – there are WAY more organizations than the ones that I added links for. Find your favorite and support them!
- Remember – a portion of all proceeds of any art purchased through The Art of Ecology goes back towards conservation efforts! If you purchase any ocean related art, that portion will go specifically back towards protecting marine animals and cleaning up marine debris! Make an impact on the health of the ecosystems you love by purchasing any piece of my artwork! Go to my Etsy Shop for prints and photo gifts, or go to my products page to learn how to place an order here.