YOU Can Make A Difference
The ocean affects people even here in the Sonoran Desert, just as those of us living in the desert can have an effect on our oceans. The weather over the Pacific Ocean eventually moves inland and affects us here in Arizona. We get some of our food and ingredients for our foods from the ocean.
Marine mammals actually live in waters adjacent to the Sonoran Desert about 50 miles from Arizona, in the Gulf of California. One of these marine mammals, the Vaquita, is the world’s most endangered cetacean with fewer than 30 remaining. Therefore, increasing public education about conserving our oceans is a critical mission of Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium, & Safari Park.
The Vaquita, the World’s Most Endangered Cetacean
There are many ways that you can help us in our conservation efforts! Always remember that simple decisions can make a HUGE impact.
Our world’s oceans have accumulated a great deal of plastic and other trash, and it poses a major health risk for marine life. Marine mammals, and other marine life, can become entangled in trash or ingest trash by mistake. In fact, 54% of the 120 marine mammals on the threatened list have been observed entangled in or ingesting plastic. When marine life ingests plastics it can block their intestinal tracts and kill them, or make them feel full so that they do not eat real food.
Some plastic and marine debris comes from fishing gear, offshore oil and gas platforms, and ships. But 80% of it comes from the land—litter that gets stuck in storm drains and is washed into rivers and out to sea, the legal and illegal dumping of garbage and appliances, and plastic resin pellets inadvertently spilled and unloaded by plastic manufacturers. Trash Travels, Ocean Conservancy’s 2010 report, states that 60% of all marine debris in 2009 consisted of “disposable” items, with the most common being cigarettes, plastic bags, food containers, bottle caps and plastic bottles. And no matter where the litter originates, once it reaches the ocean, it becomes a planetary problem as garbage travels thousands of miles. We can take action on land to help prevent trash from entering our waterways!
- 90% of ocean trash is plastic, so every action we can take to reduce plastic makes a huge difference! Find alternatives like reusable water bottles, coffee cups, and bags rather than plastic. If we don’t act now, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
- Avoid releasing balloons into the sky as they often end up in bodies of water and can trap animals and will break down into tiny bits of trash that can be consumed by fish.
- Say no to plastic straws! Since plastic lasts forever, if you don’t need to use it, just say “no straw please”.
- If purchasing beverages attached with “six pack” plastic rings, or boxes with large packing straps, cut the rings apart before throwing them away. Birds, fish and small land animals can get caught in the rings.
- Pack lunches in reusable PVC-free lunch containers and pouches.
- Pay attention to packaging. Try to choose products with less packaging.
- Participate in a beach clean-up or a local trash/litter clean-up. Always have a bag with you when you go to the beach and pick up what you can. Every little bit makes a difference.
- Be sure to properly dispose of fishing lines and lures, as animals can mistake them for food if they end up in the water. You could even try to use biodegradable fishing lines on your next fishing trip.
- Select reusable items whenever possible and repurpose old items.
- Recycle everything you can. More and more items can be recycled if you take advantage of proper recycling stations and centers.
Wildlife Watching Tips
- Leave no trace. It’s important to leave the environment as you found it or in a more pristine state than what you encounter. Be sure to dispose of your waste properly when out on a hike, exploring in a forest or walking along the beach. Better yet, lend a hand and pick up stray litter to help protect wildlife.
- Keep your distance. Always view wildlife from a safe distance of at least 100 yards. Do not disturb animals, approach or try to feed them. Wild animals can be unpredictable and protective of their young and shelter. Use binoculars to view wild animals without disrupting their natural way of life. The Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits feeding, attempting to feed, or harassing wild marine mammals.
- If on the water, avoid excessive boat speed or abrupt changes in speed or direction. Stay fully clear of a dolphin’s, whale’s, or manatee’s path. Endangered manatees have been sliced by propellers when boaters ignore speed limits. If approached by these animals, put the engine in neutral and allow them to pass.
- Stay away from wildlife that looks sick or injured. If you come across a sick or injured animal, do not try to help the animal yourself. Instead, call your local animal shelter or wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center and give them details about the animal. These trained professionals will be able to provide care in a safe setting to help the injured animal.
- For more information on responsible wildlife watching go to http://ammpa.org/doc_watchablewildlife.html
Marine mammals and people both heavily rely on seafood. Unfortunately, overfishing certain populations and harmful fishing methods have caused dramatic declines in many fish species and habitats. While there are many harmful methods, there are also fishing methods that allow us to catch only what we want and ensure plenty of fish in the sea and on our plates! We have the power to make the issues affecting fish populations worse or to improve them. Through better fishing and fish farming practices, we can create healthy and abundant oceans to support everyone including marine animals that depend on fish for food.
- Use the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch guides or free app to identify what sustainable options are available. Seafood Watch is a program of the Monterey Bay Aquarium that works to provide consumers with the most accurate information regarding sustainable seafood as possible. Since 1999, Seafood Watch has been dedicated to educating consumers, fishermen, restaurants and retailers about fishing practices, impacts and best choices for sustainable oceans. The oceans supply us with food, help regulate our climate, and supply a livelihood for millions of people. Seafood Watch recommendations don’t hinge on any single issue. They consider the fishery, habitat, species, management, and a host of other factors that affect each species. Through these efforts, Seafood Watch works to provide a clear vision for sustainability.
- Always ask where and how the fish was caught to learn more about if it is sustainable!
- Support local businesses and restaurants that have committed to only serving sustainable seafood.
Don’t forget to share what you have learned about conservation with others. Help us inspire more people to do their part to help care for the ocean! If you want to do more to help visit the websites below for additional tips.
The Alliance of Marine Mammals Parks and Aquariums http://www.ammpa.org
The Marine Mammal Center http://www.marinemammalcenter.org/Get-Involved/take-action/things-you-can-do-at-home.html
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/dontfeedorharass.htm
Columbia University http://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2011/01/26/our-oceans-a-plastic-soup/
Monterey Bay Aquarium http://www.seafoodwatch.org
Vaquita Conservation, Protection, and Recovery (Vaquita CPR) https://www.vaquitacpr.org
Project Aware http://www.projectaware.org/issue/marine-debris
Strawless Ocean http://www.strawlessocean.org