The Philippines: One Vast Sea of Opportunities

May is the Month of the Ocean, and for this year, the theme underscores the richness of the Philippine seas and the vast opportunities they can provide for the sustenance of life on Earth.

“The Philippines, One Vast Sea of Opportunities,” so goes the theme.

Philippines has 36,000 kilometers of coast, almost 30,000 square kilometers of coral reefs and about 1,170 square kilometers of mangroves, which makes it one of the world’s richest countries in terms of marine biodiversity.

With its rich marine biodiversity, the country is considered as the “global center of the center of marine biodiversity.”

The seas that provide them livelihood and subsistence to around 40 million Filipinos is under serious threat.

Important fragile marine ecosystems around the country are being destroyed at an alarming rate due to overfishing, illegal fishing, pollution, climate change, destruction of critical marine habitats, toxic chemical pollution from industries, human sewage and plastic garbage from cities suffocate what were once pristine waters.

We humans are to be accountable for the destruction. We are the problem, but we too, are the solution. Here are simple habits we can adapt to help save our seas.

01 Travel the ocean responsibly

Practice responsible boating, kayaking, and other recreational activities on the water. Never throw anything in the water. If you’re set on taking a cruise for your next vacation, do some research to find the most eco-friendly option. According to Globalcitizen.org, “The best tip is to look at the emissions and pollution impact. Look for cruise ship lines that let you know they use scrubbers to get clean emissions, and ask them about their sewage treatment and disposal policies. Unregulated cruise ships emit sulfuric acid which leads to ocean acidification.”

02 Say no to plastic

“Of all the hazardous materials littering our seas today, plastic poses the greatest threat,” said Emma Snowden, project officer of the Marine Conservation Society, in an article by The Guardian. Experts say every year plastic causes death and injury to hundreds of thousands of seabirds and marine species through swallowing and entanglement. In the long term, plastics can break down into tiny particles which are eaten by smaller species and passed up the food chain. “In a sense we’re eating our own waste,” said Snowden. Reduce or totally avoid sachets and straws.

03 Use reef-friendly sunscreen

A study conducted by Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology revealed that most sunscreen products contain chemicals that are harmful to marine life. “One such chemical, oxybenzone, has a toxic effect on young coral, causing endocrine disruption, DNA damage and death. In essence, it poses a major ecological conservation crisis because it prevents new corals from populating an area,” the study says. Check at the label when purchasing sunscreen. Opt for sunscreens that does not contain the said harmful chemical. Better if you can use sunscreen with natural ingredients.

04 Don’t buy items exploiting marine life

Avoid purchasing items like coral jewelry, shark products, and tortoiseshell hair accessories (made from hawksbill turtles)Such products are directly linked to the destruction of fragile coral reefs and marine ecosystems in general.

05 Join organizations supporting the ocean

There are numerous organizations advocating to protect the ocean and marine life. Find a national or a local organization where you can give support in kind—financial and volunteer activities. For one, International Coastal Cleanup is the largest volunteer effort for ocean’s health. Around the world, many organizations gather on beaches, coasts, rivers, waterways and underwater dive sites to collect trash and record information on the debris collected. Objectives of the celebration include better waste management policies/plans, product packaging designs and advocating environmental consciousness among the people.

06 Practice sustainable and safe seafood choices

Demand and unsustainable fishing practices loss of habitat result to depletion of fishes in the sea.When shopping or dining out, help reduce the demand for overexploited species by choosing seafood that is both sustainable and healthful. Overfished and endangered varieties include bluefin tuna, Atlantic Cod, red snapper. In restaurants, avoid ordering dishes such as shark fin dumpling, turtle soup and Chilean sea bass.

07 Be an eco-friendly pet owner

Read pet food labels and consider seafood sustainability when choosing a diet for your pet. Ensure that no ingredient was sourced from any endangered variety of fish. Do not flush cat litter for it may carry pathogens harmful to marine life. Wild-caught saltwater fish shouldn’t be placed at aquariums, and never release any aquarium fish into the ocean or other bodies of water. Such practice that can introduce non-native species harmful to the existing ecosystem.

08 Promote and influence ocean conservation in your community

Research the ocean policies of public officials before you vote or contact your local representatives to let them know you advocate for marine conservation projects. Patronize restaurants and grocery stores that offer only sustainable seafood. Speak up and raise your concerns if you spot a threatened species on the menu or at the seafood counter. Letting the policymakers and food establishments know your advocacy in protecting the ocean is a proactive way any concerned and responsible citizen could simply do.

10 Educate yourself and share the knowledge

All life on Earth is connected to the ocean and its inhabitants. Oceans are the lifeblood of planet Earth and humankind. We will be more encouraged to protect the oceans as we learn the issues being faced by such a vital part of our environment. After gaining knowledge and understanding, create awareness by sharing the knowledge to inform, educate, and inspire other people.

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