Oxfordshire is about as far away from the sea in England as you can get. So why should the plight of the oceans concern us and what can we do about them from here?
Quite simply, the oceans are essential to life on earth and they are in grave danger from the actions of humans. We need to wake up and realise that we do not live in a bubble and everything we do impacts on our environment.
Earth’s oceans make up 70% of our planet’s surface and underneath that surface of the great blue water can be found such a rich an abundant variety of incredible species; from the blue whale to the magnificent coral reefs. Incredibly though as we all know, these marine animals are facing the same issues our land animals are, the impact of human living in disharmony with nature causing a massive 49% decrease in populations in just 50 years.
The biggest threats seem to come from over fishing and generally over use of the sea, climate change, entanglement in fishing lines, plastics ending up in the sea, ocean noise pollution and marine animals being struck by ships.
Did you know that the sea produces half of the oxygen we breathe? Phytoplankton is a microscopic single celled ocean algae which is effectively at the bottom of the food chain in an ecosystem we all rely upon. This wonderful plant is responsible for half of the photosynthetic activity on our planet, so they are not only essential to the marine life in our oceans but to our whole ecosystems. They are the grasses of the sea, when too many nutrients become available they grow out of control and produce harmful toxic compounds which are harmful to marine animals, birds and even us.
Nutrient pollution of the oceans is caused by nitrogen and phosphorus running off of the land and into the ocean, these are found in the fertilizers we use.
So as you can see our oceans are delicate and our unintended consequences have a knock on effect.
We need to be more aware of how we can help. We need to stop thinking of the ocean as an endless supply of food to exploit for our livelihoods and to feed us. If we do not we are in serious peril.
So people of Oxfordshire let’s do our bit. You can start with plastic, and think about the plastic you use. There are great shops now across Oxfordshire where you can take your own containers and fill up on things like cereal, olive oil, herbs, spices, nuts, dried fruit and so much more. In the Oxfordshire Project we got to know Ella Peirson with her shop Sea Change Zero Waste in Kingston Bagpuize. I encourage you to pop into your local zero waste shop too.
Did you know that turtles often mistake carrier bags as jelly fish? When you think about it, it seems obvious that they would, when we throw our plastic away we have no idea where it will end up.
Have you ever looked for the blue MSC label on fish products? This is another action you can take that will help to make a difference. You can click here to read more about MSC, this label is only given to wild fish or seafood from fisheries that meet a certain standard for sustainable fishing.
More than a 3rd of fish stocks are fished from unsustainable levels so this is a vital tool in the toolbox to drive up standards in the industry.
Of course the best thing you can do is give up eating fish all together and move to a more environmentally friendly plant based diet. But if you are not prepared to do that, you can cut down the amount of fish you eat or look for the MSC label.
Any action you can take to reduce your carbon emissions will also help. Ocean acidification, a reduction in PH levels in the water, caused by carbon dioxide in the air dissolves the shells of shell fish and the rising sea levels. More information on Ocean Acidification can be found on the Ocean Service website.
In summary, we can make a difference from the rural shire of Oxfordshire. It will take an effort, you may need to make some sacrifices and you may need to travel a little further to make the right purchase, but only when we make these choices in mass will the industry be forced to make the necessary changes in order to work in harmony with our ocean.
Written by Ben Molyneux