It wasn’t until I became a scuba diver that I realised just how amazing the ocean is or how much humans are damaging it. Divers are passionate about protecting our wildlife and oceans. But you don’t have to be a diver, snorkeller or even a water-lover to play your part. Here are a few things everyone can do in their daily lives to help marine conservation:

Be Energy Aware

The ocean is becoming more acidic from burning fossil fuels which is destroying marine life. Reduce your effect on climate change by being more energy conscious: insulate your home; switch off your computer and electronic devices when they’re not in use; recycle and use energy-saving light bulbs to help keep your energy consumption down. Plus, being energy aware will help you save some money!

marine conservation Photo: Kai Stachowiak/ Public Domain Pictures

Photo: Kai Stachowiak/ Public Domain Pictures

Ditch the plastic

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably noticed that all single-use plastic bags now carry a 5p charge in the UK. But why? In 2014, over 7.6 billion single-use plastic bags were used by supermarket customers – that’s around 130 bags per person. All these bags mean more plastic being dumped into our ocean and harming, or even killing, wildlife who might get trapped in them or mistake them for food.

The 5p charge is expected to bring down the number of plastic bags being used and, as a result, reduce the number littering our streets, countryside, beaches and the ocean. So use reusable bags, canvas bags or a ‘bag for life’ rather than a plastic carrier bag wherever you can.

marine conservation - The ocean's fragile ecosystem is under threat

The ocean’s fragile ecosystem is under threat, so ditch the plastic and the microbead. Photo: Jaine FRA via Wikimedia Commons. CC BY 2.5

Beat the Microbead

Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic added to many everyday beauty products, such as exfoliating face wash or even toothpaste, so small you might not even be able to see them with the naked eye. These miniscule particles are easily washed down the drain and, as they’re too small to be filtered out by water treatment plants, end up in the ocean along with the huge amounts of plastics being flushed into the sea from other sources. Made from non-biodegradable materials, once they’re there they can’t break down and are impossible to remove. Being so small, they can also end up in the stomachs of fish and birds who accidentally eat them. They can even make their way through the food chain and onto our own plates.

Manufacturers don’t need to use microplastics. Several companies have already committed to stop using microbeads but there are still many who needlessly use plastics in their products. Microbeads are already banned in the US and campaigners are urging the UK Government to follow suit. Until these environmentally unfriendly microbeads have been banned, you can ensure you avoid harmful products by downloading the Beat the Microbead app. Just scan the product barcode and the app will tell you if it contains microbeads.

marine conservation - Micro plastics harm the oceans. Photo: by 5Gyres, courtesy of Oregon State University via Flickr

Micro plastics harm the oceans. Photo: by 5Gyres, courtesy of Oregon State University via Flickr

Hang onto your balloons

Balloon and lantern releases are pretty, right? Well, yes. But would you drop scraps of plastic in your local forest and not clean it up? I would hope not. There’s something about balloons seeming to disappear into the sky that makes it seem like it’s not littering. But what comes up must come down. All that plastic ends up in the environment, harming the creatures that live there. So, avoid balloon releases and take part in more environmentally-friendly events instead.

marine conservation Pingxi lanterns cause ocean pollution

Floating lanterns are a beautiful sight but can damage the environment. Photo: Taiwan Tourism Bureau

Choose sustainable fish

Demand for seafood is outstripping supplies and fish populations around the world are in a state of serious decline. Put simply, we’re taking too many fish out of the ocean and fish stocks don’t have enough chance to replenish themselves. Not only that but fishing methods are destroying marine habitats; for example, bottom trawling which, in effect, is a huge net dragged across the ocean floor, ploughing up the seabed and destroying everything in its path. If things carry on at this rate, the ecosystems will be irrevocably damaged and many fish species could be lost forever.

You don’t need to cut fish out of your diet altogether to help combat depleting fish stocks but, if you do eat fish or seafood, choose sustainable options. Avoiding overexploited species will help reduce demand and encourage fisheries to be more sustainable. So, think before you order that cod and chips…

Remembering exactly which type of fish you can eat as well as where and how they should have been caught can be confusing. So, the Marine Conservation Society created the Good Fish Guide, a free app with a handy traffic light system to give you all the information you need to make the right choice when buying or ordering seafood. You can also keep an eye out for the Marine Stewardship Council’s certification logo which shows whether the fishery is either already sustainable or is in the process of implementing sustainable methods.

Travel responsibly

When you’re booking your next holiday, try to pick an eco-friendly and responsible company. Choose operators who run responsible wildlife encounters often led by the world’s leading marine scientists, support local communities and are working towards sustainability actively.

Spread the word about marine conservation…

While one more person helping to protect the ocean is great, everyone needs to play their part in marine conservation… If this is something you care about, tell your friends and family too. You could even start right now by sharing this article with them…

Melissa Hobson is a freelance travel journalist with a specialism in scuba diving. She has a particular interest in diving, marine life, conservation and the environment. Follow Melissa’s adventures on Twitter and Instagram