29 December 2014

Five New Year’s resolutions that will help the oceans

Stuart Buchanan

New Year’s resolutions are hard. Whether it’s to quit smoking or trying to lose weight, many of the lofty goals we set for ourselves don’t make it past the end of January.

So how about making small lifestyle changes that can help the planet instead? Even the smallest behavioural shift can benefit our oceans – and here are five ways to do it:

1. Get SASSI about your seafood choices

According to the BBC around 85% of the world’s fish stocks are either overexploited, exploited to their maximum, depleted or recovering from exploitation. If you’re not quite ready to stop eating seafood altogether, at least make sure the fish you are consuming has been farmed in a sustainable manner.

The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) has made this easy with the Southern Africa Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI). It categorises fish species into three colours: green-labelled species are the most sustainable choices from well-managed populations that are able to handle current fishing pressure; an orange label indicates that a species is under pressure or its farming methods are harmful to that species, and consumers should think carefully about purchasing from this selection; and a red label shows that it is either illegal to sell the species or that it is currently being fished in an unsustainable manner.

So what can you do? It’s simple: check the status of any fish you purchase from a shop or a restaurant before you eat it to make sure you are only consuming green-listed species.  If you eat at the Aquarium’s Shoreline Café you can be secure in the knowledge that all our seafood has been certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.

2. Bag yourself something reusable

Plastic shopping bags are really, really bad for the ocean. If they don’t end up wrapped around a poor animal’s neck, they get mistaken for jellyfish and eaten by an array of wildlife that end up starving to death as a result of stomachs full of plastic. And the plastic bags that don’t get eaten disintegrate into tiny microscopic particles that seep into the ocean floor and damage the marine ecosystem.

It’s very easy to cut down on the number of plastic bags we use. Think of the short amount of time that a plastic bag is useful to you, versus the years of damage it will go on to cause. If you can’t go without a shopping bag, switch to a reusable one. We’ve partnered with Woolworths to produce these reusable bags – they are made locally, from recycled material, keeping things as environmentally friendly as possible. There are also plenty of other eco-friendly reusable bags on the market. It’s time to rethink the bag!

A resident African penguin checks out the Woolworths reusable bags

3. Reach your last straw

Straws suck. A lot. Every beach clean-up that we have taken part in has revealed handfuls of straws washed up on the shore. Like plastic bags, they eventually break down into tiny toxic particles that remain in the ocean for decades, or end up causing problems inside the stomachs of wildlife. It’s another item that provides a small convenience for the length of a drink, but untold damage once we’ve discarded them. Do yourself (and the planet) a favour and just say no to straws.

4. Stop bottling it up

Generally speaking, South African tap water is clean and safe, and meets international quality standards. And yet, millions of rands are spent on buying bottled water, which is often no different in quality and taste. All this does is to create more plastic that ultimately ends up in the ocean.

Save money, and save the environment, by keeping a reusable bottle handy wherever you go, and refill with good old tap water.

5. Spare some bucks, spare some fish

You can also support organisations that are doing conservation work or educating children about the environment. Consider donating to the Two Oceans Aquarium – we rehabilitate and release endangered sea turtles, we rescue seals from life-threatening nooses, and we make contributions to research on sharks and sunfish.

June the turtle was rehabilitated for 11 months before being flown across the country to be released. This was only possible thanks to your generous donations

Many of the children attending under-resourced schools in the area have never seen the ocean, so we sponsor visits to the Aquarium throughout the year. We also send our outreach vehicle further afield across the province.

Your donation can help us continue to make a difference in the lives of these kids and the lives of the animals we rescue. Visit our online shop for more details.

All the best for 2015!

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