Travel with love

Oceans are a sanctuary of biodiversity: how to ensure marine conservation

We love to start planning our next holidays and think about all the incredible experiences we will have while abroad. Whether it’s about a tropical island, a history-rich European city on the sea, or a retreat in the Alps, all these dreamy destinations have something in common. Oceans.

Besides being a source of awe and a dreamy holiday destination, the oceans are the beating heart of our planet's existence and play a crucial role in our daily lives and the planet's survival, from the coastal region to the mountains.

However, their well-being, and consequently ours, is in jeopardy due to the proliferation of plastics and waste threatening marine life. According to a study conducted by the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and reported by CNN, oceans are polluted by “plastic smog” and other polluting substances of an estimated 171 trillion plastic particles that, if gathered, would weigh around 2.3 million tons. [1]

And even if we don’t see it while swimming in the sea or playing with the sand on the beach, it is all around us, and sometimes even in our blood circulation.

The ecosystem services of oceans

Oceans are not mere expanses of water but the bedrock of life on Earth. They provide essential ecosystem services vital to our well-being, including climate regulation, biodiversity support, and oxygen production. Plus, they offer the perfect backdrop for unique experiences, from scuba diving to surfing.

Providing mild climate worldwide

Oceans act as the Earth's thermostat, regulating global temperatures. They absorb heat from the sun and distribute it across the planet, playing a crucial role in maintaining climate stability and mitigating winter cold in coastal regions. Indeed, 93% of the excess heat generated by human activities via the greenhouse effect is absorbed and mitigated by the oceans. [2]

That’s why you can have a lovely holiday in the Canary Islands till late October. Oceans are also our silent heroes in the fight against climate change. They absorb carbon dioxide, a significant greenhouse gas, which helps mitigate global warming. Without this vital service, our planet would already be experiencing more severe climate impacts.

A sanctuary of biodiversity: ocean conservation

Oceans are teeming with life, from the tiniest plankton to the most giant whales. This biodiversity sustains marine and terrestrial ecosystems, as interconnected food webs link land and sea.

Even the smallest creatures play a vital role in this delicate balance: for example, phytoplankton, the tiny photosynthetic organisms in the ocean, produce more oxygen than all the forests on Earth combined. The oxygen we breathe is, in large part, thanks to the oceans. [3]

Oceans are also a vital source of sustenance. They support many fish species that feed billions of people, provide jobs, and contribute to global food security. Additionally, marine ecosystems offer resources such as medicines, energy, and minerals.

Ensuring the snow season on mountain belts

Oceans mitigate the climate all over our planet, and their effects can be seen in the mountain belts in many different countries, for example, the Alps in Europe. On their side, the snow-melting provides fresh water to the rivers that end up in seas and oceans, in a virtuous circle.

Who doesn’t love a fresh, untouched field of snow on a sunny, cold day in the mountains? This perfect, magical atmosphere is indeed provided by oceans, and more precisely - if we are in the Italian, Swiss or French Alps, by the Atlantic Ocean. However, the rise in temperatures and pressure on the Atlantic corresponded to high-pressure, warm and dry weather conditions on the mainland, which is an unfavourable condition to snow over the Alps. [4]

How can we protect oceans?

Our individual choices have a significant impact on the health of our oceans. It's not just about our behaviour during a seaside holiday, but all the decisions made from booking a trip to our daily lives.

A mindful grocery shopping list for marine conservation

The action plan we need for healthier oceans begins at home. We can start with small steps, for example by choosing reusable water bottles and tote bags or buying bulk products when possible, and always looking for local, fresh food that doesn’t contribute to the pollution travelling for days to arrive in our shops.

Regarding grocery shopping, our food choices can make a massive difference for the oceans. When dining out or buying seafood, we can always opt for sustainably sourced options, looking for certifications like MSC or ASC, which ensure responsible fishing practices and marine life conservation.

Our tip: Many European cities now have these “zero waste” shops where we can buy loose products such as pasta, legumes, flour, and toiletries, bringing our glass containers.

Be conscious from day one: sustainable marine tourism

Whether we love or hate holiday planning, it's a crucial moment to make a difference in our holiday's environmental impact. This is the perfect opportunity to make conscious decisions and prioritise eco-friendly practices.

We can start researching and learning about marine conservation issues, supporting organisations protecting oceans and staying informed about overfishing, coral reef preservation, and climate change. It is important also to contribute to marine research through citizen science projects or check with local administration for programs we can join.

On top of this, it is crucial to be aware that oceans have an impact on our lives, even if we don’t live by the shore, enjoying colourful sunsets every day. Our actions have consequences even if we live in the mountains or the lowlands. If our rivers are polluted and overwhelmed with plastics, this litter will end up in the oceans with severe consequences for all these environments we live in.

Let’s involve our families and friends, and make sure our kids know about protecting this fragile ecosystem, to keep enjoying amazing holidays swimming in the sea and skiing in the mountains while preserving local communities and their habitats.

Our tip: While exploring coastal destinations, engage in activities that connect you with the ocean's wonders, like snorkelling, diving, or visiting marine conservation centres.

Marine life conservation: the initiatives

Coastal communities often have deep cultural connections to the sea, and maritime traditions have been passed down through generations. Furthermore, recreational activities like swimming, sailing, and beachcombing bring us closer to the ocean's beauty.

Across the world, some destinations have successfully implemented conservation measures to protect their marine ecosystems. For example, the Galápagos Islands have seen remarkable improvements in their biodiversity and ecosystem health due to strict conservation measures.

According to Galápagos Conservancy, the only U.S.-based nonprofit dedicated to protecting and restoring the Galápagos Islands, beach pollution stands out as a significant challenge with potential impacts on the local economy and the overall wildlife across all the islands. In a recent nonprofit initiative, 65 students addressed this issue firsthand by gathering 575 pounds of garbage from four beaches in the archipelago. [5] These success stories showcase the positive impact of sustainable choices and inspire us to take similar actions.

Our oceans are integral to Earth's natural systems and intimately linked to our daily lives. By making informed and responsible choices, and researching about important topics such as plastic pollution threats, we can protect and preserve the oceans for future generations, securing the vibrant and diverse life they sustain.

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