Protecting and preserving the world, for all life within it, upon it or around it, is everyone's responsibility, as a part of this world. Just some thoughts, as a reminder that nobody's perfect but we can always improve....
(If you're an avid diver, join Reef Check! It's a lot of fun and you'll learn a LOT.)
Some things you can do (hopefully!):
- refuse to purchase or consume any seafood that is not certified as sustainable, or sourced through reputably sustainable vendors and methods. (Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch list is a good place to start: Montereybayaquarium.org) (- This is especially true of shrimp - please cut down or eliminate shrimp from your diet, as most shrimp fishing is one of the most devastating and destructive practices in the ocean! It is a luxury food item, which is made artifically "cheap", and it cannot be sustained. This includes farmed shrimp, which wastes resources that could be better used.)
- learn more about the colossal Floating Garbage Patch in the Pacific ocean (greatgarbagepatch.org), and try to use this information to gauge your own consumption of plastics and other supposedly "disposable" materials. There are garbage patches in other seas as well, and it's only getting worse at this point. Be more aware of just how much wasteful packaging goes into almost everything you buy - that little package you just tossed may be directly responsible for the deaths of marine creatures down the line. (There are several 'plastic-free lifestyle' blogs out there, for some guidance.)
- refuse to support or associate with any business that engages in the wanton slaughter of large sharks and rays, for any purpose, including trophy fishing (game fish are one thing, but most sharks cannot reproduce enough to defend against the illegal fishing, bycatch AND sport fisheries together).
This includes businesses and industries that may not individually engage in shark slaughter specifically, but are in a position to influence conservation and do nothing.
- refuse to purchase or support any sort of shark-derived (or ray-derived) product, across the board. There is nothing we can commercially take from a shark's body that cannot be substituted, or simply done without.
PS: "sharks don't get cancer" is a MYTH, and extracts from their organs offer nothing better than simply following a healthy diet - not to mention avoiding the high concentrations of mercury to be found in top-tier marine predators.
- sharkfin soup = NO. Most of the legal and illegal trade in worldwide shark slaughter is to support this insatiable industry, something that is used purely as a venal social marker of wealth and prosperity. Putting aside the shallowness of such practices, there are better ways to show prosperity than driving one of the most important creatures in the ocean to extinction. (Sharkfin has no flavor or nutritive value anyway! It's all for show.) Sharkfin soup may have once been a cultural issue, but no longer - not when a single culture insists upon endangering the entire oceanic ecosystem, ultimately the very wellspring of all life on Earth. We cannot allow such peculiar individual arrogance and expect oceanic ecosystems to survive. (Think of how you might feel if there were a traditional human culture which honorized ritually pouring poison into public water. Or a culture that kidnaps babies for sacrifice? Is that their cutural "right"? Some rituals might carry deep cultural significance, but some are violently destructive and utterly meaningless - and sharkfin soup was NEVER anything BUT a meaninglessly arrogant show of wealth. Besides, we must all eventually realize and admit: "Tradition" and "Culture" are merely human issues after all, and we're all newcomers to these ecosystems by hundreds of thousands of years.... Sorry to be the one to burst your bubble, if you still think humans are somehow the Center of the Universe....) :P
- if you see or read an overly-sensationalized mass-media report involving sharks and how "scary" and "dangerous" they are, write/call and complain immediately, and continually. Don't let propagandizers get away with framing the issue. (This goes for other issues as well, of course.) Learn more about sharks, and their important roles in the oceans. Learn to set aside the irrational fears, stoked by millennia of sea-monster propaganda. You have much more to fear from neighborhood traffic than sharks.
- know where your food comes from, and how it came to be. This is just as much of a personal health issue as an environmental issue, and a great many nutritional choices can meet both issues' goals.
- drive less; walk, bike or skate more. You'll even feel better if you do, mentally and physically, and even a little bit a day helps to stay fit.
- visit your local aquarium, or plan a trip to a regional one. Learn about the oceans, and how incredible the natural world can be.
- take action, and help spread the word about serious environmental issues around the world (check my links page for some starting points). This is easier than ever with the internet! No excuses.
- learn about the big oil companies, chemical and pharmaceutical companies, and manufacturing and agriculture companies around the world (e.g., Monsanto) - you might be surprised at what you find. Take responsibility for learning about what some of the biggest multinational corporations are doing around the world - in many cases on the backs of massive tax breaks and subsidies, and desperately poor communities. Understand where your own personal choices fit in the scheme of things. We owe a great deal of our current high standard of living to the things these industries and companies have done, but ask yourself : is it worth it to keep going this way? Was it worth it to get where we are now? Why/why not? Arrive at your own answers, but never allow ignorance or propaganda to dictate them.
- ask yourself : why do I think one way or the other about things; where did I get my information, and where did I get my assumptions and preconceptions? Do I harbor any prejudices that are not based in fact or personal research and experience? Have I disallowed new information in fear of altering long-held beliefs?
It may seem simplistic and even silly - but most people live their entire lives without analyzing their world or their beliefs. Ask yourself : am I comfortable not knowing the roots of my own thoughts and feelings? It's a hard question, and too scary for most people; the brave few are the ones who change the world.
(More to come, depending on how cranky, cynical and judgmental I get....) :D