FROM ZOO TO YOU Celebrating World Ocean Day every day

By Emily Sexson

June 8 was World Ocean Day: This annual global event is a celebration that coordinates and provides free resources and ideas for ocean conservation. This year’s World Ocean Day theme is “30x30” which seeks to support the global movement to protect the climate and biodiversity of our oceans by at least 30% by 2030. Even though the oceans are located thousands of miles from Kansas, everyone’s actions impact their health.

Even in Kansas, the products we purchase at the store and how we dispose of our waste all have an impact on our planet’s oceans. One of the biggest threats to sea turtles is getting caught in fishing gear. In one study, an estimated 2.5 million turtles were caught in fisheries around the world over a 20-year period. Sea turtles are not the only ones facing this issue. Approximately 40% of all animals caught in fisheries are discarded as trash. These include marine mammals, seabirds, and more. Fishing nets and other equipment are often discarded at sea, causing even more damage to our oceans in what is known as the “Ghost Fishing Cycle”.

This cycle begins when fishing nets are discarded, abandoned, or lost at sea. Some get caught in reef areas, smothering coral, and killing fish, while others drift into open water where wildlife gets caught and trapped within them. The animals perish within the net, and it sinks to the ocean floor. 

Scavengers such as crabs will devour the animal’s carcass, allowing the net to rise into the open water, where the cycle continues as the net begins to catch and entangle wildlife on its own again. We can make sure that the companies we purchase our seafood from are working to prevent ghost fishing, ocean pollution, and other threats to wildlife by visiting www.seafoodwatch.org. The site ranks which products are harvested or caught sustainably and gives great resources on what type of seafood is best for maintaining ocean health.

Endangered species such as sea turtles are vulnerable to ocean pollution at all stages of life. From eggs to hatchlings to juveniles to adults. Things like oil, toxic metal, plastics, fertilizers, chemicals, and untreated waste end up in our oceans either by runoff or by direct placement by humans. Degradation of ocean habitats caused by pollution is an ever-increasing threat to all wildlife. This means that offshore oil exploration and production, as well as the vessels that transport consumer goods that we purchase daily, are responsible for endangering many species. By employing the reduce, reuse, recycle method, our dependency on oil as well as the negative impacts on ocean ecosystems will decrease. 

Plastic never degrades. That means that every piece of plastic that has ever been made is still on our planet. Every day, eight million pieces of plastic make it into our oceans. There is now estimated to be over 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in our ocean, with 46,000 pieces in every square mile, weighing up to 269,000 tons. 

Plastics are in every single inch of our ocean. According to the Ocean Conservancy, plastic has been found in more than 60% of all seabirds and 100% of all sea turtles. The animals mistake the plastic for food and ingest it, causing life-threatening problems. As plastic can never truly completely decompose, tiny pieces of plastic called microplastics are consumed by marine life and end up on your table. Scientists have found plastic in the fish and shellfish that we consume.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, at current oikkyruib eRWA, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. The solution is simple, refuse single-use plastics such as straws, and swap them for more sustainable options. If purchasing plastics, ensure that they can be recycled, and then commit to recycling them after use. 

Visit the Recycling Center at 125 JC Street or https://www.garden-city.org/services/recycling to learn about recycling options in Garden City.

Our oceans are reflective of our planet’s health, and our world cannot survive without them. In honor of World Ocean’s Day, consider committing to a sustainable action such as recycling, picking up litter you find, using reusable bags, or simply skipping the plastic straw.

Emily Sexson is a communication specialist at Lee Richardson Zoo.