The weather has finally turned and its starting to feel a lot more like summer is here, bring it on! With the sunshine comes more time spent in, around or on the ocean. Welcome June and the beginning of summer, we have been waiting for you. June is an exciting month not only for summer kicking off but it also has two very exciting awareness days, from my point of view. The first and foremost was World Ocean Day on 8th June. The second is June 16th, which is World Sea Turtle Day and who doesn’t love watching a sea turtle whilst diving? The reasons I feel these days are important is that education is key to creating change with any challenges the ocean face and a lot of these issues are no longer out of sight out of mind.
So, time to raise some awareness. For this blog I am only going to focus on one of the endless list of challenges and yes, you guessed it: plastic pollution. Over the last year with the pandemic, staycations are becoming the norm and this issue has become the forefront of everyone’s mind. Who in 2020 didn’t see the horrific photos of the litter left on our beautiful nature spots and I think very few locals could avoid it. Bournemouth beach is my work commute so I got to see it every day, hence this being a big topic for me. Plastic pollution isn’t just in the form of drinks bottles or carrier bags, it also includes food wrappers, cigarette butts, take away drinks cups and even face wash. There are so many everyday items you don’t even think about that contain plastic and a lot of them are single use. These items often find their way into the ocean and plastic doesn’t biodegrade. The breakdown process of plastic is simply to break into smaller pieces releasing chemicals as they go. It takes years, if not decades to breakdown. Whilst these items are within the ocean they are being mistaken for food by animals (seabirds are feeding plastic to their chicks, yummy plastic for dinner anyone?), its causing animals to get entangled and eventually leading to death.
But it is not all doom and gloom there are a few things we can do to prevent our rubbish ending up in the oceans and it begins with the 4 R’s. Rethink, refuse, reuse and recycle. Let’s begin with rethink. It’s simple rethink your purchases; can you buy the same item without a plastic wrapper? Bananas for example, don’t they already come with a protective skin? do they really need to be wrapped in a plastic bag? Refusing items is ok also, the consumer has a huge amount of power. I have walked out of coffee shops when they refused to use my reusable cup (it is estimated the UK gets through 2.5billion single use coffee cups a year which is a huge number!). Carry a water bottle, you will be surprised how easy it is to get them filled up and think more about how you can reuse items after you have purchased and used them (e.g., jam jars make for an easy storage solution). Recycling as much as possible will also make huge steps to reduce pollution. Due to public awareness about plastic pollution, a lot of improvements are being made to reduce the amount of new plastic being produced and you will find manufactures have reduced bottle sizes and a lot of these are now being made from recycled plastics, which is giving that single use plastic a second life. As divers, a very easy contribution we can make is to simply bring back any litter we find whilst out diving. This will remove it from the environment and don’t forget to talk about what you’re finding. Diver’s love comparing experiences and I can guarantee someone can trump your craziest rubbish item found. We are in the best position to bring what is under the waves to the surface and to people’s attention.
One species of animals that have been hugely affected by plastic pollution is the sea turtle. This brings me on to today’s World Sea Turtle Day, a day to bring awareness to these ancient, curious creatures. There are seven species of sea turtle and they are all threatened with extinction. This threat has come about due to various reasons but plastic is a big one. All species of sea turtle will eat jellyfish at some stage in their lives whether it be as a juvenile, or it becoming the sole item of their diet as an adult. However, plastic floating in the water looks very similar to a jellyfish. For a species that has been around since before the dinosaurs they have no idea what plastic is and if they see it and think its food, they will eat it. This can be life threatening as plastic cannot be digested so the turtle will feel full. So, why not on the 16th try dropping a sea turtle topic into a conversation, post a little something on social media. You will be surprised at how quickly a conversation will get started. A little fun fact a green sea turtle can hold it breath for anywhere up to five hours. That I think would break any freediving record.
Hopefully, you have enjoyed reading this short piece on the two awareness days in June. Now is the time to start raising awareness and to not let your dives go to waste. Come along and find out what we are doing to help our favourite place, the ocean.
PADI Open Water Instructor.
Don't forget to come and join us for some Dive Against Debris events along Dorset's local coast. Keep an eye out on our Facebook page for more information as the events get posted up on there.
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