Everyone can help to protect the ocean, and the creatures that live there. The main threats to the marine eco-system are:
Ocean acidification and warming, both caused by excess human output of carbon dioxide.
Over-fishing, caused by too many boats with high-tech equipment chasing ever smaller stocks of fish.
Pollution from land sources, especially by plastics.
Southern ocean iceberg - melting land-based ice sheets will gradually increase sea-level (photo by Steve)
Moves to reduce our dependence on fossil fuel to reduce the speed of climate change are gradually taking place, and hopefully by the middle of this century some radical progress will have been made. The ocean reacts slowly however, and it will be many centuries before all of the damage is undone. In particular sea level will continue to rise for a considerable period of time, inundating low-lying coastal areas.
Over-fishing ought to be easy to cure. Fish stocks can recover quickly, they should be a renewable source of tasty, high-quality food - yet lack of will and powerful lobbying by the fishing industry, coupled with outright circumventing of limits and 'pirate' fishing is destroying stocks. Make sure that you buy your fish from stores with strong sustainable fishing policies, such as Waitrose in the UK. So-called 'dolphin friendly' labels mean nothing - by substituting hooks for nets you might avoid dolphin deaths but still catch rare turtles and vast numbers of seabirds such as the albatross.
The majestic sight of an albatross is getting rare as fishing takes its toll.. (photo Steve)
Pollution by plastic is hard to avoid. Plastic lasts for many years in the marine environment, breaking down into ever smaller particles that can eventually even affect plankton! I've seen supermarket carrier bags float past me in the Antarctic, from stores thousands of miles to the North. Try and recycle your plastic, never throw it away on the beach or into a river. Remember too that everything you flush down the toilet or kitchen drain can find its way back to the sea.
Habitat destruction occurs on the coast when humans develop land that is needed by wildlife for breeding or roosting. For example in Greece the lovely island of Zakynthos has an important turtle colony at Laganas, but holiday makers share the beach and are destroying the colony. Developers should be far more sensitive to the needs of other creatures. In deeper water, trawlers devastate huge swathes of seafloor. Someone likened it to 'cutting down a forest to catch the squirrels' - a very apt description. These sort of fishing techniques must be phased out.
Depending upon your country, there are many organisations that you can support to help protect the oceans, easily found with a websearch. In the UK the Marine Conservation Society and World Wildlife Fund are well respected by those of us who are active in marine science. Writing to your Member of Parliament, keeping abreast of what's going on, and taking part in beach clean-ups are all helpful.
More photos on our 'Gallery' page