How To Save The Ocean: Tips & Solutions

We know that the ocean has significant importance to humans, society and Earth’s ecosystems.

We also know that there’s several potential problems facing the world’s oceans, coastlines and marine life

In this guide, we outline how we might save the ocean with potential solutions to ocean pollution, degradation and other ocean issues.

 

Summary – How To Save The Ocean

Potential Problems

Read more in this guide about potential problems facing the world’s oceans.

Many of the potential solutions listed in this guide relate to, or directly address these problems. 

 

Potential Solutions 

Some of the potential solutions to problems facing the oceans consider might be:

Regulations, bans and limits on types and quantities of fishing allowed

More sustainable and more ocean friendly fishing practices

Consumers can choose sustainable seafood, or switch to land sourced/produced sustainable food

Better protection of specific ocean species and organisms

Consideration for mitigating atmospheric CO2 emissions from humans sources

Consider methods to absorb excess or unwanted CO2 from the ocean

Minimising (and managing) mercury release from human sources

Aim for more sustainable agricultural practices (and try to manage how much agricultural nutrients and agricultural chemicals get into the ocean as run off or agricultural waste)

Better management and treatment of sewage and waste water (and less dumping of untreated waste water into the ocean)

Aim for more sustainable mining practices

Aim for more sustainable electricity production practices

Aim for more sustainable transport practices

Minimise air pollution

Minimise soil/land pollution and contamination

Minimise plastic waste, fishing equipment and other waste going into the ocean

Reduce freshwater and general water pollution

Reduce run-off, leaching and direct dumping of waste into the ocean overall, and better manage, treat and dispose of waste overall (that ends up in the ocean)

Explore the benefits of on-shore fish farming and aquaculture either as an alternative or complement to ocean fishing

Aim for more sustainable offshore drilling and mining practices

Invest in alternative income sources for citizens in countries where they rely on destructive ocean tourism to make a living

Regulate beachfront development to minimize environmental damage

+ other solutions for other macro and micro issues

 

What we see overall is that the air/atmosphere, land/soil, freshwater sources and the ocean on Earth all interact between each other – when one is degraded or polluted/contaminated, it can pollute or contaminate the others.

The ocean absorbs gases, but also wet and dry substances (chemical and physical) and material from various sources.

Humans can heavily contribute to ocean pollution and degradation via our fishing practices, and our pollution and waste.

 

Regulations, bans and limits on types and quantities of fishing allowed

What problem/s this solution potentially addresses: overfishing

Overfishing can lead to fishing certain marine species past their sustainable or healthy population numbers.

In areas where overfishing is a problem, regulation, bans and catch limits can be imposed.

Regulations can specify the types of fishing allowed, and what times of the year they are allowed.

Bans can specify what fish can and can’t be fished, and what fish can be kept or released.

Catch limits can be imposed to specify the number of fish that can be caught and kept per day.

Enforcement of these limits, bans and regulations would be required in different locations and seas though. 

 

More sustainable and ocean friendly fishing practices

What problem/s this solution potentially addresses: ocean degradation, risk to marine life

Certain fishing practices degrade and destroy the ocean environment, and endanger marine life as well.

Limiting or banning fishing practices that are too destructive might be an option. These practices might be outright banned, or banned in certain areas where there is ocean environments that require protection.

Encouraging, incentivising or promoting more sustainable fishing practices that are productive, yet more environmentally friendly would be a second way to address this.

Read more about a list of sustainable fishing practices in this guide, and the potential pros and cons of sustainable fishing in this one.

 

Consumers can choose sustainable seafood, or switch to sustainable non-ocean caught food

What problem/s this solution potentially addresses: ocean degradation, risk to marine life

Consumers can buy seafood that is sourced or caught with sustainable fishing practices.

Some seafood manufacturers provide labels on their products that they use certain sustainable fishing practices or processes.

If buying from a fresh seafood seller or restaurant for example, consumers can ask basic questions about how the seafood was caught or sourced. 

Treehugger.com has sustainable seafood slideshows that give an indication of what to look for and what to avoid when buying seafood.

Another option if consumers can’t find a seafood seller that sells sustainably caught seafood, is to eat less seafood, or switch to other food that is sustainably grown or produced.

For example, consumers might be able to find a vegetable/fruit shop, or a butcher that sources sustainably grown food (sustainable for producers, animals, water, land, air and resources used to grow/produce the food)

 

NOTE: consult a medical professional before changing your diet – the above is not advice or a recommendation to change your diet.

 

Better protection of specific ocean species and organisms

What problem/s this solution potentially addresses: species endangerment and extinction

Some marine life are already at dangerously low levels and are not simply overfished.

This includes coral in certain parts of the world, as well as sharks, whales, some fish species, and so on.

Adding more marine life to protected lists or endangered lists, and heavily penalising and watching for practices that negatively impact these species can help protect them.

It also helps if the general public have data on species and organisms that need to be protected, and why, so that they can understand this need.

So, transparency and communication/awareness can be important.

 

Minimising atmospheric CO2 from human sources

What problem/s this solution potentially addresses: ocean pH change, ocean temperature change, ocean oxygen levels, species endangerment and risk to marine life

Emitting more CO2 into the atmosphere from human activities like burning fossil fuels for electricity production and transport means that that CO2 is eventually absorbed by the ocean.

This can create a range of problems such as a changing of the pH levels of the water (acidification), temperature change in the water, and oxygen levels in the water decreasing.

Ocean water health and having ocean water at optimal levels for marine life to thrive is critical to a healthy ocean.

One of the most important organisms in the ocean is plankton (who along with phytoplankton produce half the world’s oxygen via photosynthesis), and warming ocean waters might put plankton at risk long term.

Preventing emissions in the first place might be a place to start.

Renewable energy, nuclear energy, and electric cars (along with other alternative fuel cars) might also play a role in reducing total CO2 emissions

 

Consider methods to absorb excess or unwanted CO2 from the ocean

What problem/s this solution potentially addresses: excess CO2 in the atmosphere leading to acidification

Apart from mitigation measures which involve preventing or decreasing emissions before they are absorbed by the ocean, another strategy which might instead aim to address carbon absorbed by the ocean and acidification is geo-engineering.

Geo-engineering has been tried with the ocean – limestone to reverse pH levels, and iron filings to help suck up CO2 (treehugger.com)

It should be noted though that any new method would obviously have to be tested, and assessed as safe, effective and sustainable, before it’s implemented.

Different methods like this may also have varying tradeoffs and levels of effectiveness.

 

Minimising (& managing) mercury release from human sources

What problem/s this solution potentially addresses: wild life health risks, human health risks

Some estimates indicate that humans have increased mercury levels in the environment by three fold compared to natural mercury levels.

Humans release mercury into the environment mainly via scale gold mining, fossil fuel burning and primary production of non-ferrous metals (wikipedia.org).

Mercury gets into the ocean mainly via the atmospheric gases (but also other ways – via wet and dry forms). 

It can impact marine life health, but also humans as a result of eating seafood with mercury in it.

Better monitoring of the release of mercury from the above human activities, or reducing those activities, can help reduce or manage mercury release as an environmental and health issue.

Other potential approaches to the problem are synthetic coral reefs that absorb the mercury from the water once already in the ocean.

Burning fossil fuels also happens in electricity production (coal and gas), and transport (petroleum and oil) – so, moving towards renewable energy and alternate fuel cars might also help reduce mercury release.

 

Aim for more sustainable agricultural practices

What problem/s this solution potentially addresses: ocean degradation, eutrophication, dead spots, algal blooms, species endangerment and more

Agriculture is responsible for a lot of freshwater pollution, which can then find it’s way into the ocean.

Fertilizer that is heavy in nitrates runs off and leaches into the soil and into water sources, which can lead to eutrophication, dead spots and algal blooms.

Pesticides can also run off and causes health risks for aquatic wild life.

Better agricultural practices that minimise this run off/leaching, or use different and less harmful chemicals (such as organic or natural fertilizers and pest control), can help reduce these issues.

Decreasing our dependence on synthetic or harmful fertilisers and pesticides in agriculture as a society may also be an option.

 

Better management and treatment of sewage and waste water

What problem/s this solution potentially addresses: ocean degradation, ocean pollution, wild life loss

Sewage and wastewater are the main causes of ocean water pollution (more than 80 percent of the world’s wastewater flows back into the environment without being treated or reused).

This is particularly a problem in developing nations where sewage and waste water treatment infrastructure is lacking, or regulations/laws are not sufficient.

Better management and treatment of sewage and waste water, and preventing illegal or harmful dumping straight into the ocean can help address this problem.

 

Aim for more sustainable mining practices

What problem/s this solution potentially addresses: ocean degradation and pollution, risks to wild life

Mining is responsible for huge amounts of waste, and sometimes the release and leaching, run-off and dumping toxic and hazardous chemicals.

Heavy metals, air pollutants, greenhouse gases and tailings are all examples of waste and contaminants released by mining activities.

Tailing for example can be dumped straight into the ocean in some parts of the world (although it is illegal in some countries).

Hazardous waste and substances, and general mining waste might be able to be better tracked, reported, managed, treated and disposed of properly – and not dumped in or near the ocean.

 

Aim for more sustainable electricity production practices

What problem/s this solution potentially addresses: ocean pollution via acidification and acid rain

Using fossil fuels like coal and gas to produce electricity contributes to air pollution … the ocean then absorbs these gases and even heavy metals like mercury.

Acidification and acid rain can be issues for the ocean when the air is polluted.

Moving towards cleaner energy (like renewables, and possibly nuclear) can help combat this form of air pollution and ocean pollution.

 

Aim for more sustainable transport practices

What problem/s this solution potentially addresses: ocean pollution

Stormwater runoff and rainfall carries road salts, oil, grease, chemicals, and debris from impermeable surfaces like roadways and pavements into our waterways … which can then find their way into oceans.

Conventional cars also put greenhouse gases and air pollutants into the atmosphere .. which the ocean absorbs.

Moving towards electric cars and alternative fuel vehicles might help prevent direct leaching into the ocean and also atmospheric absorption of gases by the ocean.

Read more about the types of sustainable transport in this guide, and the potential pros and cons of sustainable transport in this guide.

 

Minimise air pollution

What problem/s this solution potentially addresses: ocean pollution

Air pollutants are absorbed into the ocean via gases, but also run-off from soil (when, for example, acid rain rains on soil).

Nitrates and sulfurs for example (and other contaminants) can be absorbed into the ocean from the air, from acid rain, or from contaminated soils.

Major causes of air pollution are vehicles and fossil fuel electricity plants – so moving towards cleaner transport and energy production would help in addressing this problem.

 

Minimise soil and land pollution 

What problem/s this solution potentially addresses: ocean pollution

Soil can be contaminated in a myriad of ways by various contaminants.

Chemical contamination occurs from fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides from agriculture, but also hazardous waste from industry & residential sectors – just as a few examples.

Contaminants in soil can leach/run-off into both freshwater sources and the ocean (rivers and streams can carry contaminants into the ocean).

Like what is mentioned above, moving towards more sustainable practices across various industries and sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, mining etc. might result in less soil contamination, and less run off into oceans.

 

Minimise plastic waste, fishing equipment & other waste going into the ocean

What problem/s this solution potentially addresses: ocean degradation and pollution

We’ve written guides about some of the most common waste in the ocean and on beaches:

Most Common Types Of Waste Found In Oceans & On Beaches

Most Common Plastic Waste Generated, & Found On Beaches, In Oceans & On Land

How To Reduce Your Ocean/Beach Rubbish Footprint (Based On Marine Waste Stats)

 

Plastic (bags, bottles, caps/lids etc.) and cigarettes by far seems to be the most common rubbish found on beaches.

Fishing gear, industrial rubbish, micro-plastic, and land based rubbish (similar to that found on beaches) is common in oceans.

Reducing ghost fishing and better regulating the amount of fishing gear waste that ends up in the ocean is one way to do this.

From an on-land perspective, we can limit industrial waste and plastic waste that ends up in the ocean.

We can better monitor which companies or industries are causing the most ocean pollution (especially with hazardous waste or waste that contaminates), but also identify rivers that carry plastic into the ocean:

Plastic enters the ocean from many different sources, and rivers contribute greatly. The Yangtze, Ganges and Xi might be some of the main rivers that carry waste into the ocean at the moment, with China and India being home to most of the plastic polluted rivers

Asia also contributed to 86% of river plastic pollution in 2015

 

Reduce fresh water pollution

What problem/s this solution potentially addresses: ocean pollution

Fresh water pollution occurs from many sources – but, agriculture is one of the main offenders (nitrogen fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides).

Fresh water contamination of rivers and streams that run into the ocean, will eventually carry contaminants into that ocean.

Reducing the use of fresh water contaminants, or switching to alternate substances (such as more natural chemicals and substances) might help reduce ocean contamination and pollution.

 

Reduce run off, leaching and direct dumping overall, and better manage, treat and dispose of on-land waste overall (that end’s up in the ocean)

What problem/s this solution potentially addresses: ocean degradation, ocean pollution, risks to marine life

Waste pollution might be better be reduced, prevented or managed.

Harmful and hazardous gases, and wet and dry substances can be absorbed by the ocean directly. They can also be dumped into the ocean, or can run-off or leach into the ocean via various sources like freshwater sources or soil.

Some things that might help limit the effects of waste pollution are better waste treatment, management and disposal in the agricultural, industrial (factories etc), electricity production, mining and household sectors to prevent direct dumping and regulated dumping of hazardous and other harmful chemicals and substances into the ocean

People and organisations can be more careful about what chemicals and toxic substances, as well as what waste water gets dumped into our oceans (currently, about 80% of waste water globally is dumped untreated)

We’ve given many examples of this above, but you can read more examples of water pollution in this guide.

 

Explore the benefits of on-shore fish farming and aqua culture either as an alternative or complement to ocean fishing

What problem/s this solution potentially addresses: overfishing, ocean degradation

Although aquaculture and on-land fish farming has it’s own set of pros and cons, it has the potential to be a good alternative or complement to ocean fishing.

In particular, it can help address species collapse and overfishing, and help restore numbers of species that are endangered or closing in on extinction.

 

Aim for more sustainable offshore drilling and mining practices

What problem/s this solution potentially addresses: ocean degradation and pollution, risks to marine life

When oil is extracted from the ocean floor, other chemicals like mercury, arsenic, and lead can come up with it.

Also, the seismic waves used to find oil can harm aquatic mammals and disorient whales.

Offshore drilling and mining in some parts of our oceans need to become more sustainable to prevent the above from happening.

Whether that involves scientific advancements, alternate practices and strategies or mining in different locations – there are options.

 

Invest in alternate income sources for citizens in countries where they rely on destructive ocean tourism to make a living

What problem/s this solution potentially addresses: ocean degradation and pollution

Some developing nations don’t have enough jobs, so citizens rely on and destroy the ocean to make a living from tourism (tours, boat and jet ski rides, etc.)

Investment by local and foreign countries can help prevent this by creating more jobs and stimulating the economy.

Over exploitation of oceans in developed countries for tourism is also an issue.

 

Regulate beachfront development to minimise environmental damage

What problem/s this solution potentially addresses: ocean degradation

Clear boundaries should be set to prevent beachfront development from damaging the ocean.

Enforcement of these boundaries codified in regulations will help conserve the ocean and the beachfront.

 

Other potential solutions

Other solutions might be centered around other problems such as:

Irresponsible ocean based fish farming

Oil spills from ocean transport

Melting/shrinking ice caps

 

 

Sources

1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/16-biggest-problems-for-our-oceans-coasts-marine-life/ 

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_pollution_in_the_ocean

3. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/water-pollution-causes-sources-examples-effects-prevention-solutions/

4. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/plastic-pollution-causes-sources-effects-solutions/

5. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/most-common-types-of-waste-found-in-oceans-on-beaches/

6. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/most-common-plastic-waste-generated-found-on-beaches-in-oceans-on-land/

7. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/how-to-reduce-your-ocean-beach-rubbish-footprint-based-on-marine-waste-stats/

8. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/land-pollution-land-degradation-soil-contamination-causes-sources-effects-problems-solutions/

9. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/outdoor-air-pollution-causes-sources-examples-effects-prevention-solutions/

10. https://www.treehugger.com/clean-technology/the-ocean-has-issues-7-biggest-problems-facing-our-seas-and-how-to-fix-them.html

Leave a Comment