The ocean is under attack from all sides and it needs our help to protect it!


A blue planet

Life on earth would not exist without the vast blue waters that cover more than 70% of the planet.

The oceans provide us with the oxygen we breathe, the fish we eat, even life-giving medicine sourced from the deep.

Aside from sustenance, the oceans protect us from the harsh elements. Mangroves and coral reefs shield us from strong winds and waves.

An Island near Coron in Palawan. © Steve De Neef

A split-shot of underwater and above water of Coron, Palawan.

The waters are also a place of awesome beauty and home to more than 80% of the world’s biodiversity.  This includes beloved sea creatures like whales, dolphins, sharks, dugong, turtles and manta-rays. According to the World Register of Marine Species, there are around 240,470 known species, but this is believed to be just a small fraction of the species that exist, with new marine life being discovered everyday!

The oceans are also a source of livelihood to millions. In 2016, the United Nations – Food and Agriculture Organization (UN-FAO) estimated that about 59.6 million people worked as fishers and fish farmers, much of whom are from Southeast Asia.

Simply put, the ocean is a place of wonder and delight.

Oceans in peril

Unfortunately, the oceans are not what they used to be. The news nowadays paints a grim picture of the state of global oceans.  

Everywhere, there are cases of pollution— from plastic to oil spills— choking the life out of sea creatures who are silently helpless. Time and again, we find birds, dolphins, and turtles washed ashore in the beaches of the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia, usually dying because of ingesting plastic wastes (big and small) that are being dumped in the ocean.

Sperm Whale Death in Palermo, Sicily. © Greenpeace

A sperm whale is found dead on the beach in Palermo. This is the second dead sperm whale after the one found in Cefalù, also in Sicily, a few days before. Both of the sperm whales are young: probably juveniles of around 7 years old. Veterinarians do not know yet the causes of death but all the plastic found in the stomach of the first sperm whale for sure compromised its capacity of feeding. So far, the possibility of entanglement in fishing gear has been excluded by the veterinarians, while the possible impact of viral diseases is still to be assessed.

Fish is slowly disappearing because of unsustainable fishing practices by an industry that is always hungry for profit. Roughly 90% of the fish in our oceans have already been fished by big companies that are engaged in illegal and destructive fishing practices that not only endanger the marine environment and other sea creatures but also endanger thousands of fish workers in the region. Some have died and many have experienced inhumane treatment and unfair labour conditions onboard.

Wanted: Ocean Defenders

The oceans give us so much without asking anything in return. But the truth is, it needs our help now more than ever. But what exactly can we do to help protect and restore the oceans back to its healthy, pristine state?

Here are 5 ways YOU can help:

  1. Read the news and dive deeper into oceans issues

There’s a lot of news and information out there and it’s good to educate yourself and others on the beauty and threats to our oceans.

Find out what is happening in the marine environment right now- celebrate the good (share the video of that rare rainbow ‘blanket’ octopus recently sighted in the Philippines), and share the bad (like that investigative report on human slavery in the high seas).

  1. #BreakFreeFromPlastic

Plastic ain’t fantastic. It’s a serious pollutant (it’s a byproduct of fossil fuels) and endangers marine animals and other important wildlife.

Be an example to friends and family and say no to single-use plastics (bags, straws, cutlery, etc.) now and forever.

  1. Be a smart seafood consumer

Love seafood? Whether you prefer it fresh or from the can, it’s good to be aware of the product you are buying was caught sustainably and ethically. This ensures that companies and brands were not involved in any ‘fish crimes’ such as illegal and unsustainable fishing practices that harm the marine environment or even endanger fishermen and labourers.

Check out the latest Greenpeace tuna cannery ranking in Southeast Asia, see if your favourite brand passed the green criteria.

  1.    Initiate and support an oceans education program for the youth

It is important to start them young and to make them appreciate the importance of saving the marine environment early on. So schools need to allocate significant resources, like time and budget, to set up an oceans education program for their students, even their parents.

High school and university students can be moulded into future leaders. By inspiring and motivating them to protect our oceans, we can hope to achieve systematic changes needed to save the environment as a whole.

  1. Ask your government to support the UN treaty to protect global oceans

There’s a new treaty in town to save our seas from further degradation and abuse.  

Governments have started work on a UN Ocean Treaty that will hopefully protect a third of the oceans and declare it off-limits to fishing, mining and other destructive industries.

Greenpeace started an online petition to put the pressure on world leaders to set things right and agree on stronger resolutions to protect global oceans for present and future generations.

Now more than ever, the world needs people committed to protect the oceans and keep it healthy, safe, and full of life.

Show your love for the deep blue, not just during Oceans Month, but with every breath you take. After all, we owe our very existence to our oceans.

Arifsyah Nasution is the Regional Oceans campaigner in Greenpeace Southeast Asia. He is a delegate to the UN Ocean Treaty, working to restore the balance in our oceans.