Photo: Seven things you can do every day to protect our oceans

Small actions in our daily lives affect the health of the oceans that we love. Whether you live on the coast, on a river that runs out to sea or even in one of the many landlocked parts of Canada, we all depend on oceans for our survival and can help protect them by taking small but important actions every day.

Here are seven things you can do to protect the oceans you love.

Share these with your network — the more people who take these small actions every day, the more impact we will have.

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Eat for healthy oceans

Choosing ocean-friendly seafood is an easy and effective way to help protect the oceans. Vote with your wallet to send the message to government and business leaders that you support responsible stewardship of our oceans. Take the pledge to eat sustainable seafood. Remember that eating vegetarian also reduces the stress on fish stocks.

Wondering where to start? We've got two delicious recipes for pink salmon. Pink salmon is predicted to have a large and healthy run in B.C. this year. It's a mild-flavoured fish and a sustainable alternative to open net-pen farmed salmon. Learn more about the dangers of open net-pen farmed salmon on our blog.

Carefully dispose of your cigarette butts

Cigarette butts make up the most (by far!) beach litter in Canada. Even butts discarded on sidewalks and streets end up in storm drains where they are carried out to rivers and oceans.

These filters contain harmful chemicals that leach into the water and contaminate and kill fish. Sea life, such as young sea otters and seabirds, also mistake the butts for food. But they can't properly digest them, so they can die as the butts accumulate in their stomachs. Cigarette butts are composed of cellulose acetate, a non-biodegradable plastic, which can take 15 years or more to decompose.

If you smoke, make sure to take along a small container to hold your cigarette butt until you can dispose of it properly. Or better yet, quit smoking to protect your own health as well as the health of your environment.

Reduce, reuse, recycle; especially plastic waste

The four most common types of trash on our beaches are cigarette butts, food wrappers, beverage bottles and plastic bags (graphic).

Plastics are now so common in the ocean that they form vast "garbage patches". Plastic waste doesn't biodegrade and is mistaken for food by many sea creatures. It can accumulate in their bodies and eventually kill them.

Even if you don't litter, a lot of plastic from landfills still finds its way to the beaches and oceans. So, the best way to reduce plastics in the ocean is to reduce our overall use of plastic — using reusable water bottles and shopping bags is a way to protect our oceans.

Reduce your carbon footprint

Climate change and increased levels of carbon dioxide are having profound negative effects on the ocean. The change in ocean temperature, acidification (from absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide) and melting sea ice all disrupt marine ecosystems, leading to harmful algae blooms, decreased fish stocks and the death of important organisms like coral and shellfish.

So, everything you do to reduce your carbon footprint and the impacts of climate change also helps the ocean. Ride your bike, walk or take the bus. Eat local organic food. Use energy-efficient appliances and lighting. Reduce home heating and air conditioning. Read more ideas on how to reduce your carbon footprint on our action page.
Keep toxins out of our oceans by keeping them out of your house

Even a tiny amount of some toxic chemicals can have a huge impact on ocean health: household cleaners often contain volatile organic compounds that can lead to harmful algae blooms; chlorine bleach is highly toxic to fish; motor oil contains heavy metals that can end up in the fish we eat.

Keep our oceans safe. Never pour bleach, motor oil or other chemicals down the drain or into sewers. Find out about the safe chemical disposal programs in your area.

For household cleaners, choose effective green alternatives. For example, vinegar disinfects and is a great non-toxic alternative to bleach. Our Queen of Green has more great tips for non-toxic cleaners and beauty products on her blog.

Make a connection and share it

Research shows we take better care of nature if we connect with it more frequently. It also lowers stress levels and improves mood.

Spending time outside near or in the ocean will keep you healthy, happy and inspired to protect it. Sharing the experience with a friend and talking about the importance of healthy oceans will help spread the love.

More and more, social science research shows that people are most receptive to changing their behaviour if they hear from people they know and trust. Sharing an experience, leading by example and making personal connections will bring the message of ocean conservation to new audiences in a meaningful way.

Enjoy the ocean, minimize your impact

There are so many activities you can do to enjoy the ocean — surfing, swimming, scuba diving, beachcombing, sailing, paddleboarding, kayaking, fishing, powerboating. Enjoying the ocean is important, but activities need to be done responsibly to minimize your impact. Make sure to look up guidelines to doing your favourite sport responsibly.

To keep the ocean safe while enjoying its beauty, always "be whale wise". If you're fishing, be sure you're fishing in season and with a permit — call to report illegal fishing or habitat destruction: Report all poachers and polluters (RAPP) — 1-877-952-7277. And, of course, never feed or try to pet wild ocean creatures.

Bonus: Organize your efforts with other ocean champions

Your small individual actions add up to make a difference. By coordinating with others who are taking action we can be more effective and efficient as well as learn from each other and inspire each other to greater action.

Become a David Suzuki Ocean Keeper to find out how we can continue to work together to boost each other's work. Go to

Help us protect the coast by becoming an Ocean Keeper »

"Ocean Keepers" used with permission

August 4, 2013

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Aug 04, 2013
6:17 PM

I would like to go further and find out what innovations in industry are leading the way to replace plastics. One example I can think of is a company in New York that makes storage containers out of mycelium from mushrooms. It looks just like styrofoam but it biodegrades within a month. It was written up in May 2013 New Yorker. I would love to hear more. For example how far are we in algae replacing oil as fuel? And can it really be grown in deserts? I understand Germany has a building now powered by algae fuel. And NASA has sent planes across the ocean on algae fuel. What more is coming on stream?

Aug 05, 2013
2:50 PM

I protect our oceans by writing about them. For banning the use of shark fins, and certain species of sharks that are endangered. About ocean acidification, and its impacts. New medicinal products discovered from ocean organisms. Protecting oceans from oil drilling, and how oil spill would be devastating to the world’s oceans, if they was an oil spill in polar regions. I petitions members of the U.S. Congress, Pacific Fisheries Management Council National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the creation of ocean sanctuaries throughout the world.

Aug 09, 2013
7:31 PM

This blog reminds us some of the great ways to protect oceans qualities. In my opinion, the most important way is to avoid littering. For example, decrease in cigarette butts will significantly improve the water quality. Some litter materials for example, aluminum or plastic, they last for hundreds and thousands of years. Another way is to reduce the carbon footprint!. The temperature and negative impacts on the ocean increases as Carbon Dioxide consumption level increases. This will accelerate the global warming as well. Therefore, reducing carbon footprint will promote sustainable ecosystem. After reading this blog, I rethink how I’ve been acting towards sustainability and teaches me how I should act from now in order to preserve the nature.

Aug 16, 2013
4:13 AM

I’ve recently been reading about “Family Cloth” and have decided to give it a try! I think I’ll just be using it for the Number One (not Number Two), but reducing toilet paper use must have an impact on the health of oceans and our planet’s water. Anyone who is interested could read more about Family Cloth here:

And you’ll save money, too!

Aug 18, 2013
6:43 PM

Right now when i’m so freaked out about Fukushima leaking into the ocean I find these posts to be unhelpful, almost annoying b/c cigarette butts (and the like) seem miniscule in comparison to the amount of radiation that seems to be washing into the Pacific Ocean. Do you have any any habits or actions to suggest for cleaning up and healing Fukushima?

Oct 15, 2013
12:38 AM

How about the obvious solution to ocean harvesting… go vegetarian!! Apparently the author totally overlooked that one!

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