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10 Ways to Protect the Ocean when Backpacking

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Simple ways to save the sea.

Whether you like dipping into it or not, the ocean is an essential part of life on Earth. There is somewhere between 500,000 and 5,000,000 marine species living in the ocean. Numbers are not exact because the ocean is vastly unexplored. In fact, we have explored more of our moon and Mars than we have our own ocean. Crazy! In addition, the vast ice flows on the ocean help regulate the climate and provide the weather needed to grow vegetation, a.k.a the food we eat.

On a social level, the ocean provides millions of jobs for people, plus hours of enjoyment through recreational activities. All in all, protecting the ocean makes complete sense. Take a look at our points below to see how you can simply change a few things to look after the ocean, whether you are in New Zealand or anywhere else in the world.

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1. Don’t litter!

There are plenty of reasons to enjoy the beach in New Zealand: surf, paddle board, kayak, swim, dive and relax. But remember you are sharing this environment with marine life, so always take your rubbish. Whether the rubbish is swept out to sea or lying on the beach, getting caught in debris can be fatal for marine life.

Department of Conservation

2. Volunteer for beach cleanups

Staying by the sea while on your working holiday? Volunteer for a beach cleanup. Just this simple task for litter picking can stop marine life getting trapped or choke on rubbish. Find a beach cleanup by volunteering for The Department of Conservation (DoC). Or look out for community events, for example, Ecoevents.

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3. Buy less plastic

Around 80% of marine debris found in the ocean is plastic. It doesn’t break down easily. To reduce plastic waste, reuse water bottles, shopping bags and store food in non-disposable containers. Recycle any plastic you use.

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4. Support ocean conservation organisations

International and New Zealand organisations work to protect the oceans on a large scale, such as WWF New Zealand and Project Jonah. The WWF establish marine protected areas, promote sustainable fisheries, protect the endangered Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins, and protect the southern ocean. You can support their work through donations.

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5. Eat sustainable seafood

Now, this is a tricky one, as it’s not always obvious where the seafood comes from. Unsustainable fishing methods and “food fads” have contributed to serious decline in fish populations. Seafood is a big thing in New Zealand, as Kiwis love their “fush n’ chups”, oysters and crayfish. To make better choices you can: pick a seafood low on the food chain that needs less resources (basically, not swordfish, shark and tuna), pick species that grow quickly, and check the labels in supermarkets to see how the seafood was harvested/fished. For a full list of seafood to eat and avoid check out Best Fish Guide.

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6. Save energy

Yet another reason to “reduce your carbon footprint”. Apart from reducing climate change, which affects the activity of ice flows, saving energy will limit the number of dead zones in the ocean. Dead zones have limited oxygen making it unlivable for marine life. Check out our article on How to be a Green Backpacker for ideas on saving energy.

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7. Use organic sunscreen

The chemicals in your average sunscreen are damaging to coral reefs. Organic sunscreen is the safer alternative, plus healthier for your own skin.

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8. Don’t buy souvenirs that exploit marine life

You might want to buy some pretty souvenirs for your family back home, but buying items that exploit marine life is supporting bad practices. Avoid items like coral and shark accessories. For some souvenir ideas, try these.

Malcolm Lidbury (aka Pink pasty) on Wikipedia

9. Visit a marine reserve

Marine reserves are basically like national parks of the sea. They are protected areas that can be used recreationally for diving and snorkelling. The first marine reserve in the world was established in New Zealand at Cape Rodney in 1977. However, this has only grown to 44 marine reserves, which is less than 1% of New Zealand’s waters. By visiting marine reserves it helps them become more successful and increases the chance of other marine reserves being established.

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10. Learn more about the ocean

As we’ve said, the ocean is less explored than the moon and Mars! Perhaps the more you learn about the ocean and how essential it is to life on Earth, the more willing you will be to protect it. Reading this article was the first step!

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