With summer around the corner, the oceanside is the perfect place to hang out with family and friends. Over centuries, water has held a special place in various cultures for its life-giving properties. It has been used for spiritual, religious and healing purposes. We might be used to thinking only of trees as oxygen-producing, but oceans produce more than fifty percent of Earth’s oxygen. Oceans also regulate weather patterns.
A little “wetiquette” towards the ocean and its inhabitants can go a long way into making your day at the beach a kind one for oceans as well:
Picnic Without Plastic: Pledge with your friends to go plastic-free at the beach. A challenge can be fun. Whose picnic basket has the least amount of single-use plastic? Ziplock bags are a terrible waste and are difficult to reuse. Carry your own reusable water bottle.
Straws: Take stock of whether you really need straws for your family. If there are members who could benefit from straws, get bio-degradable ones that are gentle on the environment. Like plastic bags, straws have been responsible for injuring and/or killing birds and sea creatures.
Balloons: Celebrating an occasion at the beach? Exclude both latex and Mylar balloons and refrain from releasing balloons into the air. As symbolic as some might consider balloons, they are deadly for marine life because they end up in the oceans and kill sea creatures that mistake them for food.
Tidepools: Adopt a Look-Don’t-Touch attitude when it comes to tidepool exploration. The fascinating plants and creatures ranging from limpets, sea anemones, sponges and seagrass are a well-contained mini world. Never pick the creatures off the rocks or lift them out of the water—it will disturb the delicate environment and any sunscreen on your hands can upset the ecosystem too.
Beach Clean-Up: Volunteer for beach clean-up events. Sign up your friends and family and make a fun day out of it.
Garbage: Before you leave, take a few seconds to organize your garbage and discard it in the correct bin. If the beach does not have recycling bins, take the garbage home with you and sort it out later.
Seafood: Be aware of what goes on your plate and refuse species that are endangered. A number of seafood species have been subjected to overfishing. The Smooth Handfish became extinct in 2020. Greenpeace has red-listed the following fishes to avoid due to overfishing: Atlantic salmon, sharks, swordfish, skates, rays, monkfish, bluefin tuna, Chilean sea bass, tropical shrimp and beluga sturgeon, among others.
Oceans give us plenty of reasons to be grateful. They energize us, uplift our spirits, and provide space to unwind and make ourselves whole.
In turn, knowing that our actions affect the health of the oceans, and taking care not to leave our footprint on the sand, will leave these mystical places and their magnificent creatures intact for future generations.
By Miera Rao