World Oceans Day: How to save the habitat of the humpback whale

World Oceans Day: 15 ways to save the habitat of the humpback whale

Reports of a humpback whale swimming in the St.Lawrence River in Montreal stunned Canadians on May 30. CBC News reported that as far as local marine biologists were aware, this was the first time that a humpback whale had been spotted in Montreal waters. This is one of the many examples of how the COVID-19 pandemic's restrictions that are keeping waterways clearer, less cars on the road, and fewer people out in the community have positively impacted wildlife and the environment. Not only have carbon emissions been lowered, but wildlife is showing up in places where these animals haven't been seen before.

People flocked to the Jacques-Cartier Bridge to watch the humpback whale surface. While humpback whales can survive in freshwater, the options for food and the water around Montreal won't be as healthy as other habitats. Unfortunately, if ocean pollution continues the way it has, these waters too may become uninhabitable for the humpback whale.

June 8 is World Oceans Day, a great day to raise awareness about how important clean oceans are when it comes to sustaining life and balance to the ecosystem for our friend the humpback whale. "World Oceans Day unites the world around a shared desire for conservation action and continues to connect, activate, and mobilize worldwide support for our blue planet." World Oceans Day provides an annual report to share community and societal action around the event, current statistics, and ways you can get involved. Every year there is a theme, and the 2020 theme is 30x30.

30x30 is about uniting conservation action globally. We are calling on world leaders to protect 30% of our blue planet by 2030. Safeguarding at least 30% of our land and oceans through a network of highly protected areas is critical to the health of our planet, and the plants and wildlife it sustains- including the humpback whale! We need to create a healthy home for all creatures. Sign the petition! 

The state of Canada's oceans has been cause for concern since the Canadian Government 2012 report was released. Climate change, ocean acidification, invasive aquatic species, and changes to the quantity of sea ice are just some of the things negatively impacting our oceans. You can view current information about the state of Canda's oceans on the Government of Canada's website for oceans and fisheries. Changes to the temperature and chemistry of the oceans will cause significant impacts on our entire ecosystem. It will affect food sustainability, climate, access to raw materials, and increase natural weather disasters. That is why 30x30 is so important.

The best way you can take action and join the 30x30 movement is to sign the petition. I signed it! By signing the petition you are telling world leaders that you want action too! "This year, we have an opportunity to get governments worldwide to agree to protect at least 30% of the planet's land and ocean by 2030, and preserve intact ecosystems and wilderness at the Convention on Biodiversity COP15 Summit in October 2020." It is important to note that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the COP15 convention has been postponed, but that doesn't mean the 30x30 petition isn't still important. It's more important than ever!

According to the World Oceans Day website "top scientists say we need half of the planet in its natural state to prevent the extinction of one million species, stay below 1.5°C, and safeguard all people that rely on nature to survive and thrive." That means us- and the humpback whale- need the oceans to live. Let that sink in.

Humpback whales rely on specific levels of hydrocarbons in the water to survive. Climate change has a devastating impact on carbon levels in the world's oceans. There are many other man-made threats to humpback whales, like vessels, noise pollution, fishing net entanglement, and of course pollution. If you are looking for ways to join in the World Oceans Day celebration or ways you can help, here are 15 things you can do to help protect the oceans!

15 things you can do to help protect the oceans and the humpback whale

1. Educate yourself: Knowledge is power. Learn about the ocean and marine life. Research what species are at risk in your area. Learn about what problems the oceans and watersheds around you are facing, and any actions being taken to try and solve them.

2. Reduce your carbon footprint: Slowing down the effects of climate change will have a huge impact on the ocean. Reduce your energy consumption and your greenhouse gas emissions. Support companies that are sustainable, shop local, grow your own food, and ensure your housewares and appliances are energy efficient. Use public transportation, walk, or cycle. Purchase carbon offsets to lower your personal carbon footprint.

3. Use fewer plastic products: Plastic pollution is one of the biggest threats to the health and biodiversity of our oceans. Items like plastic bags, bottles, packaging and containers, toothbrushes, utensils, and dishware- the list goes on! There are so many plastics in the oceans that some marine creatures have even used plastic materials in place of a shell. Marine life is being poisoned and killed by plastic pollution. Animals are being strangled, deformed, and displaced. Shopping fresh produce and package-free food helps reduce plastic use. Shop local farmers markets that don't need to ship items. Recycling properly, buying used items, repairing items that break- these are all ways to reduce plastic waste. Take the Better Bag Challenge and commit to no plastic bags- I did!

4. Know your seafood: Seafood is the primary protein in the diets of many cultures across the planet. Before you buy, make sure that your seafood is sourced in a sustainable way. Overfishing, illegal fishing and bycatch are depleting our oceans. If you like a certain type of fish, research where that fish is sourced, and purchase from the most sustainable sources. Remember, how we spend our money informs the future choices of governments, groups, and industries. If you are eating something from the deep blue, go green!

5. Be a responsible pet owner: Always clean up after your pet outside. Use compostable dog poop-bags. Never flush cat litter down the toilet. Shop sustainable pet food. Human-grade pet food options put a larger strain on the global food system- meal is better! Be responsible when selecting your pet. If you are deciding what fish to add to your fishbowl, research first how the species is obtained from the wild, and what the environmental impacts are. Never own an endangered species as a pet.

6. Clean-up beaches and shorelines: Organize a group or do it yourself! It doesn't matter if you live beside an ocean, river, lake, or stream. Grab a couple bags, a pair of gardening gloves, and pick up some trash. Bring along a few bags to sort recyclable materials. It's simple, positive action.

7. Support organizations that support the ocean: Support and donate to organizations committed to protecting oceans and water systems. These organizations need funding for clean-ups, research, and events that raise awareness. Some organizations you can support include Oceana, Ocean ConservancyWorld Wildlife FundGreenpeace, Plastic Bank, and Sierra Club.

8. Shop responsibly: Don't buy products that exploit marine life, or that pollute the oceans during their production process. Products like coral jewelry, tortoiseshell fashion items, and shark products exploit underwater creatures. Often the items used to make these products come from endangered species that are hunted illegally. Purchase sustainable products with low environmental impacts. Don't purchase items with micro-beads. These and other microplastics are harming shellfish species.

9. Contact local policymakers: Find out what policies and programs are in place to protect the oceans- and what policies are missing. Call your local leader and lobby for more protection of your local water system. Attend town halls to voice your concerns about clean water and ocean conservation.

10. Use the oceans responsibly: If you are boating, canoeing, paddling, or kayaking, never throw trash into the ocean. Be mindful of marine creatures and their habitats. It's important to leave no trace when traveling the oceans and shorelines.

11. Dispose of hazardous materials properly: Batteries, motor oil, medications, household chemicals, and cleaners- all of these items can threaten the health of our oceans. Learn how you can dispose of these items properly in your community.

12. Use fewer fertilizers: Many fertilizers used for gardening and agriculture end up in the world's oceans; the excess running off the land and creating dead-zones in the water where all life is lost. These dead-zones are extremely difficult to reverse. Dead-zones have very low amounts of oxygen in the water- which marine life like fish and shrimp need to survive.

13. Vote to protect oceans: Vote for leaders who will commit to supporting healthy oceans. Don't vote for policymakers who want to cut funding to environmental programs and research, censor science, and deny climate change. Vote for leaders who want to clean-up the oceans and preserve biodiversity.

14. Eat less fish and meat: Agriculture has a huge impact on the ocean and climate change. Methane and waste runoff from farms can pollute wells and watersheds. Farms and animal agriculture use large amounts of water to operate. Overfishing decreases biodiversity in the ocean. If each person made a commitment to eat less meat and moved to a more plant-based diet, the health of the ocean would improve dramatically.

15. Spread the word: Raise awareness on social media, talk to your family and friends, and get involved with groups that protect the oceans. Share this post- all of the photos are free for you to share!

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