1. If you eat seafood, choose a sustainable source. Catfish, crab, and halibut, for example, are good choices for people who live in Texas and the Southeast because the populations are strong and these species are usually caught or farmed ethically. Avoid marlin, sharks, wild conches, Atlantic salmon, and red snapper because these are some of the populations that are in trouble (and some of these are also the subject of mercury concerns).
Dive Deeper: Seafood Watch by Monterey Bay Aquarium
2. Use less plastic. Even if you don’t shop in Austin, remember to bring reusable bags to the grocery store, and try to cut down on unnecessary waste. The more plastic we use, the more of it finds its way to the ocean, where it poses a threat to the lives of animals like sea turtles and birds. Plastic is one of the world’s least biodegradable materials, so replace it with glass or aluminum when you can.
Dive Deeper: Environment Impact by Plastic Ocean
3. When boating, diving, or visiting the beach, be responsible. Clean up after yourself—don’t litter. Either avoid walking on the dunes or be careful not to harm the plants that grow there, which help keep the dunes in place when they’re alive and provide fertilizer to others when they die. Be careful where you anchor, and never touch a coral reef, which can easily kill the coral and small animals living there.
Dive Deeper: General Resources on the Ocean Portal by the Smithsonian
4. Buy only souvenirs that do not exploit marine resources. Avoid shark teeth, coral jewelry (which requires a permit), and real tortoiseshell accessories, which rely on and encourage the poaching of sea turtles. Even sharks, which may not seem very cuddly, face more dangers from us than we do from them.
Dive Deeper: How to by Environmentally Friendly Souvenirs by the World Wildlife Fund
5. If you’re a pet-owner, keep in mind how your choices will affect the ocean. Never flush kitty litter, as this will introduce hazardous chemicals into our waterways. If you have an aquarium, be very careful about how you select salt-water fish (they should be certified from the MAC). Never release store-bought fish into the wild, as this can disrupt the natural ecosystem.
Dive Deeper: Why you Should Never Flush Kitty Litter by the Unclog Blog
6. Minimize fertilizers and pesticides. These chemicals will eventually drain to the waterways in runoff from the next rain and can be toxic to many plants and fish. For some underwater species, fertilizers do encourage growth—but at unhealthy levels, even to the point of crowding out others like coral and upsetting the precarious balance of a reef.
Dive Deeper: How Lawn Chemicals Affect the Ocean by The Nature Conservancy
7. Turn off lights that you’re not using. Doing small things to reduce your carbon footprint (such as reducing the amount of electricity you use) can also help, since carbon dioxide emissions can be absorbed into the water and make the ocean more acidic. This is a problem because fish and other organisms need the right balance of pH in their surroundings in order to live healthy lives.
Dive Deeper: What is Ocean Acidification by the Natural Resources Defense Council
8. Opt for electronic over paper. Send an email rather than use snail mail, or link to a website rather than printing out a flier. Steps like these reduce paper consumption and thus reduce the demand for paper, which is useful because deforestation has an indirect impact on our coral reefs. When forests are destroyed, soil erodes faster and washes into the sea, causing sediment to settle on top of the coral and smother it. The more paper you save, the fewer trees are taken down, and the less you contribute to this process.
Dive Deeper: Deforestation Impact on Coral Reefs by Exploring the Environment
9. Collect rainwater for your garden. Instead of drawing water from the aquifer, you can collect the water that comes from the sky with rain barrels and other forms of irrigation. These will reduce runoff (decreasing the impact of fertilizers and pesticides) and also has the effect of protecting the source of groundwater for all those who use it.
Dive Deeper: The Benefits or Rain Barrels by National Geographic