There must be 100 million (or MORE) reasons why we need to protect the marine animals that reside in the world’s oceans, but the one that tops the list is, rather frankly: because we put them in danger in the first place.
It is time we accepted our collective blame in the plight of marine mammals across the globe. Humans are one of the largest causes of the endangerment and disappearance of our sea’s creatures. Whether you live seaside or in the middle of Kansas, all of our actions have impacts that in one way or another find their way into the ocean. Be it letting trash run into the storm drain, or accidentally pouring chemicals down your drain, every little action builds up and unfortunately gets dumped (literally, and figuratively) on marine animals.
But that is not to say we can not change! In fact, there are many ways to help marine animals that do not even require you to leave your desk! Pretty awesome. So, there is really NO excuse for you not to spread the word about these five marine animals that are in serious trouble – thanks to humans – and really make a positive change. These five creatures fall on this list mainly, as the result of human carelessness. Luckily, caring is a direct cure to this apathetic disease, and maybe through some care and a LOT of hardwork we can reverse all the damage that has been done!
1. Hawksbill Turtle
Hawksbill turtles get their name from their long, beautiful flippers that allow them to float like a hawk through coastal waters. Hawksbills are a member of a class of reptiles that have populated the world’s oceans for the past 100 million years! Unfortunately, their ancient claim to the seas may be running out. Because hawksbills inhabit mostly tropical, coastal waters where tourists like to gather, they have become a critically endangered species as the result of human interaction.
Believe it or not, despite their endangered, protected status, people all over the world continue to eat Hawksbill eggs and they are commonly killed for their uniquely colored flesh and gorgeous shells. Fishing hooks and gillnets are also a MAJOR threat to hawksbills that need to surface in order to breathe. While the actual population of the hawksbill is unknown, scientists estimate there are about 20,000 nesting females left on the planet.
What You Can Do
- The World Wildlife Fund has launched an entire campaign dedicated to saving the hawksbills, to support their efforts to combat illegal poaching of hawksbills and ban gill nets, check out their website.
- Volunteer to help restore the Hawksbill population through SeeTurtles.org .
- “Adopt” a sea turtle through the National Wildlife Federation.
- Support the work of Oceana to reduce sea turtle bycatch by protecting key sea turtle habitats!
2. Maui’s Dolphin
There are only 55 Maui’s dolphins left on the planet! The alarming disappearance of the Maui’s dolphin population is the direct result of careless fishing practices in the Maui’s habitat. Gillnetting and trawling have singlehandedly caused this unique dolphin species to shrink so drastically in the past 40 years! These two methods of fishing involve dragging enormous, heavy nets along the ocean floor that are often left out for hours at a time with little supervision from fishermen. Maui’s need to surface to breathe and if caught in these large nets, there is little chance they will survive.
What You Can Do
There is a huge effort going on in New Zealand to protect this quickly disappearing species. It is imperative that you join in to stop irresponsible fishing and give the Maui’s a chance at survival.
- Become a Maui’s advocate!
- Join the “Let’s Face It” Campaign to publicize the plight of the Maui’s and start your own visual petition.
- Support the work of WWF New Zealand to protect the Maui’s habitat and ban open-net fishing.
3. Vaquita Porpoise
The vaquita porpoise is a very small marine mammal that can only be found in the Gulf of California, Mexico. Like the Maui, the vaquita has become critically endangered as the result of entanglement in fishing nets. There are less than 200 vaquitas left in the world’s oceans and it is estimated that between 40 and 80 vaquitas are killed every year in gill and trawl nets. These fish are often caught as bycatch and drown in the nets when they can’t reach the water’s surface.
The vaquita’s habitat has also been drastically altered by the damming of the Colorado River. As a result, their ecosystem receives less freshwater and agricultural waste from Southern Calif. is openly drained into the vaquita’s habitat.
What You Can Do
Although the vaquita population is low, they can be saved if we act quickly! Here’s how you can help:
- Sign this petition to save the vaquita.
- Take this pledge to help restore fresh water to the Colorado River and the vaquita’s habitat.
- Support Save the Whale’s efforts by “adopting” a vaquita.
4. Harp Seal
The harp seal is pretty much the poster child of seals. Its beautiful wide eyes and fluffy white fur are enough to make anyone stop in their tracks and “aww.” But, despite its incredible adorableness, the harp seal is the major target of Canada’s “annual seal hunt,” a factor that is greatly contributing to the seal’s disappearance. This year, the Canadian government set a quota for the hunt at a whopping 400,000 seals!
In addition to this sick practice, harp seals are seriously threatened by thinning winter sea ice. Mothers give birth and support their pups on sea ice until they are big enough to swim on their own and thinning ice poses a chilling risk to new born pups.
What You Can Do
First and foremost, seal hunting needs to STOP to protect global seal populations. Here is how you can help the harp seal:
- Sign the Humane Society’s petition to end the Canadian seal hunt.
- Support Sea Shepard’s efforts to stop seal hunting to protect the harp seal.
- “Adopt” a harp seal through the National Wildlife Federation.
5. Blue Whale
The blue whale is the LARGEST mammal on Earth, but despite its intimidating size, the blue whale is seriously endangered. It is estimated that between 10,000 and 25,000 blue whales remain on the planet. The greatest blow to the blue whale population came in the form of whale hunting, introduced around the world in 1900. Between 1900 and 1966 when they became protected by the International Whaling Commission, it is estimated that over 360,000 blue whales were slaughtered by whalers.
Although half a century has passed since the blue whale has been protected from commercial hunting, the population has not been able to recover in a significant way. Blue whales are also threatened by environmental changes that have lead to loss of habitat. These large, slow-moving whales are also highly susceptible to ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear.
What You Can Do
Saving the Blue Whale requires short-term and long-term efforts. In the short-term, you can help out by supporting the following groups. To make a long-term improvement in the population of blue whales, measures to abate the effects of climate change NEED to come into play! Here is how you can help:
- Support the work of the World Wildlife Fund to protect Blue Whales.
- Sign the Great Whale Conservancy’s petition to end ship strikes.
- Participate in Earth Hour to help slow the effects of climate change.
Image source: Wikipedia Commons