Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke is once quoted saying, “How inappropriate to call this planet earth when it is quite clearly Ocean.” Well, perhaps if it were called ocean, people would be a lot more concerned about what is happening to our marine environments, which are in terrible trouble.

According to NOAA, the world’s oceans hold more than 97 percent of the planet’s water and may be home to as much as 80 percent of the world’s plant and animal species. Without our oceans, life as we know it would cease to exist. These vast bodies of water help regulate weather patterns, they absorb almost one-third of the carbon dioxide we emit, provide many people with vital sources of protein, and most importantly, nearly 70 percent of the oxygen in our atmosphere is produced by marine plants. Without healthy, thriving ocean ecosystems, we would be cooked!

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Unfortunately, as we continue to dump more and more plastic into the oceans, this essential ecosystem is starting to collapse. Every year, around 8.8 million tons of plastic trash end up in the oceans. The majority of this trash ends up sinking to the bottom of the oceans or getting swept up in massive gyres, so it can be easy to overlook this problem from the vantage point of land. Scuba divers, who spend their time beneath the surface, however, are constantly faced with the reality of this plastic problem.

In an effort to bring the sights that these divers see and raise awareness for the sake of the oceans, the good folks at Project Aware have launched a stunning photo campaign called, Beneath The Waves.

Beneath the Waves aims to rally scuba divers all over the world to share photos of the plastic trash they encounter, and add #BeneathTheWaves, to help raise awareness for marine debris.

While it might just look like this is a mound of trash, this is actually a photo of a sea crab.

We have a tendency to think that when we throw out trash it just “goes away!” Well … this is where “away” is.

Plants, animals, and trash all float in a tangled mass on the surface.

Many marine animals, some which have never even seen a human, are now finding themselves the victims of human behavior, many miles away.

Even creatures like coral, which are an essential nursery for ocean life, are coming under threat. This large piece was sliced off by a discarded fishing line.

It is estimated that around 700 marine species are in danger of extinction due to plastic pollution.

Lucky for those animals, these divers are here to help.

Discarded piles of rope and fishing nets like these are a hazard to aquatic life.

By working hard to clear out some of the trash accumulating on the ocean floor, the amazing people working with Project Aware are making a difference, one trash bag at a time.

 

Hopefully, by documenting this problem and garnering clean up efforts, Project Aware will inspire others to help, in whatever way that they can. Cleaning up at your nearest river, lake or beach is a great way to help, but prevention is the best cure. Check out these awesome resources to learn how you can reduce your own plastic trash to make a difference:

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 All image source: Beneath the Waves