Shark cage diving offers a unique look into our magnificent, diverse marine world but what can we do to keep it pristine?

To many, going shark cage diving is much more than just crossing an item off the bucket list. Shark cage diving offers a window to our resplendent, diverse marine world and especially for visitors from landlocked regions, it is often a first-time look at a world which lies beneath the surface. Apart from the wonder that shark cage diving sparks, nothing helps nurture respect for the ocean like experiencing its vastness first hand, or seeing its majestic inhabitants, like the Great White shark, up close and personal.

How Do We Protect The Oceans We Cherish?

A natural response to this awe-inspiring experience is the desire to protect these magnificent creatures and the environment they thrive in. It’s no secret that our oceans and marine life are under attack from all fronts, ranging from pollution to overfishing and yet it can feel as though we are powerless to defend them. While it may be true that our impact as individuals is minimal, the cumulative effect of many individuals changing their habits can, in fact, make a significant difference to our environment.

What are some simple steps you can take to protect our oceans? The list is endless, but we’ve selected three changes you can make in your everyday life, that over time, will have a lasting effect on the marine world.

1) Drive Less

By using your car less, you can reduce your carbon footprint and the effect of climate change on the ocean. Finding more environmentally friendly transport can take place in many different shapes and forms, the most elementary of which is using your own two legs. By walking or cycling to your destination, you’re not only contributing to a greener environment, but there’s also the added bonus of building exercise into your day. If you’re covering longer distances, you can look at other alternatives such as public transport or carpooling. By carpooling with several colleagues, for example, you could save the environment from up to four trips, twice a day. Especially in high-density areas, many families are committing to selling their second car and using public transport, taxis or Uber to get around in their immediate vicinity.

2) Use Less Plastic

Plastic that ends up in the ocean not only destroys marine animals’ habitat but can also lead directly to death when marine animals get entangled in it. And yet, despite its obvious pitfalls, it seems as though plastic is omnipresent in our environment. It’s almost impossible to simply order a soft drink without getting a straw, let alone do a grocery trip without coming back with plastic in some form or another.

There are a few small steps we can take to reduce our use of plastic and the key to successfully executing them is by being prepared. Many forms of plastic can be replaced with a reusable alternative. Plastic grocery bags can be replaced with reusable canvas bags, plastic straws with bamboo ones, throwaway coffee cups with eco-friendly reusable cups, plastic toothbrushes with wooden recyclable toothbrushes and even the small plastic bags used to weigh fruits and vegetables can be replaced with reusable alternatives.

All it takes to take these steps is having the reusable alternative readily available and remembering to take it with you wherever you go. This could mean keeping them in the car, or at your front door so you always have your alternative to plastic at hand and when it needed.

3) Make The Sustainable Seafood Choice

In a direct response to overfishing and environmentally destructive fishing practices, you can support only sustainable seafood sources. With every purchasing decision you make, you have the opportunity to make a decision that is beneficial to the ocean. By choosing sustainable seafood, you choose seafood that is harvested in consideration of the long-term sustainability of the species, local fishing communities and the well-being of the ocean.

In South Africa, the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) works with suppliers and sellers of seafood to drive change in the seafood industry and inform and inspire consumers to make sustainable seafood choices. SASSI has developed several user-friendly initiatives to encourage environmentally conscious consumption of seafood.

One of these is the SASSI list. The SASSI list was compiled as a guideline as to which seafood is safe to consume (green), which seafood will likely not be able to sustain current fishing pressure (orange) and which species have extreme environmental concerns (red). As a result, conscious consumption of seafood may even mean not consuming certain species altogether.

In addition to this, SASSI has developed the SASSI app: a free app that allows you to check the sustainability of your seafood consumption in real time. This app helps you to decide whether you should go ahead with your order/purchase, or rather pass it up. If you’re not keen on downloading (another) app to your phone, you can also use the SASSI FishMS service which involves messaging the name of a fish or seafood to a number (079 499 8795) to receive information on the status of that species.

Small Steps For High Stakes

A common theme in taking these steps to protect our oceans is that they all require a little bit of preparation and planning ahead. While it may seem overwhelming initially, repeatedly taking these small actions leads to a change in habit and once habits and lifestyles are changed, this environmentally conscious living will become second nature. These steps and sacrifices are a small price to pay in making certain our oceans stay clean.