I’ve been drawn to the ocean for as long as I can remember. I was the little girl who watched nature documentaries instead of cartoons. I loved Animal Planet and spent most of my free time watching it, specifically the shows about the ocean. Despite being absolutely infatuated with the ocean, I also feared it. I was terrified of sharks for the majority of my childhood. I was terrified of getting in the ocean, and feared I’d be eaten alive (thanks a lot Jaws…). 

This fear stayed strong up until the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of high school. I was lucky enough to get to go on a trip to the Galapagos. While I was there I had the opportunity to snorkel with sharks. I remember standing on the edge of the boat looking into the water, absolutely petrified. I turned to my friend and told her I was going to sit this one out. My friend looked at me and said “absolutely not, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m not going to let you miss out on it,” and pushed me in. 

body of water during golden hour

I remember shaking as I hit the water. I quickly made my way over to the rest of the group. My friend who pushed me in swam over and grabbed my hand. “Julianna, trust me, you’re going to be fine.” She was right, I was more than fine. As we started swimming further from the boat I looked down and saw my first shark, second shark, and many more after that. To my surprise, nothing happened. The sharks weren’t trying to hurt me. In fact, they wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. I calmed down completely and couldn’t wait to see the next shark. For the first time in my life, I was exactly where I needed to be —the ocean. I left that trip knowing I had to get back into the water again.

Diving Into the Deep End

I got home from the Galapagos and immediately signed up to be scuba certified. As soon as I got in the ocean for my first open water dive, I knew I was home, and completely at peace. I was hooked. That same week I got my advanced open water certification. I signed up for a summer program in the British Virgin Islands to get my rescue diver certification and take an introductory marine biology class.

When the time came to go to college and pick a major, the choice was an easy one. Marine biology. I chose to dedicate the rest of my life to the ocean. To this day, I wonder where I would be if my friend had never pushed me into the water in the Galapagos 8 years ago.

five birds flying on the sea

Today, I’ve logged around 400 dives all over the globe. I’ve been lucky enough to see the most beautiful reefs our world has to offer, I’ve even returned to some of these reefs year after year. It saddens me to tell you that these reefs are not thriving like they did 5 or so years ago. As a soon to be graduate in marine science, and as a scuba instructor on the front line, I can tell you this: Our ocean needs us. We need to do all we can, because we rely on the ocean for much more than you realize. 

Why the Ocean is Important to You

Your everyday life as you know it wouldn’t be possible without a healthy ocean, even if you’re completely landlocked and hundreds of thousands of miles away from the ocean. The ocean is also vastly important economically. 

The Economy

Trade wouldn’t be possible without the ocean. It is estimated that, in 2017 alone around $1.6 trillion dollars worth of cargo came through ports in the United States. In addition to this the ocean is also highly economically  important to tourism and recreation industries. In 2017, leisure and hospitality industries in coastal counties in the United States grossed over $185 billion in revenue. These areas would suffer greatly if they did not have the ocean bringing in tourists.

Huge Source of Food

The ocean is one of the worlds biggest food sources. In fact, there are an estimated 3 billion people that rely on the ocean as their primary source of protein. Without a healthy ocean, these people are at risk from going hungry. Furthermore, the ocean holds some of the worlds most expensive fish and seafoods (tuna, scallops, lobster, etc.) Entire communities are built  on these fisheries and if these animals were to go extinct, many people would lose their livelihoods.

black fishing rod and body of water during golden hour

Oxygen Supply

It’s estimated that the ocean produces 50-80% of the world’s oxygen supply each year. 

Regulating Atmospheric Conditions

The ocean is also the main driver of climate regulation on our planet. Every day, the ocean absorbs solar radiation and releases it as heat to drive atmospheric circulation, which is a huge influencer on our atmospheric conditions. 

The Carbon cycle 

The ocean acts as a carbon sink, which is a reservoir or store for carbon that keeps it out of the carbon cycle. Since the industrial revolution, the ocean is estimated to have absorbed 39% of the CO2 we have emitted. 

Intrinsic Value

The ocean is also highly important intrinsically. It’s a natural resource that is not only beautiful, but also naturally important. It is estimated that the world’s oceans contain between 500,000 to 10 million different species.  Each of these organisms are uniquely important and an integral part of the ecosystem. Losing just a few of them could cause problems throughout the various trophic levels. Many of these organisms are still unidentified or not greatly studied and they could be the keys to various scientific breakthroughs. Who knows, there may be an animal out there that can  cure cancer, or one that eats plastic. But we will never know if they go extinct. 

How You Can Help Protect the Ocean

People like to think that they themselves as a single person can’t make a difference in the world. I beg to differ. If each and every one of us makes one small environmentally friendly change we could help save and protect not only our oceans, but our planet, too. There are a variety of things that need to be done to save our ocean. 

Minimize Your Carbon Footprint

Transportation and gas are huge contributors to increasing our carbon emissions and increasing the amount of carbon dioxide the ocean is absorbing each day. To fight this in your everyday life, you could carpool with friends to work or school, take public transportation, or bike to work (if it is close enough to do so).

Avoid Plastics

The next thing you can do is to try to reduce your plastic consumption as a whole. Plastics are made by burning fossil fuels so using them causes more to be made, which is not good for the environment. 

blue plastic cup held by hand with yellow gloves at the beach

Stay Informed

The final thing you can do is educate yourself, and others. Information on the ocean and other environmental news is widely available, but not widely known or understood by most people. So, in your free time do some research on topics that interest you and as questions if you don’t understand. There are tons of people out there who would love to explain these topics to you.

The most important thing for you to do to protect the ocean is to take the first step. You don’t need to get a science degree or anything like that. Making little lifestyle changes to help our environment will make lasting impacts. We’re all in this together, we only have one planet, and each of us has an individual responsibility to protect it.