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The Racing Extinction Challenge: The Oceans

posted: 11/20/15
by: Danny Clemens
School of silver Breany Fish.
Getty Images

Editor's note: This week, I'm taking the Racing Extinction Challenge. Join me as I make small lifestyle changes related to my diet, energy consumption and transportation habits. Click here to learn more.

Without a healthy ocean, we're in serious trouble. The threat is urgent: experts predict that many of our ocean's depleted fisheries could collapse completely by the year 2048.

Even if you don't live near a coastal area, here are a few easy ways that you can take a stand for the world's oceans:

Ditch the disposable plastic.

Just because it ends up in your trash can doesn't mean that it's gone forever. Unfortunately, poor waste management infrastructure often sends garbage flowing back into waterways, where there is enough floating plastic garbage to fill 600 jumbo jets. Make a concerted effort to use biodegradable materials, and always be sure to recycle any materials that could be reused. Recycling not only keeps waste from ending up in a landfill, it also cuts down on the amount of energy and resources needed to keep producing new commodities.

Say goodbye to plastic microbeads.

As small as a grain of sand, tiny plastic microbeads are commonly used in personal care products such as toothpaste and body wash, adding a hint of grittiness to products intended to scrub, clean and exfoliate. Because of their extremely small size, the beads aren't caught by filtration systems, leaving them to wash freely through sewage treatment plants and back into the ocean. The beads are not biodegradable and often end up being ingested by wildlife. Researchers estimate that 8 trillion microbeads wash down our drains each day -- make sure that your personal care products are microbead-free.

Say "yes" to turtle excluder devices.

There's a nasty thing in the fishing industry known as bycatch, which occurs when large fishing nets capture non-target sea turtles and other marine life that happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Once in the net, it can be difficult -- if not impossible -- for those animals to escape. In the southeastern United States alone, commercial fisheries produce nearly 230 million pounds of bycatch each year. Much of that bycatch isn't removed from the net until it's too late, and millions of pounds of dead or dying marine animals are simply thrown back into the ocean.

Turtle excluder devices allow turtles, sharks and other non-target species to escape trawling nets unharmed -- but they aren't required by law. A new petition encourages President Obama to require commercial fisheries in the US to use turtle excluder devices, a move that could save 50,000 turtles each year.

Choose a coral-friendly sunscreen.

An international team of researchers linked oxybenzone, an organic compound used in more than 3,000 sunscreens, to "gross morphological deformities," DNA damage and endocrine disruption in already-vulnerable baby corals.

Oxybenzone can adversely impact coral health in concentrations as small as 62 parts per trillion -- the equivalent of one drop of water in more than six Olympic-sized swimming pools. In real life, the compound is found in much higher concentrations around highly trafficked reef areas.

According to the National Park Service, products containing the naturally occurring minerals titanium oxide and zinc oxide have not been found to harm corals. Furthermore, the agency says that sunscreens designed for individuals with sensitive skin generally contain "gentler compounds" than regular formulas.

Want to join me? Sign up for the challenge at RacingExtinction.com. I want to hear how it's going for you! Tweet @Discovery with the hashtag #StartWith1Thing and let us know how you're making making a difference.

We need to take a stand for our planet before it's too late.
Click here to find out how you can #StartWith1Thing and make a difference.

Racing Extinction horizontal key art

On Wednesday, December 2nd, Discovery will present a global broadcast of Racing Extinction, a powerful eco-thriller that exposes issues of endangered species and mass extinction. Visit RacingExtinction.com for more information.

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