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Eric Douglas: Celebrate World Oceans Day in West Virginia

Eric Douglas took this photo of a plastic bottle underwater on a dive at Summersville Lake.

Just about everyone I know loves the ocean. Whether it is the annual family outing to Myrtle Beach or someplace more exotic, most of my friends head to the ocean as often as they can. There are some of you who prefer the mountains or don’t take a summer get-away at all, but even you have a connection to the ocean and have a stake in taking care of it.

Ultimately, all life on the planet revolves around the ocean. Weather patterns across the United States are drastically influenced by the El Niño and La Niña currents, for example. The ocean provides most of the oxygen we breathe. For a large portion of the world, the only source of protein is from fish. According to the World Bank, 16 percent of the animal protein consumed around the world comes from the ocean and one billion people rely on protein from the ocean exclusively. Coral reefs and mangroves mitigate storm damage and protect inland development.

Tomorrow, June 8, is World Oceans Day (http://www.worldoceansday.org). But what does that have to do with West Virginia? We are hundreds of miles from the ocean. It’s not like I throw trash in the water when we visit the beach.

Believe it or not, plastic in local streams can actually make it to the ocean. (Not to mention it looks ugly on stream banks.) And yard fertilizers and farm runoff can cause algae blooms that kill reefs. A dying reef can’t block storm surge leaving developments more susceptible to destruction. When apex predators like sharks are hunted indiscriminately, sea life is thrown out of balance a fish stocks can collapse. The same goes for overfishing.

The following list is from National Geographic includes 10 things you can do to protect the environment in general and the oceans specifically. (http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/take-action/10-things-you-can-do-to-save-the-ocean/). The webpage offers more details about each point.

1. Mind Your Carbon Footprint and Reduce Energy Consumption

2. Make Safe, Sustainable Seafood Choices

3. Use Fewer Plastic Products

4. Help Take Care of the Beach

5. Don’t Purchase Items That Exploit Marine Life

6. Be an Ocean-Friendly Pet Owner

7. Support Organizations Working to Protect the Ocean

8. Influence Change in Your Community

9. Travel the Ocean Responsibly

10. Educate Yourself About Oceans and Marine Life

Eric Douglas, of Pinch, is the author of “Return to Cayman,” “Heart of the Maya,” “Cayman Cowboys,” “River Town” and other novels. He is also a columnist for Scuba Diving Magazine and a former Charleston Newspapers Metro staff writer. For more information, visit www.booksbyeric.com or contact him at Eric@booksbyeric.com


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