6 ways you can protect ocean wildlife

Inka Cresswell

Whether you’ve just started out or are a seasoned environmentalist, there’s always something new to learn about protecting the ocean’s extraordinary creatures.

Image © Inka Cresswell

Inka Cresswell

Image © Inka Cresswell

My first ever dive was on the Great Barrier Reef, and from the moment I descended into weightlessness, I was captivated by the vibrant colors and abundance of life.

This sparked my passion and has kept me returning to the water ever since. Over the years, I’ve watched our seas change — once shark-filled reefs are now barren, corals bleached, and fish swept up in vortexes of plastic. But amongst the heartbreaking headlines and stories, I have found pockets of hope in our marine sanctuaries and been inspired by the many scientists and advocates working to preserve ocean creatures.

The ocean is our lifeline, and it is up to us to protect it. Here are six ideas for how we can stand up for wildlife in our daily lives.

1. Get closer

Whether you live near the coast or inland, see if you can get more connected to wildlife. I’m at my happiest when diving beneath the waves. On every dive, I encounter incredible species and see how much our ocean supports us. My diving adventures have led me to kelp forests home to playful gray seals, and to coral reefs bustling with life. I’ve even watched great whales. Did you know that one whale is worth a thousand trees in the fight against climate change? You can also get closer to wildlife by watching documentaries or listening to podcasts. I love The Serengeti Rules and Ocean Poddy. The more time we spend in the ocean’s company, either in person or virtually, the more we appreciate how important marine species are and the more we are moved to protect them.

Inka Cresswell

2. Sign petitions

Adding your name to petitions can make a big difference to wildlife. I recently signed a local petition to ensure that the UK no longer plays a role in the shark fin trade. I’ve also signed petitions on a global scale, like calling for leaders to create large marine sanctuaries in Antarctica. If we don’t act now, we risk losing ocean ecosystems forever, so petitions are a great way to ensure our voices are heard.

Coral planting in Jamaica · Inka Cresswell

3. Donate to a good cause

Supporting small organizations allows you to have a direct impact on the future of our ocean. One group I support is the Alligator Head Foundation, a grassroots organization restoring the coastline in Jamaica. They have planted corals and mangrove trees, creating wildlife habitats and boosting biodiversity. They also work with local fisherfolk to set aside areas of ocean so that fish numbers rebound, and to develop alternative livelihoods. This dual approach sees their team both protect marine species and foster positive change in the community.

Dive against marine debris in Indonesia · Inka Cresswell

4. Practice blue tourism

When I travel, I try to support local businesses and give back to the environment and community. I really recommend booking snorkeling trips or guided wildlife walks through local environmental organizations. You’ll not only have the opportunity to discover unique nature, but also your money will support the important work they do. While visiting the Gili Islands in Indonesia, I took part in weekly beach cleanups, organized dives to tackle marine debris through the Gili Eco Trust, and went on a tour to learn about the islands’ waste management and sea turtle conservation projects.

5. Champion diverse voices

Saving the ocean is a global issue, so we must create an inclusive space where people of all backgrounds, genders, and ethnicities feel they have a voice and a seat at the table. Growing up as a girl of color, I never had role models I could identify with in my textbooks or on screen, which was incredibly discouraging. It’s vital that we challenge stereotypes so that people understand it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, anyone can be a part of the movement to protect the ocean and its inhabitants.

Inka Cresswell

6. Focus on what we can do

I often feel overwhelmed by the news about dying reefs and animals in crisis. I have been on dives where I’ve seen more plastic than fish and spent hours cutting fishing lines off corals. But we can’t lose hope. I have moved away from the idea of “conservation,” as the thought of conserving our current environment terrifies me. Instead, I hope for restoration. The ocean of tomorrow can’t be the ocean of the past, but through innovation and a shared global passion, I know we can build something better. It’s a huge challenge — but it’s one I’m excited about. It could be our greatest adventure yet.

All you need to become an ocean advocate is passion and the desire to change things for the better.

Whatever your talents are, try and find ways you can use them to spread awareness and make waves.

Contributors
Inka Cresswell
Marine biologist & wildlife filmmaker
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