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Here’s how students can help save the ocean

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When I decided to move to Mozambique to volunteer for the Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF) and help them to save threatened marine life, almost everyone I spoke to mentioned how inspired they were by the recent Blue Planet II. Friends and family alike were already trying to play their part in reducing single-use plastic by using reusable shopping bags or choosing loose, rather than plastic-wrapped, veggies on their grocery shop.

Elitza Germanov, Marine Megafauna Foundation

But can - and should - we be doing more? I’ve learned from the MMF team that there are lots of other easy things we can do to minimise our negative impact on the ocean.

So, I caught up with Joshua Axford, MMFs CEO, to ask for his advice on what students can do to help this important issue.

“Everyone’s talking about plastic and if you can reduce your plastic intake that’s brilliant,” he told me. “Reusable water bottles, Ecoffee Cups and saying no to straws are all a good start. But it’s not just plastic that’s the problem - there are lots of other ways you can make a difference too.

“One of the important ways people can have a big impact is by being more thoughtful about their seafood consumption. Our oceans are facing huge problems due to both commercial and artisanal overfishing. We’re eating fish more quickly than the fish stocks can replenish, which means we are basically eating some species to extinction!

“And that’s not to mention accidental bycatch, where millions of tonnes of turtles, dolphins, manta rays and other species are caught accidentally every year because the fishing nets are so efficient they trap everything they come into contact with.

“Thankfully, there are some great organisations making it easy for us to make informed decisions about the seafood we’re buying from supermarkets and in restaurants. If you eat seafood, check out the Good Fish Guide app, which helps you check whether the seafood you’re buying is environmentally responsible, as well as keeping an eye out for MSC’s blue fish label, which can be found on the packaging of fish products that come from a sustainable source.”

Elitza Germanov, Marine Megafauna Foundation

The great thing about university is that there are so many interesting societies that you can join. Your university might already have its own marine conservation society but, if it doesn’t, perhaps you could create one?

Josh says: “Organising fundraises and beach cleanups are a great way of meeting people and making new friends as well as doing your bit to protect the ocean. MMF would love to know if you’re doing this and can help get you started so do get in touch with us.”

As a student, saving the pennies to stretch out your loan is often a challenge so donating significant amounts to the organisations and NGOs you care about can be difficult. The good news is, if you can’t afford to become a member or make regular donations, you can still help by keeping up to date with a charity’s work, sharing interesting information and news via social media and signing petitions when they’re working towards policy change. Just look at how well the Blue Planet effect has worked in persuading UK government to take the problem of plastic pollution seriously - we can make a difference if we use our voice!

I also asked about voluntourism opportunities that students or recent graduates might be able to get involved with. Joshua said: “Graduates that fit our required criteria might also want to apply for some of our volunteering opportunities, which are a great way to get interesting work experiencing whilst travelling and becoming immersed in a new culture.”

Josh told me that MMF’s Education Assistants in Mozambique work with an inspiring team of local instructors to teach the community’s school children about marine conservation as well as running life-saving swimming classes. It’s a great way to receive training and gain education experience while helping our cause - plus, you’re based in Mozambique’s beautiful Tofo Beach. The dream!

There’s a big fight ahead of us but the good news is there are things we can do. Together, we can help protect our oceans.

For more information on MMF’s work, check out: www.marinemegafauna.org.

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