A Common Stereotype
When I started writing today I asked my roommates what occurred to them when I said ‘conservation advocacy’. To my surprise their responses all evoked a certain level of extreme behavior. In their minds advocacy involved hurling rotten butter at fishing ships tossing in an icy sea or blockading the halls and offices of lawmakers to demand support for new laws and regulations. While this type of action often makes big news, it’s important to remember the personal change everyone can create as an individual ocean advocate. Advocacy is your chance to make a difference for a topic YOU LOVE by sharing information, encouraging discussion, distributing petitions or garnering support for a cause you love. It’s simple and it’s free!
A World Gone Social
Social media like Facebook and Twitter has made sharing ideas and connecting with people the world over both instant and constant. Did you know there are over 750 million Facebook users, approximately half of who log in everyday? Those users generate over 30 BILLION pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, photo albums, etc) per month! And with just a few clicks, you can flex your networking powers for the ocean too.
A cause recognizing the power of a world of individual advocates recently got my attention. Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube might just be the tools that make the difference for the Nassau Grouper (Epinephelus striatus), an endangered Caribbean apex predator.
Normally solitary and territorial, during the winter full moons grouper travel, sometimes over great distances, and “group” together to spawn. Historically, once discovered, grouper aggregation sites have become synonymous with fisherman aggregation sites. One-third to one-half of the known Caribbean aggregation sites are now inactive due to the ease of catching hundreds or thousands of fish when they group together with strong site fidelity and predictable timing. Once, the Cayman Islands were home to five Nassau grouper spawning sites. Today, four of these sites are dormant or depleted. There remains one site off Little Cayman Island that’s home to one of the last great reproductive populations of this endangered species. Government protection limiting fishing on this site expires in December if no further action is taken. Check out this PSA filmed by ocean leader Josh Stewart.
So what can be done?
Extreme actions like flying to the Cayman Islands to lobby the government or swimming hand-in-hand to block fisherman from the aggregation sites aren’t realistic steps to aid this endangered species. But clicking a mouse in your home or office has the power to advocate, educate, and conserve. Concerned ocean lovers have been sharing this story encouraging everyone to sign this petition to extend protection of the aggregation site from fishing. Today, REEF is 15% to their goal of 5,000 signatures!
By sharing this story or any other you raise awareness among friends and family, inspire them to post about their own passions, and make a specific, individual and real difference for your cause. (Bonus- there is no rotten butter involved!) I encourage you to use the simple tools at your fingertips to make a real difference for the ocean today. Start a conversation about a story you find fascinating or controversial, or ask your contacts to sign a petition you believe in.
It took Twitter 3 years, 2 months, and 1 day from its launch to reach the site’s first biollionth Tweet. Today this media has 1 billion Tweets per week! Imagine the potential conservation reach of even a small portion of those were reaching out to spread ocean news and awareness.
About the Author
Megan Cook is a graduate of Oregon State University with a B.Sc. in biology, chemistry and marine biology. Her passion for exploration, working with great leaders, and fostering understanding of today’s changing oceans has carried Megan working all around the world. She is inspired by the necessity of connecting the people with an understanding of their reliance and impact on the ocean. Currently living in Hawaii, Megan works as a field biologist on an invasive species control team and is trying to learn to surf.