World Oceans Day is on 8 June. Professor Mike Kingsford explains what makes jellyfish so interesting, why World Oceans Day matters and what we can do to help.
Mike Kingsford is a marine biologist who researches soft corals as important habitats for reef fish, but also jellyfish, which most of us would rather stay away from. Jellyfish are actually quite interesting creatures – they have 24 eyes but no brain, they know where land is, and they can adjust their position according to it.
(Irukandji – Carukia barnesi - Image: Jamie Seymour)
Most jellyfish like to live local, with many staying in the same area for their whole lives, from larvae to polyp to grown-up jellyfish. “For example, Magnetic Island, we know some bays are a higher risk, while some other bays are not,” Mike explains. This is important to know for those who like to go out for a swim, and also for the lifesavers who look after them, and who work together with the researchers in order to save lives.
World Oceans Day and the health of the planet
When it comes to World Oceans day, people don’t only talk about soft corals and jellyfish, but about the uncountable number of plant and animal species that populate our oceans, and that have such a great impact on our lives. “People forget that 70 per cent of the planet is actually ocean, not earth,” says Mike. Having a special day for the oceans “is incredibly important, it’s about the health of the planet. We need to have respect for that”.
(Professor Mike Kingsford)
Oceans not only house a cheap source of protein for the people on this planet, they are also beautiful, and we should be able to enjoy that beauty in future as well. This is why it’s important to act. “We can all have a role, even if you consider it quite minor. There is 7.4 billion of us on the planet. A high percentage of those live close to coastlines, and the brutal truth is, we all have an impact.”
What we can do to help the oceans
It is important to consider the consequences when building on shorelines or removing mangroves. “We need to respect habitats, like mangroves, which people think are smelly and nasty but are actually important recruitment areas for fish, and they maintain our coastline,” Mike explains.
Historically, caring for the reef was left to the governments. But there is also something citizens can contribute to keep the oceans clean, “like respecting the ocean by not dumping water bottles, rubbish and things like that in there, because they can last in the system for a very long while”. The rubbish can go back into the food chain as micro plastics, which also includes the tasty seafood on our dinner plates.
There are other things as well, small things, we can do, such as taking extra care when refuelling boats. A drop of spilled fuel might travel a long way. Another way people can help the ocean is by joining beach clean-ups, which by the way is also a good way to meet like-minded people.
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Feature image: Mike Kingsford