World Oceans Day: Help save our marine environments with these citizen science holidays
They cover more than 70% of our planet, yet only a fraction of the world’s oceans has been explored. Although relatively little is known about the unfathomable abyss, one thing’s for certain: like so many natural resources, it’s under threat.
World Oceans Day, on June 8, is a rallying call to stand up and protect our big blue – and it can also be fun. Here are a few holiday suggestions for saving our marine environments one enjoyable encounter at a time.
Turtle watch in Papua New Guinea
From the moment a turtle hatchling leaves a nest, frantically propelling its fins towards the surf, a million obstacles lace its path. Snapping crabs and swooping gulls attempt to snatch the newborns, and once in the water, many more predators lie in wait. Yet one of the biggest threats in modern times is us.
Similar to many coastal communities, in Papua New Guinea, sea turtles and their eggs have always been a food source. To break the habit, Lissenung Dive Resort has set up a programme to educate local people and collect data to monitor numbers of Hawksbills and Greens. Following tracks left by mothers, they collect eggs to incubate safely in nesting boxes, finally releasing them into the wild to hatch. See the project in action while staying at the rustic property. Dive Worldwide (diveworldwide.com) offers a 17-day Dive & Discover PNG trip from £5,195pp, including flights.
Identify whale population in Antarctica
One of the few uplifting wildlife success stories to emerge: whale populations in the polar regions have been making an almighty comeback since hunting was banned several decades ago. Scientists are now eagerly monitoring behaviour, assisted by tourist vessels exploring these pristine areas.
As part of a citizen science programme available on all their voyages, Polar Latitudes encourage guests to contribute to data collection by photographing flukes for the Happywhale ID project. Other activities include mapping cloud patterns for NASA’s Globe Observer and measuring ocean salinity and temperature – direct evidence of global warning and glacial melt. Various itineraries are available. Visit polar-latitudes.com.
Replant corals in Barbados
Early victims of climate change, coral reefs worldwide have been damaged by warming ocean temperatures and increased cyclone activity. Thousands of fish species rely on these underwater forests to survive, and closer to shore, they provide a wave break vital for reducing coastal erosion.
Fortunately, a number of nursery projects are helping to regenerate reefs by propagating and planting new corals. Conservation-keen divers can learn how to assist in the replanting with a PADI accredited Coral Reef First Aid course. Open to any certified diver, the two-day itinerary is offered in Barbados, Grenada and Punta Cana. Learn how to rescue and handle damaged coral fragments, and how to measure, monitor and photograph the nursery frames. Barbados Blue offer the course from $299/£211. Visit divebarbadosblue.com.
Help control lionfish numbers in Belize
Spearing fish might seem an unlikely candidate for a conservation holiday, but helping to reduce numbers of invasive species is a major boon for our blue planet. Lionfish are wreaking destruction in Caribbean waters, predating on vulnerable native sea creatures. Offered through Responsible Travel an unconventional itinerary allows guests to hunt, spear, dissect – and eventually eat the unwelcome interlopers in the warm waters lapping a remote region of Belize. There’s also a chance to monitor lobster, conch and whale sharks along the world’s second largest barrier reef. PADI dive courses are available if you need certification. A five-day tailor-made trip costs from £533, excluding flights. Visit responsibletravel.com.