Send out the animal activist signal


Genevieve Guenther

Veronica Wernicke, Staff Writer

Editor’s Note: Veronica Wernicke is a freshman at UNCW majoring in Communication Studies and is a staff writer for The Seahawk. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Veronica Wernicke may be found on Twitter @itsveronica98. All suggestions and inquiries may be sent via email to [email protected].

Have you ever been to the beach and seen a little shark or octopus washed up on the shore? Now did you ever think to help by tossing it back in the ocean? If not, you should have.

Recently, and for still unknown reasons, octopuses have been beaching themselves off the shores in West Wales. Recently, Brett Stones — owner of SeaMôr Dolphin Watching Boat Trips — found and replaced 25 octopuses, according to a Washington Post article.

Now, to the average beach goer, this may just seem like a random or even irrelevant occurrence, but if we treat it like that then we are only doing our environment and these animals an injustice.

According to the Washington Post article, some reasoning behind the octopuses beaching themselves has been that there is something wrong with them, they are reacting to recent storms, water temperatures and spawning. The most striking reasoning to me was the reaction to recent storms Ophelia and Brian.

It’s important that during tropical storms we don’t forget the animals around us, especially the marine life. During a tropical storm marine life can be displaced due to heavy, harsh and high waves. In addition they can also be killed. So while we protect, aid and send relief to our own kind, let us remember to aid animals around us as well. Another belief I have is our lack of care for our environment. It is crazy to think about how negligent we can be towards our environment sometimes. That one piece of trash can kill a sea turtle. Even worse, that one piece of trash can add up to thousands of pieces like in The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is miles of garbage in the middle of the ocean. Disgusting.

Another tragedy behind this recent beachings is that octopuses, if out of water for too long, will die. For a species that only lives between one and three years —according to the Washington Post article — it is a sad thing to see or read about these beachings. It is an even sadder fact knowing they could possibly die if not returned to water in an adequate amount of time.

However, octopuses aren’t the only marine life beaching themselves. Whales, sharks and dolphins are among the most common marine life known to beach themselves. Just a few weeks ago Hawaii saw five pilot whales beached. According to a Maui Now article, of the five, not one survived. While no cause of death has been announced, more links between pollution or injury can be brought into question. Again, it is important to try and get the remaining animals back into the water, to reduce further death of these amazing creatures.

Meanwhile, sometimes we can’t help but have whales beach themselves. For example, the coastline in New Zealand makes it hard for some whales to navigate, thus ending up on the beach. While this isn’t a new occurrence for New Zealand natives, they did see an outrageous occurrence in February. Last February over 400 pilot whales beached themselves, according to the LA Times. We can’t help them not beach themselves, but we can help secure their safety. We can help by keeping them wet while stuck on land and, most importantly, try returning them to the ocean immediately. Even though most of these examples took place outside the U.S., it’s important to note that this does happen in the U.S., and we should treat it with the same urgency and respect as animal activists have in these other countries.

Now why should you listen to me about protecting wildlife? Well, because these animals play an important role in our ecosystem. In fact, as humans we actually need them for a proper ocean ecosystem. According to Whale Facts, whales actually help regulate the ecosystem in the ocean. They help maintain a regular and stable food chain, that without would result in overpopulation. Their fecal matter even plays an important role of offsetting carbon in the atmosphere. Thanks to whale poop — now that’s a strange phrase to type — almost 400,000 tons of carbon have been removed from the atmosphere.

In addition, whales also serve an important role in our economy. Each year hundreds of people pay to go on whale tours, which in turn helps boost the economy, due to its high popularity in coastal towns where whales are frequently spotted. According to Seeker, whale watching brought in roughly $2 billion in revenue just in 2013, and supplies over 5,700 jobs each year.

Squid and octopuses also play an important role by maintaining the food chain order because both species consume a lot of food, which in turn helps stop overpopulation, according to Sciencing. If we don’t protect these animals, then we could see an off balance in the ocean ecosystem, resulting in overpopulation, increased carbon levels, and harm to the economy.

As a school which prides itself and its close beach proximity — as well as a great marine biology program — I urge you all to better understand the environment around you. I urge you to care more about the environment. I urge you to care more about beautiful creatures around you. These animals are more than just cute or fascinating creatures. Instead, they play an important role in our ecosystem and economy. We are so blessed to call the beach our home, and I would hate to see more beached animals along our coast due to our environmental mishaps.