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Volunteer with Marine Life

Volunteering with marine life is a great way to combine your passion for diving and our oceans with marine conservation work...

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Volunteer Projects with Marine Life

What are the biggest threats for marine life?

In the last 40 years, half of the marine biodiversity got lost. In one of the most extensive studies (Living Blue Planet Report), where researchers surveyed 3,038 marine life species, it has been stated that from 1970 until 2012 those observed species declined by approximately 50 percent!

Unfortunately, some of the losses are irreversible, as many species have already gone extinct. Many other species are on the verge of extinction, and their population statuses are critically endangered. The reason for this rapid decline is predominantly induced by humans. The list of manmade causes is long:

  • overfishing
  • pollution
  • climate change
  • bad tourism practices
  • coastal degradation
  • depletion of coral reefs

Sadly the rate of recovery is slow paced and we need to actively intervene to prevent even more species from extinction. Therefore the volunteering possibilities are plenty and you can become a volunteer right now.

How can I take care of marine life species?

Although it may sound a bit dramatic, your contribution as a volunteer can change the fate of our planet. As earlier mentioned, water is the source of all living beings, and there is no life without water. Just like living beings are dependent on water, each ocean of the world is reliant on its marine life. The interdependence between marine life and the ocean's health could have detrimental chain reactions on life as we know it if no action is taken. Marine animals are basically the caretakers of the sea. They filter out toxins from the water, prevent the outbursts of algal blooms, and keep pollution under control in general.

In order to maintain good health of the oceans, it is crucial to have a diverse aquatic habitat. With the increasing risk of extinction for many species, the natural food chain is becoming more unstable by the hour.

Volunteer for Shark Conservation

Probably the most notorious fish, right after Nemo, the shark is a complex and fascinating creature that is equally feared and awe-inspiring at the same time. It has been roaming our oceans for over 400 million years now. And did you know that some shark species are really adaptable? They can live in salt water as well as fresh water .

To conserve these interesting animals it's important to learn about their world, know their features and recognize their importance in the marine ecosystem. First of all, it's necessary to understand that according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species , one-quarter of all sharks are threatened with extinction. Most of these threads are man-made such as:

  • pollution
  • overfishing of their prey
  • trophy hunting
  • unintentional bycatch
  • fishing for their meat and fins

What many don't know, is that the finning industry is especially cruel. Once a shark is caught, the fins are cut off while it is still alive and then it will be thrown back into the ocean. As it is unable to swim, it will slowly sink to the ground where it is eaten alive by other fish.

As a volunteer in shark conservation, there are many different destinations you can visit worldwide such as South Africa and Costa Rica. These destinations will not only let you experience sharks within close proximity but are also amongst the most biodiverse countries in the world. When it comes to your volunteer tasks you need to keep in mind that conservation work is not a walk in the park! Among your conservation work can be tasks like:

  • Shark Cage Diving - you will be properly instructed on how to enter and exit the cages, as well as how to behave. Even though sharks are rather shy animals, it is vital to not provoke the animals and cause danger to yourself and others.
  • Photography and Video - you will learn how to take pictures and videos above and below water to collect valuable data about shark populations.
  • Quality of the Oceans - you will observe and clean coral reefs and the beaches in order to maintain the ocean's health, which is vital for all living organisms.

Support Sea Turtle Conservation

Not quite as old as the shark, sea turtles have been around for more than 100 million years! In the course of their existence, they have covered vast distances across the world's oceans and thus play a vital role in the balance of marine habitats. And even though they spend most of their lives in the water, the female turtles will always come back to the beach where they were born to lay their eggs. Fun fact on the side: Did you know that the sex of the baby turtles depends on the temperature of the sand that the eggs are laid in? Cold sand means male and warm sand female turtle babies!

There are seven sea turtle species that are roaming our oceans today. These species are:

  • Leatherback
  • Loggerhead
  • Green Sea Turtle
  • Flatback
  • Hawksbill
  • Kemp's Ridley
  • Olive Ridley

Sadly, there are several threats that six of the seven species are facing and that lead to a conservation status of Vulnerable to Critically Endangered for all of those. As with the sharks, pretty much all of these threats are man-made and not all of them are unintentional. Tens of thousands of sea turtles are lost each year to overharvesting and illegal trade. Habitat loss due to uncontrolled coastal development, incidental bycatch and climate change only make the situation worse.

This is where you as a volunteer for sea turtle conservation step in! First of all, there are sea turtle conservation programs on every continent, so you are free to choose where you want to go. From Costa Rica to Spain and Australia, they're all in dire need of your help. Depending on which sea turtle conservation project you are going to join, there are many possible tasks that your work is going to entail. While some of the projects focus on the work in the hatcheries, others might include research and data collection or close work with the local communities which includes communal beach cleanups, informational events, school lessons and much more. Generally speaking, you can expect to be doing one or more of the following tasks:

  • feeding and caring for sea turtles at the center
  • going on night patrols to collect sea turtle eggs
  • relocating eggs to hatcheries where they are safe from poachers
  • maintaining and cleaning facilities
  • cleaning and constructing hatcheries
  • releasing older babies back into the ocean
  • engaging in beach cleanups
  • giving hatchery tours to tourists and educating them about the importance of preserving sea turtles

Volunteer with Dolphins

One of the most social animals of our oceans is the dolphin. Living in so-called pods of 5 to 15 individuals, they have a loosely structured lifestyle and freely socialize among many different pods. For social interaction, they will reach out to people on boats as well, which is one of their most lovable traits when it comes to society's conception. They have also been known to protect humans from sharks. When they see a shark approaching, they dizzy and confuse it by circling around the shark and then ramming it repeatedly with their strong snouts .

The generally positive attitude towards the 43 species of dolphins unfortunately hasn't prevented the continuous shrinking of the worldwide dolphin population over the past decades. Although they face many natural dangers within the deep unknown of the oceans, the most overwhelming threats that dolphins are facing are mostly man made such as:

  • rising water levels due to climate change
  • pollution of the oceans
  • unregulated hunting
  • overfishing causing food depletion and bycatch of dolphins
  • continuously growing number of boats and ships

That's why it's even more important for us to prevent these endearing animals from going extinct and to support a dolphin conservation project . Depending of course on the natural habitat of dolphins, those projects can be found at many places worldwide, from French Polynesia to Greece to South Africa. Varying with the weather and thus sea conditions, your tasks can include in-water activities such as boat rides and scuba diving. These and other tasks are:

  • researching and monitoring of dolphin behavior
  • recording and evaluating data
  • preparing reports
  • office work such as engaging potential donors
  • educating locals and tourists about the importance of marine conservation

Engage in Whale Conservation

Whales are the gentle giants of our oceans - the blue whale, for example, can reach up to 30.5 m (100 ft) which is as long as a Boeing 737 and weigh up to 200 tonnes! Even though they can reach these enormous sizes, their diet can consist of something as small as plankton. But also squid is on some species' menu. As warm-blooded mammals, they give birth to live young and nurse them through childhood . They mostly live and migrate in groups called pods travel up to 22.500km (14.000 miles) between their breeding grounds.

Even though commercial whaling is nowadays forbidden in most parts of the world, unregulated hunting and fishing are putting the worldwide whale population at serious risk. Six of the whale species are ranked Critically Endangered (the North Atlantic right whale), Endangered (blue whale, fin whale, North Pacific right whale, and sei whale), and Vulnerable (sperm whale).Furthermore, unregulated hunting isn't the only threat whales are facing. The species is also confronted with hazards such as:

  • entanglement in fishing gear
  • severe limitation of the natural habitat
  • ship collision (as whales have to come to the surface for air)
  • global warming and ozone depletion
  • noise pollution (by ships and sonar)
  • toxic contamination through gas and oil

The best places to volunteer in whale conservation projects are Africa and Europe. During your time there, you will get many chances to get a close look at this amazing marine life species. However, keep in mind that generally speaking, each whale conservation program is focusing on different whale species such as bowhead whales, finback whales or humpback whales. As a whale conservation volunteer, there are also many diverse tasks that you can take part in such as:

  • assisting researchers in tracking local whale populations
  • collecting data
  • educating local fishermen to adjust their practices
  • educating tourists about the importance of whale conservation efforts
  • organizing ecotourism activities
  • beach cleanups
  • community outreach

Best places to volunteer with marine animals

As 71% of our planet's surface is water, there is pretty much no place where you can't volunteer for marine life conservation. If you are looking to spend your time volunteering for shark conservation, the South African coast is always a preferred destination. For sea turtle conservation programs, Costa Rica and Bali are a must go, and if you're planning on volunteering for dolphin or whale conservation, you might even consider Greece and Italy. If you are looking for really extraordinary programs, have a look at the Caribbean and Oceania.

You can see, our oceans offer you the opportunity to choose the marine conservation destination that is the best fit! If you are interested in volunteering for one of the marine conservation projects, we can put you in touch with organizations in the following countries:

Top 3 benefits of volunteering for marine life

Seeing marine life swim freely in their natural habitat is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you will never forget. That alone is reason enough for many people to pack their bags and volunteer with marine life around the world. But apart from that, there are plenty of other reasons why this kind of volunteer work could be the right choice for you.

1. Boost your career as a marine biologist

If you are interested in studying marine biology or veterinary medicine, a volunteer program working with marine life will be a great fit. You will gain hands-on experience and get a first insight into the daily work of trained research experts and marine biologists, which will certainly come in handy at a later point in your career. Being able to list this kind of work experience on your CV is another bonus, even if you are not planning on pursuing a career in this field. It shows that you are capable of physically hard and hands-on work and that you are motivated to volunteer your free-time to a meaningful cause.

2. Learn about different cultures

Depending on where you choose to volunteer, you might get to refine your language skills whilst working on site as the main language spoken is English. Immersing yourself in a foreign culture and living abroad will definitely make you grow as a person and give you a different perspective. And let's not forget that the time you spend as a marine life conservation volunteer will also be incredibly fun! You will get to enjoy all the perks of living close to the ocean, such as fresh air and maybe a day at the beach during your free time as well as facing new challenges.

3. Meet new friends

The best part is that you will be surrounded by like-minded individuals that share your passion for marine life conservation. After working and living together for a while, these people might even become your close friends! If you think that joining a marine life conservation project as a volunteer is just what you were looking for, then go ahead and get started right now! We would love to help you find the right project for you!

Is volunteering with marine animals the right thing for me?

Volunteering with marine life abroad is a great opportunity for everyone who loves animals and wants to give something back to them. There is an advantage if you have some previous experience in the fields of marine biology and conservation or you are an experienced diver, however, many projects are open to welcome anyone who has their heart set on saving the world's marine life.

As the main language spoken at most projects abroad is English, it is necessary for you to speak at least basic English in order to communicate with your project coordinators and fellow volunteers. Some projects in Latin America will ask you to speak basic Spanish.

Working with marine life abroad during your travels or your annual holidays can be a great way to change up your daily routine and you can also bring your friends or family if you'd like. Many volunteer projects like sea turtle rescues are happy to welcome families with younger children and it is a great way to teach kids about the importance of protecting animals and their surroundings. They will learn a lot about the different species, correct animal handling and the responsibilities that humans have concerning marine life, be it caring for a pet at home or taking action to protect animals in the wild.

What is the minimum age to work for marine life projects?

Volunteer projects working with marine life accept volunteers from the age of 18 but there is no age limit upwards - as long as you are physically fit and ready for a challenge you are the perfect candidate to volunteer. However, there are also a lot of projects that accept international volunteers who are under 18 years old, for example sea turtle projects. You can find the specific requirements for each project in their profile on Volunteer World.