Save the sea otters! How cute critters can inspire kids to protect the ocean.

Nothing motivates children more than an adorable animal in trouble. Here are 5 that will inspire them to save the seas.

Children can’t get enough ocean animals. But their marine habitat is in trouble. As the ocean’s temperature continue to rise by 0.14°F each decade, sea levels along U.S. coastlines are set to rise a foot by 2050, threatening coral reefs, beaches, and marshes—and the animals that live there. And an estimated 15 million tons of plastic enter the ocean each year, nearly double the eight million tons recorded in 2010.

One of the best ways to turn the tide on the ocean crisis? Teach kids about the creatures that live in it. “As kids get to know particular types of marine life, they often form connections or begin to care about them,” says Robyn Ehrlich, education manager at the Pacific Whale Foundation. “It’s from that connection, care, and appreciation that the inspiration to protect the ocean begins and grows.”

A healthy ocean requires a balanced ecosystem, and if any species disappears, the equilibrium is thrown off. Researchers estimate that more than 700,000 marine species live in the ocean, all interdependent on each other. Here’s a list of kids’ favorite marine animals and how they can help protect them—and save the rest of the ocean.

Read This Next

Is your family pet bad for the environment? It depends.
Your guide to safely exploring the outdoors with kids
Helping kids overcome their fear of sharks