“The oceans deserve our respect and care, but you have to know something before you can care about it.” - Sylvia Earle, marine biologist
The annual global event has come around once again and so, today, millions around the world are observing World Oceans Day (WOD) in an effort to bring awareness to how human impact affects our seas all over our planet. Moreover, due to the fact that we just released a summer collection focused on the oceans, we also wanted to take the opportunity to highlight today’s celebrations and share why it’s so important to observe.
Here’s everything you should know about what this day is all about and how you can celebrate the oceans.
A brief history of WOD
1992 - Oceans Day was first declared in Rio de Janeiro at the global Forum, a parallel event at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) that posed an opportunity for NGOs and the public to discuss environmental issues.
The declaration was first inspired by Canada’s “OCEANS DAY AT GLOBAL FORUM – THE BLUE PLANET”, a programme featuring international experts, opinion leaders and those in a position to speak for the oceans’ contributions to sustaining the Blue Planet.
2008 - The UN General Assembly designates June 8th as “World Oceans Day”.
“The need and scope for this was reflected in the broad range of concerns expressed in 2008 by the UN Secretary-General, including implementation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, maritime space, international shipping, maritime security, marine science and technology, marine biological diversity, the marine environment and sustainable development, climate change and regional and international cooperation.” - unworldoceansday.org
2009 - The first WOD is observed, the theme being ‘Our Oceans, Our Responsibility’. This first observance was noted as a way to discuss how oceans contribute to society and an opportunity to recognise the challenges we face “to regulate the global climate, supply essential ecosystem services and provide sustainable livelihoods and safe recreation.” – then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.
And so we come to today! This year’s theme is Revitalization: Collective Action for the Ocean, and, moreover, this year also marks the first hybrid celebration of WOD, featuring both in-person programming hosted at UN HQ in NYC and virtual components for global public accessibility. - check the full schedule of today’s events here.
As the theme name suggests, the focus this year is on action, bringing together public and private organisations, individuals, governments, and more, to commit to making real change.
A quick summary of the intention of this year’s event:
“The ocean connects, sustains, and supports us all. Yet its health is at a tipping point and so is the well-being of all that depends on it. As the past years have shown us, we need to work together to create a new balance with the ocean that no longer depletes its bounty but instead restores its vibrancy and brings it new life.” - unworldoceansday.org
Why do we celebrate WOD?
Our oceans play a huge part in all our lives whether we realise it or not. From regulating our ecosystem to sustaining human livelihoods, they are a natural protector and full of resources, however, for much too long, human impact has led to increasing pollution that harms their health and the millions of species that call it their home.
This is what the oceans provide us:
- The ocean produces half of the world’s oxygen while also absorbing 50 times more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere.
- The oceans regulate our climate and weather patterns due to how it transports heat from the equator to the poles.
- Resources the oceans provide us include seafood in various and diverse forms as well as ingredients used for medicines that treat for example, cancer, arthritis, heart disease and more.
- The annual economic value of the ocean is estimated at USD $2.5 trillion, equivalent to the world’s 7th largest economy, due to all the resources it provides.
- The oceans support human livelihoods around the world, providing jobs in fishing, seafood, leisure and science.
- Although 80% of our oceans are still unexplored with an estimated 90% of marine species still unknown, according to the Convention on Biological Diversity, deep-seabed habitats alone host between 500,000 and 10 million species - this also means that the oceans are also incredibly biodiverse.
With all of this in mind, it’s evident that there is so much our seas provide for our planet, so, it’s vital that we understand and be aware of how we’re affecting our oceans. These are some key facts:
- Eight million tons of plastic waste are dumped into our oceans every year - it’s estimated that by 2050, ocean plastic will outweigh all of the ocean’s fish.
- Due to the excessive amount of pollution dumped in our oceans, it’s resulted in masses of waste forming around the world, the biggest of them being The Great Pacific Garbage Patch said to contain about 1.8 trillion pieces of rubbish.
- About 70% of our rubbish also ends up sinking to our sea floors where they cannot be retrieved.
- Globally, we emit approximately 34 million tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. This gas naturally makes our oceans more acidic which is contributing to the loss of corals on a global scale as their calcium skeletons are weakened by the increasing acidity of the water.
- Waste such as nitrogen that humans dump into the ocean, create high amounts of algae to be reproduced. The problem with this is that when algae decomposes, it uses up the oxygen in the water vital for marine life to exist and creates dead zones where fish and other species die off in large numbers - the amount of dead zones increase year by year and the largest one that currently exists can be found the Arabian Sea, covering almost the entire 63,700-square mile Gulf of Oman.
How you can help
Although the issues seem vast when it comes to the health of our oceans, there are still lots of ways we can all lend a helping hand. After all, change needs to begin with individuals, indivduals who, if they come together and advocate for a greener world, can make a huge difference in the long run.
1.Use and demand plastic-free alternatives - When it comes to your daily life, try to avoid things like plastic straws at restaurants, plastic water bottles, and so on. These single-use items just add to worldwide pollution and, since they degrade over decades and decades, stick around. What’s more, ask that brands and companies you buy from also make the switch to resources that are more environmentally-friendly!
2.Be aware of your daily carbon footprint in an effort to reduce it - Simple actions like switching off a light when you leave the room or taking time away from your electronics can help reduce carbon emissions. Moreover, you can also do this by using public transport or biking/walking more often to get where you need to go.
3.Avoid products that harm the oceans - there are many household items you may not realise contain ingredients linked to endangering marine species such as cosmetics that contain shark squalene. Try to also avoid jewelry made of coral or sea turtle shell, souvenir shells of conchs, nautiluses and other animals, all of which are products that support unsustainable fishing and threaten various marine creatures.
4.Eat sustainable seafood! - Try to choose seafood that is healthy for you and the oceans by buying from well-managed, wild fisheries. You can check out this guide from Seafood Watch to help you make sustainable choices and learn about eco-certification of seafood here.
5.Finally, let you voice be heard - Contact your local representatives, councils, etc. to ask for better ocean conservation policy. Talk to your friends and family about climate issues regarding our seas. It’s imperative that the work isn’t just done by one person so ask others to help the cause along!
Once again, we hope you get to celebrate today in any way you can, it’s important that we always take a moment to do some green good but also know that we have to continue on past today too. Stay green! We’ll be back with more conscious stories soon!