Since 2009, people around the world have celebrated World Oceans Day. The United Nations General Assembly took the concept, first proposed in 1992 and made it official on 5 December 2008. Since then, the event has grown and spread as the realization of the ocean’s importance to humanity has increased.
We have come to learn that oceans drive global systems that make it possible to live on this earth. So much of what we take for granted – oxygen, rainfall, much of our food – is dependent on the health of the ocean.
As understanding grows it is apparent that management of this global resource is of prime importance.
“Together let’s ensure oceans can sustain us into the future. Let us reflect on the multiple benefits of the oceans. Let us commit to keep them healthy and productive and to use their resources peacefully, equitably and sustainably for the benefit of current and future generations.” Ban Ki-moon
Did you know:
- Oceans cover three quarters of the Earth’s surface, contain 97 percent of the Earth’s water, and represent 99 percent of the living space on the planet by volume. To date only a little over 1 percent of the ocean is protected.
- An estimated 50-80 percent of all life on earth is found under the ocean surface and the oceans contain 99 percent of the living space on the planet. Less than 10 percent of that space has been explored by humans.
- Tiny marine plants called phytoplankton release half of all oxygen in the atmosphere through photosynthesis.
- The oceans account for 96 percent of all the water on the surface of the Earth, the remainder being freshwater, in the form of rivers, lakes and ice.
- The ocean absorbs approximately 25 percent of the CO2 added to the atmosphere from human activities each year, greatly reducing the impact of this greenhouse gas on the climate.
- Oceans absorb about 30 percent of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming.
- Total carbon deposits in coastal systems such as such as mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass meadows may be up to five times the carbon stored in tropical forests.
- Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods.
- Globally, the market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is estimated at $3 trillion per year or about 5 percent of global GDP.
- Oceans contain nearly 200,000 identified species, but actual numbers may lie in the millions.
- Oceans serve as the world’s largest source of protein, with more than 2.6 billion people depending on the oceans as their primary source of protein.
- Marine fisheries directly or indirectly employ over 200 million people.Subsidies for fishing are contributing to the rapid depletion of many fish species and are preventing efforts to save and restore global fisheries and related jobs, causing ocean fisheries to generate US$ 50 billion less per year than they could.
- As much as 40 percent of the world oceans are heavily affected by human activities, including pollution, depleted fisheries, and loss of coastal habitats.
As the importance of the oceans is better understood, they are being brought more into focus. The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) has organized a full day dedicated to the ocean’s role in the climate system, ahead of the global climate change negotiations taking place during the (COP21) at the end of 2015 in Paris.
As stated on the UN website, “The purpose of this 2015 World Oceans Day, as an official COP21 event, is to mobilize and unite political actors, scientists, youth and civil society for the protection of marine ecosystems and to place the ocean at the heart of the climate change negotiations. Until now, the main focus of the negotiations has been mostly on greenhouse gas emissions, while ocean related issues have remained overlooked.”
Around the World
People everywhere are celebrating World Oceans Day 2015 in different ways. In Borneo, a conservation group called Tropical Research and Conservation Centre restore damaged coral reef ecosystems using diving volunteers. Save the Sea Restaurant Campaign in Germany and the UK is a collaboration between The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) and top seafood and Michelin-starred restaurants to raise money and awareness for their work to secure truly sustainable, well-managed fisheries. Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco is celebrating World Oceans Day for a full week! Sea Speaks to the Soul in Dubai is raising awareness to reduce plastic, planting native Ghaf trees, doing mangrove rehabilitation and beach clean ups.
The opportunities to contribute to sustaining our oceans are endless and continue all year round.