“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”
– Jacques Cousteau
At the first World Oceans Day in 1992, the objectives were to move the ocean from the sidelines to the centre of intergovernmental and NGO discussions and policy, and to strengthen the voice of ocean and coastal constituencies worldwide.Yet according to 10% For The Ocean, less than 1% of all charitable giving is for our world’s seas.
This year’s World Oceans Day theme is Revitalisation: Collective Action for The Ocean. Whether you live at the top of a mountain, in the middle of a desert, in the depths of a rainforest, or in the hustle and bustle of the world’s busiest cities, oceans connect, sustain, and support us all.
And its health is at a tipping point, as is the wellbeing of all who depend on it. Did you know that:
- 93% of fisheries are fully fished or overfished
- Every 60 seconds a truck load of rubbish is dumped in the sea
- 90% of coral reefs are projected to die by 2050
If our ocean dies, we all die. It’s as simple as that.
Oceans are the life support systems for the planet, providing 50% of the oxygen we breathe and regulating our climate. Oceans are also a key element in the water cycle that allows us to have fresh water. They are the driving force, along with the Sun, of the global circulation system that transports water from the land to the sea to the atmosphere and back to the land again.
Plankton, which is one of the most important species on Earth, and one of the fundamental producer organisms of the oceanic food chains, has been depleted by 40% since the 1950’s. Factors contributing to this rapid loss include, but are not limited to, ocean acidification (which is caused by the decrease of pH value as the ocean absorbs increasing levels of CO2), eutrophication, rising sea temperatures, and various types of pollution.
As the awareness of the detrimental effect that carbon dioxide has on our planet grows, the spotlight has been, and still is, largely shone on how we should be conserving, rewilding, and regrowing our forests around the world. And this makes sense, as typically fewer of us have a “relationship” with the sea, than the land. It’s easier to plant a tree than it is to get involved in preserving mangroves or seagrass, and most often cheaper. Don’t get me wrong, planting trees etc. is still a very important part of protecting our planet (as long as it’s done in the right way… which often it’s not…), but our focus needs to be redirected and shared with our other biggest issue – our oceans!
Overfishing is one of the the primary contributors to the death of our oceans
Without a doubt, the main cause of life collapsing in our oceans is overfishing. When we think of fishermen, we think of Captain Birdseye with his white beard, twinkly eyes, a fantastic set of white pearly gnashers and his little fishing boat.
Yes, you get the small local boats that try and catch enough fish to feed their communities, and this is how fishing should be done, sustainably. But there are monsters out there, and we’re not referring to Moby Dick. These monsters are huge fishing vessels, with nets that can reach upto 75 miles long, trawling our oceans day in, day out, and catching, harming, and killing pretty much everything in their paths. Dolphins, whales, turtles, sharks, sea birds – the list is endless. These huge ships from (more often than not) rich nations mop up the fish surrounding poor nations, depriving hundreds of millions of their primary source of protein. It’s a vicious cycle that’s only getting worse, as fish numbers deplete.
What’s the positive news?
It’s despairing to know that this is happening, but the world is slowly waking up to the fact that more needs to be done for our oceans and there are positive news stories out there!
A few we wanted to shout about include:
How can we help?
“Individually we are one drop, together we are an ocean”
– Ryunosuke Satoro
Reduce our fish and seafood consumption and source sustainably – as noted above, overfishing is completely destroying the biodiversity and ecosystems within our oceans, and the easiest thing we can do is reduce consumption of our sea salty friends. If you do eat fish or seafood, try to source it locally from fishmongers who fish sustainability (with evidence of how they do this). The Marine Conservation provides an MSC blue label which they say certifies that the product is from a well managed, sustainable fishery, although there has been some controversy around this.
Do our research – The documentary Seaspiracy is worth a watch. It highlights some of the environmental impacts of sea fishing, and touches on how even the labelling on our fish products such as “dolphin friendly tuna” may not be entirely true. Another documentary to watch is the BBC’s Blue Planet. Education on how the ocean sustains life on Earth is key to raising awareness and understanding on how we can do more to reduce the negative impacts we have. The WWF and World Ocean Day also have great resources.
Organise a day out and head to a beach for a community clean up – companies like Surfers Against Sewage organise these regularly, or you can even organise your own.
Support Ocean Conservation – it’s important to ensure that the conservation organisations you choose to support have no ties to the fishing industry itself (they can be sneaky like that). We think 10% For The Ocean, and Sea Shepherd are great, on top of the companies we have already listed above.
The sea really is key to our survival.