Communities and activists around the world rallied to join World Oceans Day observations yesterday, with an emphasis this year on the intrinsic interconnected nature of life on Earth. Amid the growing climate change crisis and unchecked development at the expense of the environment, the occasion sought to underscore the urgent need for sustainably managed marine resources and ecosystems for the benefit of all the sentient beings that share this planet.
Celebrated since 1992 and officially recognized by the United Nations in 2008, World Oceans Day is observed annually on 8 June. The intention for the international day is to raise awareness about the conservation and management of the ocean and its resources in support of the implementation of worldwide Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This year, the day was held under the theme “Innovation for a sustainable ocean.”
In addition to inspiring action to protect the ocean and the sustainable use of marine resources, World Oceans Day seeks to draw attention to the key role that oceans play in sustaining all life on Earth and understanding how the health of the Earth’s seas is inextricably intertwined with our own well-being.
“The world’s oceans—their temperature, chemistry, currents, and life—drive global systems that make the Earth habitable for humankind. Our rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, much of our food, and even the oxygen in the air we breathe, are all ultimately provided and regulated by the sea. Throughout history, oceans and seas have been vital conduits for trade and transportation,” the United Nations explained.
“Careful management of this essential global resource is a key feature of a sustainable future. However, at the current time, there is a continuous deterioration of coastal waters owing to pollution and ocean acidification, which has an adversarial effect on the functioning of ecosystems and biodiversity. This is also negatively impacting small scale fisheries. Marine protected areas need to be effectively managed and well-resourced and regulations need to be put in place to reduce overfishing, marine pollution and ocean acidification.” (United Nations)
In his message to the world in support of the occasion, UN Secretary General António Guterres stated:
The COVID-19 pandemic is a sharp reminder of how we are all intimately connected—to each other and to nature.
As we work to end the pandemic and build back better, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity—and responsibility—to correct our relationship with the natural world, including the world’s seas and oceans.
We rely on the oceans for food, livelihoods, transport, and trade.
And, as the lungs of our planet and its largest carbon sink, the oceans play a vital role in regulating the global climate.
Today, sea levels are rising due to climate change, threatening lives and livelihoods in low-lying nations and coastal cities and communities around the world.
The oceans are becoming more acidic, putting marine biodiversity and essential food chains in jeopardy.
And plastic pollution is everywhere.
On this World Oceans Day, we focus on Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean.
Embracing more than three quarters of the surface of our planet, the ocean contains 97 per cent of all water on Earth and accounts for 99 per cent of the habitable space by volume. However, the seas—and by extension all life on Earth—are in danger: climate change is pressuring oceans, creating profound risks for coastal communities and food supplies; seas are heating up; oxygen levels are declining; essential coral reefs are bleaching and being ravaged by increasingly destructive storms, fueled by climate change; plastic and chemical pollutants are endangering life in the seas and on land; and industrial fishing is decimating populations of marine life and causing food chains to collapse.
The UN noted that this year’s theme, “Innovation for a sustainable ocean,” is especially relevant coming on the eve of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, which will run from 2021–30: “The decade will strengthen international co-operation to develop the scientific research and innovation technologies that can connect ocean science with the needs of society.” (United Nations)
Underscoring the urgency of this message, the President of the United Nations General Assembly Tijjani Muhammad-Bande stated:
On World Oceans Day we recall that life under water is essential to life on land. The ocean produces half of the oxygen we breathe. As a major heat and carbon sink, the ocean plays a fundamental role in mitigating climate change. The ocean also provides food for billions around the world. . . .
Four SDG targets pertaining to SDG14: Life Under Water expire in 2020. This World Oceans Day, we must take a moment to reflect on and appreciate all that the ocean does for us. It is also an opportunity for us to look forward.
We must harness the potential of blue and green economies. Strategic investments can generate 100 million jobs by 2050, facilitating critical global recovery efforts in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
This year we must take action to prevent a further eight million tons of plastic waste from entering the ocean and protect global ecosystems. We simply cannot stand by while oceans acidify, sea levels rise and pollution increases.
Today I ask all Member States to commit to protecting 30 per cent of our blue planet by 2030. This will safeguard at least 30 per cent of our ocean through a network of highly protected areas.
Ocean action will create a better world on land and under water for generations to come. Together, let us take urgent action as we look towards the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.
There is also a global petition calling on world leaders to take action to protect our seas and oceans. “Leading scientists worldwide have determined that we need to protect at least 30 per cent of our blue planet by 2030,” the World Oceans Day website states. “By signing the petition you are telling world leaders that you want action too! Working together we can protect our blue planet home for all!” (World Oceans Day)
The Official United Nations World Oceans Day Portal
World Oceans Day
TAKE ACTION: Sign the Petition (World Oceans Day)
Messages for 2020 (United Nations)
Why Ocean matters (United Nations)
Our ocean is our future (United Nations)
UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development
A message for World Oceans Day (Greenpeace)