Every year on 8 June, we take a moment to celebrate the ecosystems which cover 71% of our planet’s surface – the oceans. In 2008, the United Nations designated this day as World Oceans Day to raise awareness about issues facing this critical system and what it’s conservation means for our continued prosperity. Among others, the oceans are responsible for:
- Sustaining the biodiversity of fishes, mammals, reptiles, invertebrates, and other marine groups,
- Regulating our climate by transporting heat from the Equator toward the Poles and absorbing much of our excess carbon dioxide production,
- Producing much of the air we breathe through photosynthetic algae,
- Nourishing billions of people (both on the coast and inland),
- Providing medicinal products including cancer-, Alzheimer’s-, inflammation-, and infection-fighting compounds,
- Transporting economic goods from bath toys to planes,
- Supporting coastal economies through tourism and recreation,
- Promoting spiritual and religious beliefs
If you could put a value to this myriad of ecosystem services the oceans provide to our global society, it would be in the trillions of dollars. Conserving the oceans is not just the right thing to do as good stewards of this blue planet, it is a matter of our social and economic prosperity.
In support of this conservation need, organizations at all levels of government, non-profits, and research organizations are calling for 30% of the world’s intact ecosystems to be protected by 2030. An ambitious goal, but not one that is out-of-reach as approximately 15% of terrestrial and 7% of marine ecosystems currently receive some form of conservation. On 27 January 2021, President Biden issued an executive order placing climate policy at the heart of US domestic and foreign policy, including conserving 30% of US lands and territorial waters by 2030 (https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/27/executive-order-on-tackling-the-climate-crisis-at-home-and-abroad/).
But you need not wait for 8 June to roll around each year or for 2030 to begin helping to conserve our oceans. With billions of people on this watery world, even small steps taken together can be incredibly impactful. Things you can do today to help ensure a healthy marine environment for us all include:
- Visit the ocean! A personal connection to the sea is not only gratifying and therapeutic, it can help put a lot of these “big picture” issues into perspective.
- Buy sustainably-harvested seafood. Look for the appropriate labels at your local grocery store or check out apps such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Seafood Watch”.
- Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Bring your own reusable storage options and refuse single-use items whenever possible to reduce waste. If you can, recycle or donate items you no longer need.
- Choose carbon-free transportation options such as walking or cycling. It’s not only good for the environment, but good for your health as well. If this is not an option, use carbon-reduced options such as public transportation when available.
- Reduce your energy usage at home or in your workplace. This could include the use of energy-efficient lighting and appliances, adjusting your thermostat a few degrees warmer or using windows and fans to regulate room temperature, properly insulating your home, or simply turning off or unplugging electrical devices or lights when not in use.
- Use less water to reduce wastewater generation, which transports excess nutrients and pollution into local waterways and the oceans.
- Demonstrate good ocean stewardship by employing catch-and-release fishing practices, following size and take limits, anchoring vessels away from sensitive habitats such as coral reefs or seagrasses which may be damaged by the anchor itself as well as the chain or line, remaining alert to changes in depth to prevent vessel grounding or prop scarring, and picking up and properly disposing of debris you encounter (even if it is not your own) – particularly during coastal cleanup events (https://oceanconservancy.org/trash-free-seas/international-coastal-cleanup/)!
- Support pro-conservation legislation and political leaders by voting for conservation-minded candidates and voicing opposition to proposed legislation working against ocean-sustainability interests.
- Donate your time or resources to an ocean conservation initiative or organization. Many of these efforts, both local and worldwide, are volunteer-based and need our support to be successful.
For more information and to learn about new conservation initiatives, feel free to check out: