by Lim Yee Khim, Certification Executive
The idea of World Ocean Day was initially suggested in 1992 by Canada’s International Centre for Ocean Development (ICOD) and the Ocean Institute of Canada (OIC) at the Earth Summit, at a UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. However, it was officially recognised by the United Nations in 2008. The purpose of this annual celebration is to create awareness and support the implementation of worldwide Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and foster public interest in the protection of the ocean and the sustainable management of its resources.
On 8 June this year, United Nations World Oceans Day will highlight the theme Revitalization: Collective Action for the Ocean.
The ocean covers over 70% of the planet. It is our life source, supporting humanity’s sustenance and that of every other organism on earth.
Do you know:-
- The ocean harvests at least 50% of the planet’s oxygen, it is home to most of the earth’s biodiversity
- It is the main source of protein for more than a billion people around the world and it is the key to our economy with an estimated 40 million people being employed by ocean-based industries by 2030.
- Most important of all, the oceans absorb about 30% of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming.
With all these benefits, the ocean is now in need of support.
With 90% of big fish populations depleted, and 50% of coral reefs destroyed, we are taking more from the ocean than can be replaced. We need to work together to create a new balance with the ocean that no longer uses up its bounty.
The ocean has become a vessel for the world’s pollution
The most harmful pollutant to the ocean is carbon pollution. For many decades the ocean has absorbed almost one-third of the carbon dioxide discharged by humans and industrial activity. It is a natural air filter and helps to slow down climate change. All these at a great cost to ocean health. The Ocean generate more than half the oxygen we breathe on land: tiny plants that live on the ocean’s surface produce roughly 50-80% of the planet’s oxygen through photosynthesis. The water is also, what we call a carbon sink, which means that it absorbs more carbon dioxide than it releases.
When carbon dioxide is absorbed by seawater it forms carbonic acid, which makes the ocean more acidic and cuts down the ability of fossilizing organisms to form their shells and skeletons. In another word, the increase of acidity levels of the ocean is extremely harmful as it changes the whole ecosystem, vulnerable habitats like coral fall victim this, which are home to 25% of all marine life.
Apart from the carbon pollutant is Plastic Debris. An estimated 8 million tons of plastic go into our oceans every year. There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic estimated to be in our oceans, and this plastic waste is a threat to all marine life. Waste fishing nets get all sorts of creatures tangled in them, fish, turtles, and seabirds eat micro-plastics as these trash are mistaken as food. Every year the breakdown of these products leads to the horrible death of millions of animals. The ocean contains 94% of all the planet’s wildlife. Marine debris can harm animals by causing suffocation, entanglement, laceration, infections and internal injuries. As well, floating plastic and other items help transport aggressive species, which leads to threats to marine ecosystems.
70% of our debris sinks into the ocean’s ecosystem, 15% floats, and 15% lands on our coasts. Every bit of plastic that was ever created still exists in many different forms as it takes 100’s of years to decompose, and even when it does, it turns into micro pieces then microfibers.
Moreover, many of these animals consuming plastics are actually in our food chain, so our waste comes back to poison us too.
Why it’s important to celebrate World Ocean Day.
Here are some of the reasons you should care about the ocean, and celebrate it every year on the 8th of June!
The ocean regulates the climate on a global scale. Taking action to save our ocean is therefore of the utmost importance if we want to reduce the impact of climate change and build a more sustainable future.
Ocean pollution also harm human beings. Carcinogenic micro-plastics have entered the food chain, and toxic contaminants pose a serious health hazard.
What are you waiting for? Take action to save our ocean!
Securing our ocean’s future
Continuing along with our current toward ocean destruction will impact human lives and livelihoods.
The role of the ocean and coastal and marine ecosystems in climate change mitigation is often overlooked. Protecting and restoring ocean habitats such as seagrass beds, salt marshes, and mangroves, and their associated food webs can sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at rates up to five times greater than tropical forests.
Choosing not to prioritize the protection of our ocean is depriving us of the tools we desperately need to achieve our climate mitigation goals.
The role of SMEs in sustainable industry
Every private sector and market is consequently overriding to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. This Goal, directly and indirectly, ensures that our ocean is protected. Global SMEs are actively involved in achieving the goals set out in the Post 2015 development framework, particularly in contributing to SDGs 8, 9 and 12. Across the world of all income levels. SMEs constitute the majority of enterprises in the private sector. One of the roadmaps aims to promote the adoption of both social and environmentally stainable models of economic growth.
It is proven by studies to show a direct correlation between sustainable industries or business practices with share prices, and business performance. Companies that develop strong Environment Social Governance (ESG) standards have better profitability, stronger financials, and more resilient stock performance.
The execution of ISO 14001 (International Standard for Environmental Management) focus more than land environmental issues. As it oversees all the aspects and impact of every issue related to the environment including the ocean. As we know environmental issues are interrelated. Adopting the ISO 14001 will help to achieve an essential balance between the environment, society, and the economy. ISO has always focused on playing an essential role in the climate agenda, helping to monitor climate change, quantifying greenhouse gas emissions and promoting good practices in environmental management.
- Swan, Judith. “About”. United Nations. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
- “World Oceans Day, 8 June”. www.un.org. Retrieved 2 February 2020.
- GLOBAL ISSUE: The Ocean: Pollution and the Ocean, University of California, Santa Barbara
- “Understanding the Science of Ocean and Coastal”, Acidificationhttps://19january2017snapshot.epa.gov/ocean-acidification/understanding-science-ocean-and-coastal-acidification_.html
- “Ocean Acidification: How Carbon Dioxide Is Hurting the Seas” by John P. Rafferty, https://www.britannica.com/story/ocean-acidification-how-carbon-dioxide-is-hurting-the-seas
- Picture adapted from J. Cook, skepticalscience.com in the “Ocean acidification and its effects” Retrieved 27 April 2017, https://coastadapt.com.au/ocean-acidification-and-its-effects
- “Ultimate Roundup of Marine Pollution Facts: The Causes and Impact on both Marine and Human Life.” https://www.condorferries.co.uk/marine-ocean-pollution-statistics-facts#:~:text=An%20estimated%208%20Million%20tons,15%25%20lands%20on%20our%20beaches