Today is World Oceans Day, the planet’s biggest celebration of one of our most precious — and endangered — resources. As the American Reef Coalition points out, there’s now more plastic than plankton in the ocean: The ocean has been “turned into a global sewer” for centuries, with one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles dying every year from eating plastic and some 300,000 Cetaceans (whales and dolphins) dying in entanglements annually.
The United Nations first designated June 8 as World Oceans Day in 2009, noting that:
The oceans are essential to food security and the health and survival of all life, power our climate and are a critical part of the biosphere. The official designation of World Oceans Day is an opportunity to raise global awareness of the current challenges faced by the international community in connection with the oceans.
In Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is seeking to establish the Oceans Act Marine Protected Areas (MPA). Three new candidate sites or Areas of Interest (AOI) have been designated St Anns Bank (NS), Shediac Valley (NB) and American Bank (QC). As noted on Gamut News, a May 2009 study released by the WWF, the Ecology Action Centre and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society found that
…networks of MPAs are much more effective in protecting marine biodiversity and supporting ecosystem services than isolated MPAs. The benefits include more plants and animals per cubic metre of ocean, a wider range of species, and larger fish that produce more young — which could lead to a rebound of overfished stocks and mean long-term profits for fishing communities and sustainable seafood markets.
Canada has made a comment to conserve 10% of its marine areas through the establishment of such protected areas by 2020.
Preserving the oceans also means we must protect the creatures who live in it. Today, the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation passed the Commercial Seafood Consumer Protection Act (S.50) which, should it become law, will protect consumers against seafood fraud. As Oceana says:
Despite growing concern about where our food comes from, consumers are frequently served the wrong fish — a completely different species than the one they paid for. With about 1,700 different species of seafood from all over the world now available in the U.S., it is unrealistic to expect consumers to be able to independently and accurately determine what fish is really being served.
A law like the Commercial Seafood Consumer Protection Act will, it’s hoped, not only clamp down on seafood fraud and mislabeling. Right now, you could unknowingly be eating an endangered species such as sharks; DNA barcoding can help to ensure against diners being deceived and, even worse, contributing to declining fish stocks.
We can all do our part for the ocean in smaller ways too. The World Oceans Day lists numerous events around the world being held to celebrate the ocean, from cleaning up beaches on Apo Island in the Philippines to monitoring the coral reefs.
As the temperature here is around 100 degrees, I’m thinking that nothing could be better than a dip in the waves of the Jersey shore. Contrary to that reality show, the Jersey shore isn’t just about the boardwalk and the booze. My son Charlie is in his natural element at the ocean. He loves to walk in the sand and to see, and to swim in, the waves to which no swimming pool can ever compare. Indeed, it’s when he’s at the ocean that Charlie, who’s on the moderate to severe end of the autism spectrum, doesn’t seem “different,” but just another boy running full speed ahead into the waves, boogie board strapped to his wrist.
70% of the earth’s surface is covered by oceans. Let’s preserve their health, for today and for tomorrow.
Below is a World Oceans Day statement on plastic pollution:
Here’s a “splash mob” on June 7 at the Smithsonian‘s Sant Ocean Hall at the National Museum of Natural History:
Photo of the Jersey shore by the author.