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World Oceans Day

(Dive Travel Business News – June 8, 2011)Today is World Oceans Day – a time to celebrate our earth’s most beautiful blue resource, and to take a moment to consider how we are taking care of it. World Oceans Day, which had been unofficially celebrated every June 8 since its original proposal in 1992 by Canada at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  The day was officially recognized by the United Nations in 2008. Since then it has been coordinated internationally by The Ocean Project and the World Ocean Network with greater success and global participation each year.

Why should we care about the ocean?
Water is life!  The ocean brought life to this planet making us inextricably linked to the sea.   It is the earth’s great climate regulator;  It generates most of the air we breath; It cleans the water we drink; It helps to feed us; The ocean offers us a pharmacopoeia of potential life saving and life enhancing medicines; It is a source of recreation, exploration and inspiration.

The oceans are in trouble.
The health of marine life is a key indicator of the health of the ocean. The health of the ocean is critical to the very existence of life on our planet. Climate change has already been linked to the killing of coral reefs. Coupled with destructive fishing practices, there is a dramatic decline in many types of fish and sea life we depend on. The ocean is at the lowest point on the planet: What we dump into our kitchen sink or storm drain will eventually end up in the sea. All the waste that is not properly disposed of will end up in coastal waters, creating “dead zones” where sea life cannot survive. A priority is ensuring the safe disposal of human and chemical waste. Even fertilizer used in midwestern farmland will end up in the ocean, contaminating it. How we protect our earth and fresh water ways will ultimately protect the oceans that give us life.

Consider your carbon footprint.
The energy we consume and the carbon we emit is ending up in the atmosphere. Climate change is an inevitable result. Seventy-two percent of our planet is made up of water and this water acts as a huge carbon sink that absorbs carbon emissions. But it’s beyond its capacity and can no longer regulate our planet’s temperature as it once did. The result: the oceans are warming up. Global warming is the result. The warming of the oceans results in melting glacial ice, rising sea levels, heavy rain in some areas, and drought in others. It is causing the destruction of coral reefs.

According to the website Environment 360, “Almost half of all the carbon dioxide emitted since industrialization has been absorbed by the ocean. When carbon dioxide reacts with water, it forms carbonic acid, and releases more hydrogen ions into the sea, lowering pH and causing “acidification” of the ocean. Further, these hydrogen ions quickly bind with carbonate ions. This deprives animals like hard corals and certain mollusks and plankton of the raw material for their calcium carbonate shells and skeletons. This may ultimately cause the world’s oceans to become corrosive to such animals, and coral reefs to dissolve.”

Pressure on the ocean for food.
Increased demand and overfishing are pushing fish populations to the limit. At the current rate, scientists say that all wild fish species will be endangered before 2050.  According to the U.N., “approximately two-thirds of ocean species are overfished, and many types of ocean fish farming are highly damaging to coastal environments.”  When consuming seafood, we must be aware of the sustainability issue and whether the fish is safe to eat, i.e. doesn’t contain mercury or other toxic chemicals that we’ve dumped into the sea.  Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program for a downloadable wallet-sized card indicating which fish are okay to eat and to find seafood recipes.

Reduce consumption of plastics.
A particular issue for oceans is the over-use of plastics: Our world’s oceans are ringed by coastal communities, and the plastic garbage created by these large population aggregations often ends up in the sea. The massive quantity of plastic waste we generate has caused huge gyres of plastic waste to form in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. These floating vortexes of plastic waste are miles wide and 6 feet deep in places. We have huge garbage dumps floating on the surface of the ocean and nobody is cleaning them up. They are just getting bigger. As it floats on the ocean surface and breaks down in the sun, the plastic releases highly toxic chemicals into our water and atmosphere, affecting marine life and our drinking water.  Mistaking it for food, marine life eat the plastic and die a slow, agonizing death. Recycling is no longer enough: we must significantly reduce the overall consumption of plastics to protect our world.

What can you do?
This WOD, wear blue clothing to raise awareness for ocean conservation.  Let those around you know why you’re wearing blue and share two facts about why it’s important to protect our world oceans; or ways they can take personal action and help. Here are some tips on how we can protect our oceans:

  • Using natural pest control to avoid runoff of chemicals;
  • Buy organic food – it forces farmers to reconsider use of chemicals;
  • Buy only sustainable seafood and locally grown food whenever possible;
  • Reducing meat and fish consumption;
  • Turn out the lights when you leave a room, and change your light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs;
  • Recycle plastic whenever possible and reduce the consumption of plastics in general;
  • Reduce energy use at home, get a home energy audit, buy EnergyStar appliances, unplug appliances when you are not using them, lower your thermostat in the winter and raise it in the summer;
  • Commute wisely; Try biking, take public transportation regularly, seek carpooling partners, or consider telecommuting;
  • Ride share, and plan your car errands to conserve energy;
  • Use ocean-friendly i.e. “green” household cleaning methods and products;
  • Connect by volunteering with a local watershed or ocean group;
  • Buy less stuff!

Celebrate World Oceans Day.
The World Oceans Day 2011 & 2012 theme is Youth: the Next Wave for Change. For more information, visit the World Oceans Day website at

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