Did you know, Canada initiated World Oceans Day 25 years ago?
In 1992 the Ocean Institute of Canada and the International Centre for Ocean Development proposed the concept of a World Ocean Day at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Since it was officially endorsed by the United Nations, 8 June has evolved into a growing annual celebration of our global ocean (Figure 1). The 25th anniversary of World Oceans Day is an opportunity to look in the rear-view mirror to see how far we’ve come and to consider our future, which depends on the health of the great salty engine that drives and supports life on Earth.
Why did Canada propose World Oceans Day in 1992?
A country surrounded by three oceans and the longest coastline in the world⎯ 202,080 kilometres⎯Canada responded to a call to action issued by the Brundtland Report “Our Common Future” published five years earlier in 1987. This groundbreaking document defined the term “sustainable development” and identified the need for global cooperation to mitigate the growing threats to the global ocean.
Over the last 25 years, Canada has continued to be a world leader in ocean observation, investing in innovation to understand and manage the vast frontier beneath the surface. In 2006, Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) became the world’s first interactive ocean portal with Internet connected observatories providing real-time deep sea and coastal data from all three coasts. And in 2016, the Government of Canada invested $1.5 billion to implement an ambitious Oceans Protection Plan, a world-leading marine safety system that will protect Canada’s coasts for generations to come (Figure 2).
Despite this leading-edge collaborative work, we have barely scratched the ocean’s surface; nearly three quarters of our planet is salt water, yet we’ve only mapped one tenth of it. While global temperatures and sea levels rise at an unprecedented rate, we’re still learning how the ocean works, discovering new species, and trying to understand the mysteries of the deep sea. An ocean of work still remains.
Why celebrate World Oceans Day?
Simply put, life on Earth depends on the ocean because it
- generates over 50% of the oxygen we breathe
- feeds billions of people annually: one in five people globally depend upon protein from the ocean
- regulates our climate
- moves 90% of the world economy
- employs millions of workers
- generates trillions of dollars in the world economy
- provides medicines that heal us, such as antibiotics from corals and sponges
- whether at play or work, it inspires and rejuvenates us!
Our Oceans, Our Future
Every year, the Ocean Project promotes and coordinates global World Oceans Day activities around a central conservation focus; for its 25th anniversary, the 2017 theme is Our Oceans, Our Future. This year’s focus on reducing marine pollution and youth engagement will build momentum for the future.
What can you do to keep our ocean healthy?
A first step towards a healthy ocean involves everyone. Three simple things we can all do to make a positive impact:
- Choose sustainable seafood is a simple and effective action every time you eat at a restaurant or buy seafood at your local grocery store. Always ask: what fish is this, where was it caught or farmed, and how? Consult the SeaChoice website to learn more about sustainable seafood and what actions you can take as a consumer to support sustainable fisheries and healthy oceans.
- Reduce your use of single-use plastics. Plastic pollution is one of the greatest threats to ocean health worldwide. A recent study estimated that between 4 and 12 million metric tons of plastic waste enter the ocean each year—enough to cover every foot of coastline on the planet. This human debris is affecting marine life, who may mistake colourful plastic pieces for food or get tangled in plastic bags. Find out more about what you can do about ocean plastic pollution here.
- Learn more about everyday things you can do to protect our oceans and consider becoming a David Suzuki Ocean Keeper.
Celebrate World Oceans Day with us – on the ocean floor!
Explore the ocean without getting wet! Join us in the control room aboard E/V Nautilus during Expedition 2017: Wiring the Abyss (Figure 3). Watch underwater robots maintain and expand ONC’s west coast observatory infrastructure while interacting with the scientists and engineers. Live dive starts 7 June, follow hashtag #ONCabyss.
Join ONC at these Vancouver Island World Oceans Day events:
- 3-4 June – Open House 2017: Institute of Ocean Science. 9.30 – 4.30, ship tours, scientific exhibits, children’s activities, speakers.
- 4 June – Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea. 11 – 3pm, free outdoor family fun in Beacon Park, Sidney.
- 8 June – Ocean Science and Exploration Ship Talk. Connect live and meet the people on board three of the world's top exploration vessels: Ocean Networks Canada aboard EV Nautilus, NOAA's Okeanos Explorer and Schmidt Ocean Institute's RV Falkor. Watch and ask questions 3pm PT / 6pm ET /10pm UTC.
- 9-10 June – Parks Canada BioBlitz, Pender Island. You and your family team up with scientists to find as many species as possible within the national park reserve, over a 24-hour period. Drop-in or camping.
- 11 June – Fisherman’s Wharf events and family fun, including a FishEye Project #livedive.
Find out about World Oceans Day activities in your area⎯or submit your local event⎯by visiting the World Oceans Day website.
Happy 25th anniversary World Oceans Day!