Being the land-lubbers that we are it is often easy to forget the impact of the oceans on our day to day lives – we watch the clouds roll in forgetting that they are being driven by the ocean’s engine and take a deep breath unaware that the oxygen we are breathing in has probably been generated by marine algae!
World oceans day is a day to take a few moments to (re)discover the wealth of our oceans. We can all contribute to the preservation of our majestic seas by making small changes to our behaviour.
What is wrong with the oceans today?
Many of the problems affecting the oceans are being driven from the land. Global warming is causing our oceans to become acidic because they are the main ‘sink’ of our carbon emissions. If this continues then it will have a dramatic effect on not only the sea but the amazing array of marine organisms that live there. In addition to this, habitat degradation is widespread both at the coast and in the high seas; development along the coast removes habitats such as sand dunes, beaches and mangroves.
Ever increasing coastal populations continue to exert pressure on the coastal zone, with hundreds of millions of people worldwide earning a living from the sea or reliant on it for some or all of their natural services e.g. transportation, sanitation, food security etc. Over the last sixty years, the industrialization of the world’s commercial fishing fleet proved that there may not be “plenty more fish in the sea”!
What does WWF do to protect the oceans?
We work to preserve many of our planet’s habitats: forests, deserts, mountains, freshwater wetlands. Oceans cover 71% of our planet and is by far the largest of the habitats that we work on! We strive to make sure that living marine resources are in a healthy and robust state to be resilient against this changing seascape that they are faced with.
We’ve been working on sustainable fisheries for decades for the following reasons:
- The World Trade Organization states that fish and fishery products are the most highly traded food commodity globally. Most nations do not eat the fish that are caught from around their coastlines and prefer the taste of fish from shores far from their own
- The latest United Nations report states that approximately 30% of the wild fish stocks regularly monitored by FAO are overfished; just over 70% are being fished within biologically sustainable levels and of these over 60% are fully fished stocks and at/or very close to their maximum sustainable production; 10% are under fished stocks.
As one of the world’s largest environmental organisations, we are well positioned with offices and projects all over the world to tackle the job of improving the sustainability and resilience of the world’s fisheries and seafood trade.
How does working on seafood contribute to healthy oceans?
Fishing is not the problem – overfishing and damaging practices are! Fishing can and should be a sustainable, renewable practice – but only if it is properly managed. A collapse in fish stocks through overfishing is devastating for the marine environment and the whole food chain, including us.
We work with companies that trade in seafood products to try and create positive environmental changes in the fisheries or farms that supply the UK market. We do this by engaging at every stage of the supply chain i.e. the fishers, the processors, the retailers, the managers, and then we try to develop ways to reduce the impact or the ‘footprint’ of fishing. Find out more about our oceans and coasts and the work we’re doing.
We encourage good practices and provide support to fisheries that would like to improve but require assistance. We promote eco-labels and sustainability standards such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) – look out for the blue logo – that if achieved will support the sustainable development of an industry that dates back thousands of years. To understand more about the MSC standard watch this short video.
What can you do on World Oceans Day?
In the UK we are never further than 70 miles from the sea and being the proud maritime nation that we are, we surely have as much to celebrate as anyone on this day! The vision of World Oceans Day is that individuals and organisations show their solidarity for the conservation of this important resource that connects us all.
8 June has been a celebration of our oceans and their importance to humanity for twelve years now. In 2013 there were over 600 events held around the world – if you have not been able to plan an event for 2014 – why not start the planning for 2015 now!
What I want to do is urge everyone to do something – anything – that falls into one or all of the below categories suggested for World Oceans Day
- Learn – spend some time today discovering some important facts about the wealth of diverse and beautiful ocean creatures and habitats, how our daily actions affect them, and how we are all interconnected.
- Change your perspective – think about what the ocean means to you and what it has to offer all of us – do you enjoy visits to the seaside, activities on the water, rock pooling, casting a line for a passing fish or simply taking in the beauty of a good sea view. Think about how important you feel it is to conserve it for present and future generations
- Change your ways – by taking actions you can make a small difference and spread the word by telling others what you have learnt – for instance:
- You can also ask your fish and chip shop or your local restaurant if the fish are sustainable – if you don’t ask then they don’t know you care! Look for the MSC logo (the blue fish with a big white tick) on seafood packets
- Don’t throw away plastic bags, bottles or cigarette butts
- Try and cut the amount of plastic packaging you use and talk to your local supermarket about what measure it is taking
- Reduce carbon emissions and take part in Earth Hour.
4. Celebrate! Organise or participate in events or activities that celebrate the seas around us. If you haven’t been able to celebrate on the actual day then do it in school or at work during the week.
By taking part in World Oceans Day you can be a land-lubber who doesn’t forget that the health of the oceans affects us all.
What are you doing for World Oceans Day? What did you think of Tracy’s blog? Leave us a comment.