Held annually on the 8th June, World Oceans Day, aims to change people's perspectives and habits by educating them about the importance the ocean holds for the Earth. Events both online and offline across the globe celebrate the ocean as a unique source of life that connects us all on this planet.
This World Oceans Day (WOD), we're being asked to make one ocean promise to help save the ocean and the species that exist within it. Across the world people are making pledges to eat only sustainably sourced seafood, or to reduce the amount of water they waste. Others are focusing on reducing the pollution they create by using less plastic and electricity and by recycling or reusing what they own. By making a commitment to do just one thing for a year to help reduce their impact on the environment, people are embodying the 2013 theme of WOD - that we can all work together to save the world's oceans. Through use of social media and the hashtag #WorldOceansDay, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have all played an important part in connecting people to the cause, and are filled with photos of people holding signs of their promises.
Plastic pollution is a main source of concern for environmentalists when it comes to the world's oceans. Over 220 million tons of plastic are produced each year, much of which ends up as waste and ends up straying into the sea, harming wildlife and polluting earth's waters. What happens to this plastic has devastating effects on marine ecosystems and species. The North Pacific Gyre exists between North America and Japan and contains an estimated 3.5 million tons of rubbish debris, making it the world's largest landfill the size of Europe. Elsewhere, marine species such as sea turtles ingest floating plastic mistaking it for food, or become trapped in it. Plastic is the cause of more than a million seabirds and over 100,000 marine mammal deaths each year, whilst research has found that fish ingest an estimate of 12,000 to 24,000 tons of plastic per year in the Pacific Ocean which ends up in the human food chain.
Marine conservation projects across the globe have for a long-time worked to conserve the diverse flora and fauna of our underwater world. Projects that record the state of marine ecosystems, promote sustainability and work to help conserve numbers of endangered species, such as sea turtles, are vital in protecting the world's oceans. Voluntourism projects are part of this change as they educate a wide audience as to the importance of marine conservation, as well as provide invaluable manpower where needed. The ocean covers roughly 70 per cent of the world's surface; it generates most of the oxygen we breathe, helps to regulate our climates, clean the water we drink, is a source for potential medicines, and feeds us. For many communities, the ocean is their main source of food and economic income, but the need to protect the world's ocean effects everyone and requires global attention in order to succeed.
Author Maria Sowter, whose WOD promise is to reduce her use of plastic bags, is Online Content Editor at Frontier, an international non-profit volunteering NGO that runs 320 conservation, community, and adventure projects in 57 countries across the globe. She can be found blogging on Frontier's Gap Year Blog or posting on the Frontier Official Facebook page.