World Oceans Day 2014
June 7, 2014

World Oceans Day 2014: Protecting The Oceans Through Education And Community Events

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Thousands of different organizations in more than 70 countries are joining forces this weekend to celebrate World Oceans Day (June 8, 2014), a global initiative designed to honor the massive bodies of water that cover the majority of the Earth as well as celebrate them for their aesthetic value and the products they provide to people all over the world.

World Oceans Day (WOD), which has been unofficially commemorated since 2002 and was officially recognized by the United Nations in 2008, is also a day to help protect the oceans, according to The Ocean Project and World Ocean Network officials who help organize the event.

The theme for this year is “Together, we have the power to protect the ocean” – an important task, the organizers emphasize, because the ocean is responsible for generating the majority of the oxygen we rely on to keep us alive. Oceans also help feed us and regulate our climate, clean our water, and are home to a wide variety of potential medicines, provide an abundance of artistic inspiration, and are essential for summertime fun.

Selfies For The Sea

In addition to attending one of the 600 or more different events anticipated to take place in Africa, Asia, North and South America, Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere, there are several different ways in which conservationists and environmental enthusiasts can show their support for the world’s oceans.

For instance, the WOD organizers are sponsoring a “Selfies for the Sea” contest which encourages people to share photos of how they’re helping the world’s water supply. Participants are encouraged to get out in their communities or promise to make some kind of water-friendly change in their lives, and then to take a self-portrait and share it with the world via social media using the tag “#WorldOceansDay.”

Not sure what kind of commitment to make? The event’s website offers several suggestions, including promising to use reusable bags at the grocery store, promising to use reusable water bottles, promising to take shorter showers, promising to take public transportation once per week. Alternatively, they said participants could vow to unplug electric chargers that aren’t in use, turning off lights when leaving the house, or taking part in a litter cleanup.

Wear Blue, Tell Two

WOD organizers are also encouraging participants to wear blue clothing in order to raise awareness for ocean conservation, and to share two facts about why it’s important to protect the world’s waters, as part of the aptly-named “Wear Blue, Tell Two” initiative.

The website offers several downloadable tools to make the “Wear Blue” thing even easier, including a graphic file that can be used in do-it-yourself t-shirts and fliers, as well as sample shirt designs, including some featuring the logos of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the National Aquarium and The Ocean Project. They also included some interesting facts for those who might be struggling to find information for the “Tell Two” part of the program.

“Our ocean has a great wealth of diverse kinds of life but it’s in trouble,” they explained. “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.

“There are important, easy actions each of us can take to help,” the event organizers added. “Calculating our carbon footprints and looking for ways to reduce our role in climate change is a great step. Likewise, we can choose seafood that is abundant in supply and fished or farmed without harm to the ocean and coasts.”

Other Ways To Get Involved

From community clean-up projects, to organizing a scavenger hunt with ocean-themed prizes, to showing environmentally-themed movies at a school or community center, WOD blogger Alyssa Isakower provides several other “last-minute” ways that people can get involved – and there’s even a special Facebook cover photo for those otherwise unable to take part.

Those in the Boston area can mark the occasion at the New England Aquarium, which is holding a special event Sunday from 11am through 4pm local time. Among the activities planned are a seafood cooking demonstration and an appearance by a life-size inflatable whale. Visitors will also be able to try on actual water survival suits and participate in kelp-based experiments.

Likewise, a two-day event (June 7 - June 8) at the Monterey Bay Aquarium includes the presentation of the inaugural Paul Walker Ocean Leadership Award to surfer, actress, supermodel and healthy-ocean advocate Marisa Miller on Saturday, as well as the presentation of a youth conservation award. The weekend festivities also include live musical performances, arts and crafts, and more.

“Research by The Ocean Project shows that visitors want recommendations for how they personally can take environmentally-friendly action to protect animals. In fact, visitors view getting this information as an integral part of a good visit,” explained Isakower, the group’s digital communications and WDO coordinator, in a separate post. “Special events such as Earth Day and World Oceans Day provide perfect occasions to provide visitors with ways to help make a difference.”

Seizing An Educational Opportunity

Of course, zoos and aquariums aren’t the only ones taking advantage of World Oceans Day as a teaching opportunity. The National Science Foundation (NSF) used the occasion to hold an El Niño-focused Q&A session with biological oceanographer Mark Ohman and physical oceanographer Dan Rudnick of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California.

According to Ohman, El Niño is “the formation of warmer-than-usual ocean waters in the equatorial Pacific, with extensive temperature changes along the coast of South America during the month of December – hence the Spanish name ‘El Niño,’ the Christmas child. Scientists refer to the phenomenon as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Its warm ocean phase is termed El Niño, and cool ocean phase La Niña."

Scientists have been able to identify the precursors of an El Niño, allowing them to monitor the phenomenon as it forms near the equator, using computer simulations to predict its timing and potential magnitude, Rudnick noted. El Niño causes changes in the temperature and precipitation over both the land and the water, making it essential for scientists to have a baseline of ocean measurements for the sake of comparison, the Scripps scientists added.

The events usually happen every two to seven years and their duration is typically six to eight months along the equator. El Niños can force the spawning grounds of sardines, anchovies and other coastal fish to move closer inland, they added, and warm-water plankton and fish can be forced far to the north of their normal ranges. In fact, in some El Niños, species living along the coast of Baja California can be found as far north as British Columbia.

Looking Back At WOD 2013

Just as WOD 2014 provides several innovative ways to raise awareness for ocean conservation, as well as educational opportunities for sea-related phenomena, WOD 2013 was marked by a series of interesting and exciting campaigns, including events in Costa Rica, Thailand, the Philippines, Pakistan and South Africa.

Compared to the previous year, the volume of social media chatter about World Oceans Day grew by 85 percent in 2013, and the UN Postal Administration released a series of stamps featuring the “timeless” characters of the Dr. Seuss book One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish in order to draw attention to the plight of the oceans in a “creative and unique way,” UNPA creative director Rorie Katz said in a statement.

“From trade to food to climate regulation, the oceans are integral to all of humanity,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement on June 8, 2013. “This is particularly so for coastal dwellers whose income and culture are irrevocably bound to the sea.

“If we are to fully benefit from the oceans, we must reverse the degradation of the marine environment due to pollution, overexploitation and acidification,” he added in comments equally applicable to today. “I urge all nations to work to this end, including by joining and implementing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Let us work together to create new waves of action for ocean sustainability – for people and the planet.”