World Oceans Day: Five facts about the oceans – and how you can help

The sea is essential to human life, but our actions harm it

The sea is essential to human life, but our actions harm it (Images: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Today, June 8th, is World Oceans Day to raise awareness of the importance of the oceans.

From providing food to acting as a vital carbon sink, the ocean plays a critical role in everything from the global economy to fighting climate change.

But it is under human threat as industries such as fishing and shipping cause severe pollution and destruction of marine life.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, as scientists and conservationists are working hard to find ways to sustainably harness and preserve the ocean’s power for future generations.

Here are five things you need to know about the ocean — and how you can get involved and help.

The sea floor is a carbon sink

Hard fact time: The seafloor contains much more carbon stocks than the ground. Kapow!

Marine sediments — in the form of plankton, microscopic algae, tiny shellfish and the like — bind vast amounts of carbon and store it safely in the deep sea.

Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas), Longfin Batfish (Platax teira), Sipadan, Malaysia

The seabed holds vast carbon stores – but there is a risk of disruption (Picture: Getty Images)

The bad news? A 2022 study found that fishing with heavy nets that drag across the seabed — a method known as bottom trawling — releases about the same amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) each year globally as the airline industry.

The answer: Eliminate these types of carbon disturbances by redefining strategic parts of the world’s oceans as marine protected areas, or MPAs.

Aquaculture is the future of nutrition

Water covers 71% of the earth’s surface, yet the wet stuff produces only 17% of our global supply of meat, according to the science journal Nature. Why not switch to a seafood-centric diet system?

Marine aquaculture, also known as the Blue Food System, does not only mean an uninterrupted diet of fish: plants, seaweed and seaweed will be on the menu.

Lofoten and Vesteral Islands, Norway, sea, agriculture

A salmon farm in a fjord in Lofoten, Norway (Image: Getty Images)

Far from grabbing a rod and hitting the beach, aquaculture solutions involve cutting-edge technology.

In 2024, Scotland will host a trade show for the aquaculture industry, covering everything from robotics and machine learning to artificial intelligence and smart fish farming systems.

Lost nets kill sea creatures

The term “ghost gear” refers to abandoned fishing nets and lines that have been lost in our seas. The Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) estimates that up to 640,000 tons are added to the ocean each year.

It is considered the most abundant form of macroplastic in the ocean and is a problem that is not going away any time soon.

Ghost nets are fishing nets left or lost in the sea by fishermen. These webs, often almost invisible in the dim light, can become tangled on a rocky reef or adrift in the open sea.

Sea nets can last over 500 years (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

And these nets don’t just float around idly either – they’re deadly to marine life, snaring species like dolphins and seals, which is why they were originally designed.

Worse, they have a product lifespan of over 500 years! Luckily, coastal charities are involved in the case, like the folks at Waterhaul in Newquay in Cornwall.

These guys collect spirit gear from the sea, recycle polypropylene mesh through a mechanical process of shredding and washing, and transform the raw material into chic sunglasses and prescription glasses made from 0% virgin plastic.

They also produce 100% recycled waste bins. Talk about meta.

The shipping industry is not good

White Goods, Cars, Grains, Fertilizers, Toys, Technology, Tea. About 90% of all traded goods are transported to us via the waves – and our global shipping network leaves a dirty footprint, pumping millions of tons of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere every year.

A 2020 study by the International Maritime Organization estimates that the global shipping industry is responsible for 2.89% of total global CO2 emissions.

To reduce ocean pollution on a large scale, we need drastic changes.

Aerial front view Container cargo ship full of carrier containers with terminal commercial port background for business logistic, import export, shipping or cargo transportation.

Shipping is responsible for huge amounts of marine pollution (Image: Getty Images)

According to a report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, retrofitting cargo ships with wind sails, coupled with a reduction in the goods we import, could reduce shipping emissions by up to 40%.

Tire company Michelin is producing solutions such as the Wing Sail Mobility project, an “automated, telescoping, inflatable wing sail system” intended to augment ships and pleasure craft.

Make a splash: How you can help this Ocean Day

Try 30 days wild with the Wildlife Trust

You’ll receive a pack of ideas to find easy eco inspiration for every day in June, including bird watching, nature walks and sowing a wildflower meadow. Sign up here.

Visit the Marine Fest at the Scottish Seabird Centre

There are still a few days left of this oceanic activity in North Berwick. Aimed at all ages, they include sea slime fun and a sustainable fashion swap. Learn more here.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 02: Invited guests during a preview of Our Time On Earth exhibition at The Curve, Barbican Center on May 02, 2022 in London, England. The exhibition runs from May 5, 2022 to August 29, 2022. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for the Barbican Centre)

See our oceans in a whole new way in the Barbican’s truly immersive exhibition (Image: Tim P. Whitby/Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for Barbican Centre)

Don’t miss Our Time On Earth at the Barbican

This immersive exhibition at the London Arts Center (runs until August 29) features 18 artworks that aim to change the way we think about climate change. Buy tickets here.

Sign up for a beach cleanup

Join the Marine Conservation Society Crusaders who keep Britain’s coastline clean on a day of rubbish picking up. Up to 80% of marine litter starts on land, you know.

BTH537 Green turtle (Chelonia mydas). Just hatched and down the beach towards the sea. Kosgoda, Sri Lanka.

Sign to save the turtles (Image: Alamy Stock Photo)

Become a sea volunteer

Marine projects around the world need your help to save our oceans, from saving turtles in Sri Lanka to managing invasive species in Belize. Learn more about Volunteer World.

Listen to the second season of Lily Cole’s podcast

Tune in to Who Cares Wins on Apple Podcasts to hear the eco-queen speak to the people finding solutions to the climate crisis.

Water could power the world

In 2019, global hydropower capacity reached a record 1,308 gigawatts. Let’s put that number in perspective: just one gigawatt can power 110 million LED lights.

Hydroelectric power is used to generate electricity by harnessing the pressure of water flowing from a high point to a lower point through a network of canals.

scenic causeway in mid wales

Hydropower provides around 0.2 per cent of all electricity generation in the UK (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

It’s also clean energy, produced without burning fuel, which results in the release of carbon dioxide — unlike power plants that burn fossil fuels and pump out pollutants.

The UK was a pioneer in hydroelectric power as early as 1879 when an early hydroelectric generator lit a lone lightbulb.

Today, hydropower provides about 2% of all electricity generation in the country.

In contrast, hydroelectric power regularly accounts for more than 95% of all Norwegian electricity generation, although most of that energy comes from water flowing down steep valleys and rivers rather than the sea.

Enter the Modern Milkman Message On A Bottle contest

By delivering dairy and non-dairy milk, fruit juices, cereal and more in reusable, recyclable and plastic-free packaging, the Modern Milkman has helped prevent over 43 million plastic bottles from entering our oceans and waters.

Now it wants to inspire more children to get involved in sustainability right from the breakfast table.

According to a recent survey by Modern Milkman, more than a fifth of parents do not dare to educate their children about sustainability.

In fact, 40% of parents indicated that their children are indeed the ones who want to make environmentally responsible choices at home.

On this World Oceans Day, Modern Milkman is hosting a Message On A Bottle contest where children ages 7-11 can submit their own ocean-themed artwork to raise awareness and empower their ability to make a positive affecting our oceans.

The winning design will then be featured on the reusable glass milk bottles.

Download your package here to start.

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During COP26 and beyond, we will share stories, ideas and advice on a common theme: the climate crisis.

At a time when the weight of environmental issues feels very heavy and overwhelming, our goal is to deliver content that not only informs and educates, but also offers hope and inspiration.

Here are some of our #Just1Change highlights so far: World Oceans Day: Five facts about the oceans - and how you can help

Justin Scacco

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