The COVID-19 pandemic spread might have given us a lot of troubles for which we blame different countries, the year 2020 and whatnot. But it showed us that we humans are truly connected to one another, to nature, and we were harming our life-giver for a really long period. This is a true opportunity for us to backspace our actions and harmonize on our relationship with nature, including the much-harmed seas and oceans. There is no doubt when one says that our Oceans are an integral part of our ecosystem and the food chain. We rely on our oceans for almost everything, and being the world's largest carbon sink, it is an indicator and solution to global climatic changes.
World Oceans Day is an international day celebrated on 8th June every year by all member states of the United Nations. International days are observed by UN countries to raise awareness, educate the general public on global and vital issues, and to honour and strengthen the achievements of humanity. It is with this agenda that World Oceans Day got officially recognized in 2008 after being proposed by Canada at the Earth Summit in 1992. The UN has always taken up international days as powerful advocacy tools and World Oceans Day too saw many changes in society and our Oceans. Now let us see why the Oceans are given this much importance.
Firstly, the oceans are filled with huge amounts of plastics, chemicals, and other trash. The “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, is the world’s largest accumulation of ocean waste, out of the 5 patches recorded till date with a size estimated to be about 3 times that of France. As more and more trash is being dumped into the rivers and other water bodies, the concentration and number of patches will continue to increase. Consequently, the safety and health of a wide range of marine species have been drastically affected by plastic pollution in the oceans. Apart from this, it also adversely affects our health and economies as well.
Secondly, the oceans are becoming highly acidic, putting essential food chains and marine biodiversity at huge risks. The increase in water temperatures are affecting marine life and the increase in water levels are affecting humans. Climate change has had a profound impact on the whole ecosystem, but one could say the worst affected is ocean life. The increase in the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has caused changes in the pH of the oceans. Marine ecosystems that are extremely sensitive to changes are undergoing permanent changes, most significantly, the coral reefs.
Thirdly, exploitation and overfishing have disrupted the stability of the marine ecosystems. There has been a huge reduction in the number of many species of animals that live under the waters. What one forgets is that these are causing irreversible changes to our environment. Even while producing fish for the markets, the chemicals used are toxic to the ecosystem. There is either a grave dearth of management in this field or disobedience to the laws in place.
The changes caused in the marine environment due to other human activities like construction, deep hole drilling, underwater mining, and oil spills during transportation through waters are also immense. They have caused severe changes in the habitat, various disturbances and have also generated pollutants. Marine forests too are destroyed by various human interventions. All of these factors contribute to the devastation of natural life and compromise the survival of marine species.
These are just a few issues that one sees but often does not realize the intensity of its impact. There are many more issues relating to the oceans that the general public is unaware of. But, like any other international day, World Oceans Day has also helped us to get a better understanding of the various problems and also work towards solving them. The stakeholders and actors now grab opportunities to arrange activities with the theme of the day. Celebrations in the form of beach clean-ups and webinars are done by the various schools, universities, and government.
We must focus on innovative methods for a sustainable ocean, through advancements in science and technology; a way to use up the garbage before they find their way to join previous patches or create new ones. Laws made with respect to fishing must be strictly enforced. Moreover, we must also improve our studies to get a better understanding of marine biodiversity in order to pinpoint the issue and find a plausible solution. Above all, we need a common framework for action and commit ourselves to its conservation. We must work together and do whatever small part we can. Avoid ocean-harming and ocean-exploiting products, reduce carbon emissions, consume safe and sustainable seafood options, and stop littering beaches. All these would help conserve and preserve the oceans. The ocean is our collective responsibility.
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