Happy World Ocean’s Day!
In observance of this important day, we here at Wild Lens will hold a Facebook Live Q&A led by our Souls of the Vermilion Sea filmmakers Sean Bogle and Matthew Podolsky at 6:30pm PT/9:30pm EST and we also invite you to watch the film beforehand so that you might come to our Q&A with questions about the world’s most endangered marine mammal, the vaquita.
While World Oceans Day only comes around once a year, I think we all feel the need to indefinitely carry out the observance of this annual occurrence year-round. We can do that by raising awareness of the vast importance of our oceans to all life, the environment and earth itself.
“The air that you breathe, the water you drink, the food you eat, the products that keep you warm, safe, informed, and entertained — all can come from or be transported by the ocean.” –Protect Planet Ocean
The ocean actively participates in many of the crucial environmental cycles that maintain life–and that includes you and me–on earth. Our oceans act as a major carbon sink, these vast expanses of saltwater absorb 30 percent of humankind’s carbon dioxide emissions through chemical exchange at the sea surface, instrumental in mitigating climate change. Ocean phytoplankton, tiny marine organisms that float near the surface, produce more than half the oxygen we breath, as a byproduct of the photosynthetic process. Containing 97 percent of the world’s water, oceans are a crucial part in the water cycle that provide us with fresh drinking water as it is the source of 86 percent of global evaporation off the ocean surface, which forms into clouds, leaving behind the salt and falling as rain all across the earth.
Coastal zones where ocean and land meet furnish shallow water habitat that support coral reefs, mangrove & kelp forests, salt marshes, seagrass beds and rocky intertidal zones, all of which provide protective estuaries, or nurseries, to support the lifecycle of countless fish and other marine life species. Furthermore, estuaries are vital economic centers for coastal communities, contributing to more than 75 percent of the U.S. commercial fish catch, and an even greater percentage of the recreational fish catch. And outdoor recreation and the ever-growing marine ecotourism industry provide major gains to the prosperity of coastal economies.
As we know, oceans are plagued by overfishing, plastics waste, industrial pollution, increasing temperatures and acidification, all of which attack not just marine ecosystems, but the very entity that provides all the benefits I’ve already addressed.
This year, World Oceans Day’s conservation action focus is “Encouraging solutions to plastic pollution and preventing marine litter for a healthier ocean and a better future.” As someone who has worked three seasons on seabird nesting islands dotted along Maine’s coast, miles into the Atlantic Ocean, I’ve seen the constant regurgitation of ocean plastics onto the bird islands’ rocky shores. Plastic bottles, bags, lobster buoys, fishing line, deflated balloons & their entangling ribbons, synthetic fibers and styrofoam in every color of the rainbow that disintegrates into tiny, virulent specks are among the constant stream of influx. It’s distressing, because, while you can spend hours, days, weeks, picking up the debris, there is always much, much more to endlessly take its place with the next high tide.
“In the next 11 years, we’ll make as much plastic as we’ve made since plastic was invented. Seabirds’ ingestion of plastic is tracking with that.” –Chris Wilcox, Research Scientist, Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization
I’m sure you’ve seen the distressing photos of the seabirds that ingest these plastics, even unwittingly passing them into the gaping mouths of their chicks. Forty percent of the enormous, far-travelling Laysan Albatross chicks die before they even have the chance to take wing for the first time. Necropsies of the chicks’ stomachs found them swollen with plastic trash. These plastics, while floating in the ocean, absorb toxic agents including PCBs and DDT which find their way up the food chain, accumulating as they go.
Correlating with the fact that 90 percent of our world’s seabirds are actively ingesting plastics and that, by 2050, all will contain plastic within their guts, it isn’t too surprising–yet it is wildly devastating–that a recent study has found a 67 percent decrease in world seabird populations between 1950 and 2010. In addition to the obvious (recycling!) we can help by being more mindful and reducing our use of plastics. Opt for reusable shopping bags (and encourage your state legislatures to put fees on plastic bags, which are found to be more effective than bag bans, in changing consumer behavior) and carry your own water bottle rather than buying new ones every time, get rid of those darn microbead plastic scrubby facewashes (find a list of products containing microbeads here), never, ever release even a single balloon into the sky, whether it be in the memory of a loved one or in celebration of a special event (it’ll lead to tragedy in the end), and support organizations (Oceanic Society, Plastic Pollution Coalition, 5 Gyres, Algalita, Plastic Soup Foundation) that are working to prevent the tons and tons of plastics finding their way into our oceans every day.
And, remember, our oceans need us as much as we need them..
Participate in a World Oceans Day event or activity this year and help protect the ocean for the future! It’s up to each one of us to help ensure that our ocean is healthy for future generations. World Oceans Day allows us to:
- Change perspective – encourage individuals to think about what the ocean means to them and what it has to offer all of us with hopes of conserving it for present and the future generations.
- Learn – discover the wealth of diverse and beautiful ocean creatures and habitats, how our daily actions affect them, and how we are all interconnected.
- Change our ways – we are all linked to, and through, the ocean! By taking care of your backyard and helping in your community, you are acting as a caretaker of our ocean. Making small modifications to your everyday habits will make a difference, and involving your family, friends, and community will benefit our blue planet even more!
- Celebrate – whether you live inland or on the coast, we are all connected to the ocean. Take the time to think about how the ocean affects you, and how you affect the ocean, and then organize or participate in activities that celebrate our ocean.
HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED?
And don’t forget to join us tonight at 6:30pm PT/9:30pm EST for our Facebook Live Q&A about the world’s most endangered marine mammal, the vaquita and be sure to watch the film, Souls of the Vermillion Sea, beforehand so that you might come to our Q&A with questions!
Tags: carbon cycle, coastal zones, conservation, endangered species, endangered vaquita, environmental cycles, estuaries, eyes on conservation, marine mammal conservation, marine mammals, ocean plastics, overfishing, oxygen, plastics pollution, saltwater, Souls of the Vermilion Sea, Vaquita, vaquita conservation, vaquita recovery, vaquita research, Vermilion Sea, water cycle, wildlife conservation, wildlife filmmaking, world oceans day