As the days begin to warm and our thoughts drift to summer, many of us are planning our yearly vacations to the beach. The ocean seems to beckon us no matter how far we live from it.
Yet, as we all know, the ocean has endured its share of horror stories: from oil spills to rising water temperatures to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. As a society we need to get better at reusing what we buy if we’re going to continue to enjoy our beaches and oceans.
Five years ago, the United Nations decided to designate a day each year in order to focus attention on the earth’s body of water that serves to connect us all. This day is called World Oceans Day and is celebrated annually on June 8. The goal of World Oceans Day to encourage everyone to get involved with ocean conservation in their personal lives, communities, and globally.
I spoke with Marieta Francis, executive director of Algalita Marine Research Institute, about her mission to protect the world’s oceans and her thoughts on World Oceans Day. Marieta and Algalita work tirelessly to protect the marine environment and its watersheds. Aligalita was founded by Captain Charles Moore who brought the world’s attention to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch after discovering it on a voyage in 1997.
The theme for this year’s World Oceans Day is “Together we have the power to protect the ocean!”
What action has had the biggest impact on protecting the ocean?
Marieta: This is difficult to answer. There is so much that needs to be done and we have not yet really begun to reduce the pollution entering our oceans. Legislation is not being created in most parts of the world, but that may be the best way to begin. Education and outreach have had the biggest impact, I would say. Consumers can play a big part by refusing to buy products that are not sustainably designed.
What are some of the current challenges faced by the international community in caring for the oceans?
Marieta: The oceans are not ruled by any government except along coastlines. The “middle” of the ocean is not regulated by anyone, thus there is the “out of sight, out of mind” thinking. Much more education needs to take place so that people are aware of the issues and challenges facing us. We must stop pollution from entering the ocean and it has to be stopped on land.
How can parents and kids get involved in protecting the ocean?
Marieta: Begin to reduce plastic pollution in your own home. Stop buying convenience items, things that are meant to be used just once and then thrown away. Look closely at the products you use in your home and try to replace them with sustainable products.
What are five things people all over the world need to do in order to protect our oceans?
Marieta: That’s easy: reduce, reuse, recycle, refuse and re-design!
This year, my family will be celebrating World Oceans Day at a local event, along with 600+ communities around the globe. To find a local event or to host one of your own, check out World Oceans Day’s website and Facebook page.