World Oceans Day
“The cure for anything is saltwater – sweat, tears, or the sea.”
World Oceans Day takes place every 8 June. It has been celebrated unofficially since its original proposal in 1992 by Canada’s International Centre for Ocean Development (ICOD) and the Ocean Institute of Canada (OIC) at the Earth Summit – UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Brundtland Commission, i.e. the World Commission on Environment and Development, provided the inspiration for a global oceans day.
The 1987 Brundtland Report noted that the ocean sector lacked a strong voice compared to other sectors. At the first World Oceans Day in 1992, the objectives were to move the oceans from the sidelines to the center of the intergovernmental and NGO discussions and policy and to strengthen the voice of ocean and coastal constituencies worldwide.
The Ocean Project, working in partnership with leading organizations from all sectors, including the World Ocean Network, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and many others in its network of 2,000 organizations, has been promoting World Oceans Day since 2002 and together with World Ocean Network led a three-year global petition movement to secure official UN recognition. World Oceans Day was officially recognized by the United Nations in late 2008.
World Oceans Day events are celebrated on 8 June, the closest weekend, the week, and the month of June. The day is marked in a variety of ways, including launching new campaigns and initiatives, special events at aquariums and zoos, outdoor explorations, aquatic and beach cleanups, educational and conservation action programs, art contests, film festivals, and sustainable seafood events. Youth have been playing an increasingly important role since 2015, including the development in 2016 of a World Oceans Day Youth Advisory Council.
World Oceans Day is an annual observation to honor, help protect, and conserve the world’s oceans. The ocean provides us with many resources and services including oxygen, climate regulation, food sources, medicine, and more. World Oceans Day also provides an opportunity to take personal and community action to conserve the ocean and its resources.
The theme for World Oceans Day 2019 was “Gender and Oceans”.
The conservation action theme for World Oceans Day 2018 was “Preventing plastic pollution and encouraging solutions for a healthy ocean”. The Ocean Project continued to expand the youth-focus of World Oceans Day by further expanding the Youth Advisory Council with the addition of 10 new members. The young minds help to shape and improve World Oceans Day as it grows through the years, providing new perspectives, ideas, and recommendations. Together with the Youth Advisory Council, The Ocean Project and its growing network of partners in 120 countries help rally the world each June and expand ocean conservation year-round.
The theme for World Oceans Day 2017 was “Our Oceans, Our Future”, and the conservation action focus was on encouraging solutions to plastic pollution and preventing marine litter. For World Oceans Day 2017, more than 1,000 events were held in 118 countries, including the first United Nations Ocean Conference held in New York City during the week of World Oceans Day. Social media reach for Twitter and Facebook, alone, included nearly 2.8 billion impressions for #WorldOceansDay.
The theme for World Oceans Day 2016 was “Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet.” World Oceans Day 2016 was celebrated in over 100 countries with over 700 registered events. World Oceans Day trended second on Twitter. Instagram posts about World Oceans Day reached over 290 million people, and over 65 million people were reached on Twitter.
Celebrities like Richard Branson, Ellie Goulding, Pharrell Williams, Adrian Grenier, Nelson Mandela, and more shared photos and tweeted their support for our oceans. Notable organizations such as the United Nations, CNN, National Geographic, LIFE, the White House and more joined in spreading messages of ocean conservation.
In the coordination of World Oceans Day, The Ocean Project continued to place a strong focus on youth engagement in 2016. The Ocean Project recognizes the impact youth can have on ocean conservation and provides youth with the resources and networks needed to have their voices heard. For World Oceans Day 2016, the World Oceans Day Youth Advisory Council was established. There are 11 members on the council all coming from different countries around the world. The new advisory council will help expand the reach and impact of World Oceans Day, on 8 June, and year-round. The Ocean Project plans to focus increasing attention on youth engagement and leadership.
The Ocean Project also teamed up with Youth Ocean Conservation Summit and The Big Blue and You to create Sea Youth Rise Up, which brought seven youth ocean conservation leaders to NYC and Washington DC. The youth spoke about pressing ocean issues and solutions in a live google hangout at the New York Aquarium. The youth then headed to Washington DC to meet President Obama’s Council on Environmental Quality. This meeting played a role in the formation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, the United State’s first marine protected area in the Atlantic Ocean.
The world celebrated “Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet” in the first year of a two-year theme for World Oceans Day. Nearly 1,000 events were held at aquariums, zoos, museums, recreational centers, youth clubs, schools, businesses, and countless individuals marked the day by doing something to keep our ocean healthy. Thousands took The Better Bag Challenge for World Oceans Day – promising to use reusable bags rather than disposable plastic bags for a year to help address the problem of marine debris.
Action online increased significantly around World Oceans Day 2015. Millions learned about the Day and ways to help through social media, and tens of thousands were talking about it. The volume of discussion online doubled again in 2015.
More high-profile events were held, including celebrities getting more involved:
United Nations Headquarters in New York City. The Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea held a reception honoring the Day and the winners of the 2nd Annual World Oceans Day Photo Contest.
UNESCO in Paris: The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO organized a full day dedicated to the critical role of the ocean for a healthy climate. The program brought together scientists, political decision-makers, civil society, and youth to develop strategies to reduce climate pollution.
The UNEP report on microplastics in cosmetics was released. The study, entitled Plastic in Cosmetics: Are We Polluting the Environment Through our Personal Care: Plastic ingredients that contribute to marine microplastic litter is a compilation of currently available knowledge on the linkages between cosmetics and plastic pollution in the oceans.
The Economist in Lisbon, Portugal: The Economist’s third World Ocean Summit was held just prior to World Oceans Day with the aim to set a new global agenda for the ocean economy. The Summit convened more than 250 leaders from various sectors and ignited a constructive dialogue on developing a blue economy in which economic opportunity is balanced by responsible investment in sustainability.
The US Department of State, in 16 cities worldwide: The US Department of State’s annual Fishackathon event was organized to make fishing more sustainable through a weekend of connection and coding. Coders volunteered their talents at institutions including aquariums and universities to develop new tools that help fishers work smarter, more safely, and more sustainably.
Support from great ambassadors: Jack Johnson celebrated with 5 Gyres and youth in the Bahamas, SpongeBob SquarePants went on a tour to zoos and aquariums across the US, Jeff Corwin and Jack Hanna made a splash on TV through a World Oceans Day campaign with Litton Entertainment, and the Octonauts were in many locations and highlighted in numerous publications around the planet to celebrate World Oceans Day.
The World Oceans Day 2014 theme was “Ocean Sustainability: Together let’s ensure oceans can sustain us into the future”, and focused on raising awareness and promoting personal and community action in fun and positive ways, leading to a more aware, engaged, and sustainable society, and a healthier ocean. More than 700 events took place.
The World Oceans Day 2013 & 2014 theme was “Oceans & People.” Events totaled more than 600.
The World Oceans Day 2012 theme was “Youth: the Next Wave for Change”.
The Ocean Project launched a completely revamped site for World Oceans Day 2012. There were over 500 events in 55 countries.
The World Oceans Day 2011 theme was the same as its 2012 celebration. Events increased worldwide.
World Oceans Day 2010’s theme was “Our Oceans: Opportunities and Challenges.” It partnered with Dr. Seuss and the Census of Marine Life.
The Ocean Project and World Ocean Network recorded over 300 events for WOD 2010, a 26% increase over 2009. Participation in the United States increased by 32% (with participation in 37 states, as compared to 25 states the previous year). 45 countries participated in World Oceans Day 2010, including Bangladesh, Belgium, French Polynesia, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Malta, Malaysia, Venezuela, and Portugal.
2009 (first recognized by the UN)
On the first UN-recognized World Oceans Day events number over 200 worldwide, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations gave the following message:
The first observance of World Oceans Day allows us to highlight the many ways in which oceans contribute to society. It is also an opportunity to recognize the considerable challenges we face in maintaining their capacity to regulate the global climate, supply essential ecosystem services and provide sustainable livelihoods and safe recreation.
Indeed, human activities are taking a terrible toll on the world’s oceans and seas. Vulnerable marine ecosystems, such as corals, and important fisheries are being damaged by over-exploitation, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, destructive fishing practices, invasive alien species and marine pollution, especially from land-based sources. Increased sea temperatures, sea-level rise and ocean acidification caused by climate change pose a further threat to marine life, coastal and island communities and national economies.
Oceans are also affected by criminal activity. Piracy and armed robbery against ships threaten the lives of seafarers and the safety of international shipping, which transports 90 per cent of the world’s goods. Smuggling of illegal drugs and the trafficking of persons by sea are further examples of how criminal activities threaten lives and the peace and security of the oceans.
Several international instruments drawn up under the auspices of the United Nations address these numerous challenges. At their centre lies the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It provides the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out, and is the basis for international cooperation at all levels. In addition to aiming at universal participation, the world must do more to implement this Convention and to uphold the rule of law on the seas and oceans.
The theme of World Oceans Day, “Our oceans, our responsibility”, emphasizes our individual and collective duty to protect the marine environment and carefully manage its resources. Safe, healthy and productive seas and oceans are integral to human well-being, economic security and sustainable development.
Annual participation increased to over 100 events.
In the early years of coordinated efforts by The Ocean Project, with World Ocean Network, events numbered in the dozens. During this time, www.WorldOceansDay.org launched, to help promote the event and generate more involvement through the dissemination of resources, ideas, and tools free for everyone to use to celebrate World Oceans Day. Also during this time, TOP and WON launched a petition to the United Nations to officially recognize 8 June as World Oceans Day (UN General Assembly passed a resolution in December 2008 officially recognizing the Day).