Oceans in Peril as World Oceans Day Marked

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Common Dreams

Oceans in Peril as World Oceans Day Marked

Pollution, climate change, overfishing plague oceans

by
Common Dreams staff

As World Oceans Day is marked today, the planet's oceans in are peril from overfishing, pollution and climate change.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted the challenges facing oceans today, stating, “We must do more for our world’s oceans, which are threatened by pollution, depleted fishery resources, the impacts of climate change and the deterioration of the marine environment.”

Ban saw the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil, known as Rio +20, as a hopeful opportunity to global commitment to action. “Rio+20 must mobilize the United Nations, governments and other partners to improve the management and conservation of oceans through initiatives to curb overfishing, improve protection of the marine environment and reduce ocean pollution and the impact of climate change.”

But not everyone is optimistic. World Wide Fund for Nature stated that "very few paragraphs [of the negotiating text for Rio +20] include time framed commitments, and little action oriented text."

Beyond individual action, Sarah Chasis writes on NRDC, "Demanding that our leaders create reliable solutions is an important step toward a sustainable ocean future. We need to go beyond good intentions this year and place the focus on action."

But action to heal the oceans is urgent for humankind.  "The ocean is literally our lifeline," adds Fabien Cousteau, grandson of ocean explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. "Without it we will perish."

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Richard Page writing on the Greenpeace blog
Defending our oceans every day

Today is World Oceans Day, the day we celebrate all that the oceans give us. They provide humankind with food, jobs and the oxygen we breathe. If we are to survive on this planet, we need living oceans. However, decades of destructive fishing, pollution and energy exploration are pushing our oceans to the brink, while climate change is forever altering our oceans.

But there is hope. We can restore our oceans to health if we end overfishing and create a global network of marine reserves: wildlife sanctuaries at sea that are off-limits to fishing and other harmful practices. [...]

For us at Greenpeace, every day is World Oceans Day and you can help.

  1. Demand that your supermarket and tuna brand source sustainable tuna. Look for tuna cans with “Pole and Line” or “Hand-Caught.”
  2. Ask your politicians and business leaders to support the creation of marine reserves. your voice here to tell governments gathering in Rio later this month to support marine reserves!
  3. Use less wasteful plastic. 80% of plastic pollution in our oceans comes from land-based sources
  4. Tell energy companies and governments to stop dangerous energy, especially in our fragile polar oceans.
  5. Learn about where your fish is from- is it from far away? How many of this fish is left? Knowing what you're eating an making the right decisions is important.

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Plastic in 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch' Has Increased 100-Fold

Plastic garbage in the ocean has increased 100-fold in the past 40 years and could have ecosystem-wide impacts, according to a study released Tuesday.

Scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography looked at the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (NPSG), known as the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch,’ and found an "alarming amount" of plastic trash, much in small bits.

The plastic trash was leading to an increase in "sea skaters," a marine insect, eggs because the insects were using the increased plastic floating matter as to lay their eggs on. This increase may have widespread impacts across the marine food web.

"This paper shows a dramatic increase in plastic over a relatively short time period and the effect it's having on a common North Pacific Gyre invertebrate," said Scripps graduate student Miriam Goldstein, lead author of the study and chief scientist of SEAPLEX, a UC Ship Funds-supported voyage. "We're seeing changes in this marine insect that can be directly attributed to the plastic."

"Plastic only became widespread in late '40s and early '50s, but now everyone uses it and over a 40-year range we've seen a dramatic increase in ocean plastic," added Goldstein. "Historically we have not been very good at stopping plastic from getting into the ocean so hopefully in the future we can do better."

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TED Talk from 2010:
Jeremy Jackson: How we wrecked the ocean

In this bracing talk, coral reef ecologist Jeremy Jackson lays out the shocking state of the ocean today: overfished, overheated, polluted, with indicators that things will get much worse.

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Sarah Chasis writing on NRDC's Switchboard blog
Making it Count: National Oceans Month and Rio+20

Rio+20 happens to fall during the same month as World Oceans Day (June 8) and ocean protection will be at the top of the agenda for the summit, as one of seven priority areas. With the destruction of our oceans ever escalating, we’ll need more than good intentions. Now is the time to make our actions count and to hold nations accountable for the outcomes of these negotiations. [...]

The ocean world is dynamic, and it doesn’t obey national boundaries or political lines. That’s why international collaboration is key to a healthy ocean future.  

The international community has a collective responsibility to work together on the issues that affect the world’s oceans, coastal economies, and people everywhere. We’re counting on them to safeguard the coral reefs teeming with life, the deep sea mounts with undiscovered creatures, the billions of people who depend on the economic resources provided by the sea, and all of us who have the oceans to thank for the water we drink and the air we breathe. 

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