The world's ocean covers 71 percent of the Earth's surface and contains 97 percent of the planet's water. It regulates our climate and weather. Nearly half of all species on Earth depend on the ocean for survival, and for many of the rest, including for people, the ocean improves the quality of life: it supplies 20 percent of the animal protein and five percent of the total protein in our diet, and generates most of the oxygen we breathe.
The ocean is also indispensable to the world's economy, because it is key to transportation and recreation. And inasmuch as over 95 percent of the underwater realm remains unexplored, it is nearly a certainty that its depths may hold the cure to many a disease, the resolution to many a problem.
On June 8th, the international community observes, for only the second time, World Ocean Day. It was first proposed on June 8th 1992 by Canada at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, and formally adopted by the United Nations in December 2008. This year's theme is "Our oceans: opportunities and challenges."
One of the chief reasons for the establishment of World Ocean Day was to bring attention to the "terrible toll that human activities are taking on the world’s oceans and seas," said U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during the Day's first observance in 2009:
"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," said Secretary General Ban.
But the oceans are also affected by criminal activity such as piracy, smuggling of illegal drugs and trafficking in persons by sea. Such activities threaten lives and the safety of international shipping, which transports 90 per cent of the world’s goods, said U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
As the world’s attention is focused on the situation currently unfolding in our own Gulf of Mexico, World Ocean Day reminds us that the health and security of our oceans is our collective responsibility, one that we cannot afford to neglect.