3 Easy Ways to Celebrate World Oceans Day

Waves in Kauai, Hawaii (Photo: Marine Jaouen)
I was born in the Caribbean and grew up on the French side of St. Martin, surrounded by colorful fabrics, vibrant music, and delicious tropical foods. I was obsessed with the ocean at a very young age and fascinated by the endless variety of organisms that thrived in a watery world, a world that covers more than 70% of our planet. On many occasions, I occupied myself by crouching on docks and looking at the fish through the wooden planks. As I watched the colorful fish playing in their labyrinths of coral, I was amazed at the microcosm that existed below the surface, entirely self-sustainable and oblivious to everything above them.

On World Oceans Day, I want to reflect on one of the biggest problems facing our oceans today – overfishing. Commercial fishing practices are a significant source of stress on our oceans.

The statistics are grim: 3/4 of the world’s fish stocks are being harvested faster than they can reproduce. Eighty percent are already fully exploited or in decline. Ninety percent of all large predatory fish – including tuna, sharks, swordfish, cod and halibut – are gone. Scientists predict that if current trends continue, world food fisheries could collapse entirely by 2050.

The Dangers of Overfishing

Fresh shark fins drying on the sidewalk in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong. (Photo: Cloneofsnake/Flickr)

Bottom trawling (heavy weights attached to a large net dragged along the sea floor) destroys everything in its path, including thousand-year-old coral reefs and delicate deep sea ecosystems. Shrimp trawling is one of the worst forms of commercial fishing – bycatch rates can range between 70% and 90%, entangling and drowning everything in its path, including turtles, sharks, and dolphins.

Another source of strain comes from the high demand for shark fin soup in China. One bowl of shark fin soup can fetch up to $100 or more, and scientists are realizing that these top predators are necessary to maintaining healthy marine ecosystems.

(Check out BBC’s Blue Planet special Deep Trouble for a comprehensive overview of the issues plaguing our oceans).

Want to do your part?

Here are three simple activities you can do to raise awareness of our oceans’ problems

  1. Eat sustainable fish. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, “One in five people on this planet depends on fish as their primary source of protein.” Find out which seafood is safe for you and the oceans by reading up on seafood eco-ratings by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).
  2. Avoid plastic bottles and bags. Did you know that there is an island the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean that is made entirely of trash? Turtles, seabirds, and other marine animals often mistake trash for food, but you can do them a favor – keep our oceans trash-free! Recycle plastic bags at grocery stores and use reusable water bottles.
  3. Sign up for a clean-up. If you want to get your hands dirty, join people across the globe in a nearby clean-up or organize an event near you.