World Oceans Day (8th June, 2018)

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The 8th of June of this is year is being marked as the World Ocean Day. Many do not value our oceans, probably because we could be living far away from it and therefore interact less with it. However, these oceans affect our entire existence. Today we will visit this topic and try to summaries the significance of the Oceans to us. This day will definitely, remind people of the importance of the Oceans, challenges and we encourage everyone to advocate for its healthy existence.

An ocean (from Ancient Greek Ὠκεανός, transc. Okeanós, the sea of classical antiquity) is a body of saline water that composes much of a planet's hydrosphere. On Earth, an ocean is one of the major conventional divisions of the World Ocean.

The surface of Planet Earth is around 70% water, over 96% of which is salt water. While this vast area is mostly interconnected, it is broken up into large and small bodies by the seven continents and other landmasses. The largest of these bodies are known as the Great Oceans.

There are five oceans:

  1. Pacific Ocean - The Pacific is the largest of the five oceans, covering 63,784,077 sq miles (165,200,000 km²). It covers the area between the western coastline of the Americas, the eastern coastlines of Asia and Australia, and is capped to the North and South by the Arctic and Antarctic regions.
  2. Atlantic Ocean - The next largest ocean is the Atlantic, with an area of 41,081,270 sq miles (106,400,000 km²). It is bounded by the Americas to its west and by the western shores of Europe and Africa to its east. It includes the Mediterranean, Caribbean and Baltic Seas, and the Gulf of Mexico
  3. Indian Ocean - The Indian Ocean covers a 28,400,130 sq mile (73,556,000 km²) area between the eastern coast of Africa, the shores of the Middle East and India to its north, and is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by Southeast Asia and Australia/Oceania.
  4. Arctic Ocean - At 5,400,025 sq miles (13,986,000 km²), the Arctic is the smallest and shallowest of the five Oceans, and is mostly within the Arctic Circle. It is surrounded by the Eurasian and North American continents, and includes Hudson Bay and the North and Barents Seas.
  5. Southern Ocean - Although its definite boundaries are not yet established, below 60°S latitude is generally accepted, giving it an area of 7,848,299 sq miles (20,327,000 km²), it is the fourth largest of the Earth’s oceans. Joining waters of the southern Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans with a persistent easterly current, the frigid Southern Ocean has a great influence on the Earth’s weather patterns. Learn more about the Southern Ocean.

The Oceans are important because;

  1. They are the life blood of planet Earth and humankind. They flow over nearly three-quarters of our planet, and hold 97% of the planet's water.
  2. They produce more than half of the oxygen in the atmosphere, and absorb the most carbon from it.
  3. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the products that keep us warm, safe, informed, and entertained — all can emanate from or be transported by the ocean.
  4. About half of the world’s population lives within the coastal zone, and ocean-based businesses contribute more than $500 billion to the world’s economy. Historically, we thought that we could never take too much out of, or put too much waste into, the oceans.
  5. The ocean regulates our climate. It soaks up heat and transports warm water from the equator to the poles, and cold water from the poles to the tropics. Without these currents, the weather would be extreme in some regions, and fewer places would be habitable. The ocean regulates rain and droughts
  6. The ocean is home to the greatest abundance of life on our planet. When you cross an ocean, you will see dolphins, whales, an occasional leaping fish, or a turtle popping up to take a breath. That’s just what you see on the surface; there is more life below the ocean’s surface than on land. With more than 60% of the world’s population living on the coastline, we all depend on a healthy sea just as much as these beautiful creatures.
  7. The ocean is a happy-zone! The ocean is our temple, our life, our second home, our exhilaration place. It’s where we swim, surf, sail, dive, chillax, and ‘lime. Family holidays and Sundays often happen on the beach
  8. The Ocean provides jobs to many – e.g.,  fishermen, lifeguards, surf instructors, harbors, (free)diving schools, marine-based tour operators, water sports businesses, holiday accommodations, and, of course, sailors!
  9. Breathing the fresh ocean air gives us oxygen and energy. The ocean is a powerful healing force. It is therapeutic.

Over the years the Oceans have faced several challenges, challenges that are becoming a threat to the very existence of them. Human have greatly contributed to these challenges in one way or the other. These challenges are;

  1. Overfishing is having some serious impacts on our oceans. It wipes out species, and  other species of marine animals that are dependent upon those fish for survival
  2. Overfishing of marine life such as bluefin tuna, orange roughy and sharks. Sharks are killed in the tens of millions each year, mainly for their fins. It is a common practice to catch sharks, cut off their fins, and toss them back into the ocean where they are left to die. The fins are sold as an ingredient for soup. And the waste is terrible.
  3. Ocean acidification is no small issue. The basic science behind acidification is that the ocean absorbs CO2 through natural processes, but at the rate at which we're pumping it into the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels, the ocean's pH balance is dropping to the point where life within the ocean is having trouble coping.
  4. Keeping the coral reefs healthy is another major issue now. A focus on how to protect the coral reefs is important considering coral reefs support a huge amount of small sea life, which in turn supports both larger sea life and people, not only for immediate food needs but also economically.
  5. Dead zones are swaths of ocean that don't support life due to a lack of oxygen, and global warming is a prime suspect for what's behind the shifts in ocean behavior that cause dead zones. The number of dead zones is growing at an alarming rate, with over 400 known to exist, and the number is expected to grow.
  6. Pollution is running rampant in the oceans but one of the scariest pollutants is mercury because, we end up consuming it.. The worst part is mercury levels in the oceans are predicted to rise. The coal-fired power plants are responsible for this pollutant.
  7. Dumping of plastics in the oceans  they land in the Oceans through 10 rivers; The Yangtze, the Indus, Yellow River, Hai River, the Nile, the Ganges, Pearl River, Amur River, the Niger, and the Mekong (in that order). 5 countries are notorious for dumping 50% of the plastics; Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, and China.

Everyone must advocate and do everything possible to save the ocean by;

  1. Mind Your Carbon Footprint and Reduce Energy Consumption
  2. Make Safe, Sustainable Seafood Choices
  3. Use Fewer Plastic Products
  4. Take Care of the Beach
  5. Don't buy Items That Exploit Marine Life
  6. Be an Ocean-Friendly Pet Owner
  7. Support Organizations Working to Protect the Ocean
  8. Sensitize people about the value of the oceans and the need to protect it.
  9. Travel the Ocean Responsibly – do not litter the ocean
  10. Educate Yourself About Oceans and Marine Life
  11. Clean up your local beaches
  12. Reduce your use of energy
  13. Reduce your use of fuel
  14. Do not keep fish as pets
  15. Keep your water clean
  16. Always recycle
  17. Reduce  use of chemicals
  18. Dispose of chemical waste responsibly
  19. Do not buy products that harm the ocean’s living environment
  20. Learn new ways to continue reducing your carbon footprint
  21. Move towards sustainable jobs away from the ocean
  22. Help develop innovative sea-fishing products
  23. Campaign towards large-scale re-zoning of oceanic ecosystems
  24. Consume products on the lowest levels of oceanic food chains
  25. Campaign to save shark species
  26. Seriously consider your restaurant choices
  27. Be a responsible sailor

Compiled by Grace Sitienei – University of Nairobi Library