Since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro on June 8, 1992, the UN World Oceans Day has been celebrated annually on this day.

Activists, researchers, politicians, influencers and many more use this day to initiate a global discourse on the protection of our oceans and the sustainable use of the resources there.

The motto in 2023 is: “Planet Ocean: Tides are changing. It's time to put the ocean first."

In line with this year's theme, a series of webinars, lectures and projects will take place. If you are interested and want to stay up to date all year round, you can look for events in your area in search engines or on the official UN website.

The ocean is a marvel – why we need the oceans to survive

70% of our earth's surface is covered by the oceans. The world's oceans play a crucial role in the production of oxygen on earth. Many of us are unaware that over half of the oxygen we breathe is produced by marine organisms. Single-celled algae, the phytoplankton, play a crucial role here. The phytoplankton obtains oxygen through photosynthesis. It uses sunlight, carbon dioxide and nutrients from the water. Phytoplankton carries out photosynthesis so efficiently that it releases more oxygen than all the forests on earth together.

But other sea creatures also contribute to oxygen production. For example algae, seagrass meadows and coral reefs. Coral reefs are particularly rich in biodiversity and excellent oxygen producers.

A healthy marine ecosystem is thus crucial in supplying oxygen to the atmosphere.

Human impact on our marine ecosystems

Our oceans and the marine organisms that live in them suffer from excessive pollution, overfishing, rising temperatures and ocean acidification.

It is estimated that between 5 and 12 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year. That corresponds to about one truckload per minute. A study published in 2015 showed that by 2050, the amount of plastic in our oceans could exceed the total amount of fish. It is therefore important to be aware of the enormous influence that the use of plastic and our throwaway culture has on nature and to constantly look for alternatives. It makes sense to pay attention to the packaging materials used when making any kind of purchase. Does the retailer use shipping boxes and bags made from biodegradable materials? BEARTH uses fully recyclable materials such as grass paper or glassine bags with every order. Click here to learn more.

Overfishing continues to be a major problem. As of July 2022, around 35 % of commercially used fish stocks are overfished and another 57 % are considered to be at maximum exploitation. The situation in European waters is particularly bad. In the Mediterranean or Black Sea, over 67 % of stocks are classified as overexploited. Overfishing changes the composition and natural dynamics of marine ecosystems and the food chain that exists there. Furthermore, biological diversity is declining, species are extinct and the resilience of ecosystems is shrinking.

Our oceans also absorb heat and carbon dioxide, which are caused by man-made climate change. The result is acidification and warming of the seas, which is associated with melting of the polar ice shields and the death of marine organisms such as coral reefs, mussels and snails.

In coastal zones, port construction projects and tourism infrastructure lead to habitat loss, changes in ocean currents and pollution. Therefore, effective spatial planning and coastal management are crucial to reconcile diverse interests while still adhering to sustainability principles.

Human influence has got a deep and serious impact. It is therefore important that we ask ourselves:

What can we do to protect our oceans?

  1. Reduce plastic consumption & improve waste management
    Waste pollution is one of the greatest threats to the marine environment. It is therefore important that all of us try to minimize waste production. That means avoiding single-use plastic and, if possible, using recyclable, biodegradable materials. Dispose of waste responsibly and correctly. So pay attention to waste separation and do not throw waste into water or leave it on the beach.
    Plogging is currently enjoying increasing popularity. A portmanteau of plocka (Swedish: "to pick up") and jogging. The concept is that you take a garbage bag with you while jogging, pick up waste that you find in nature and finally dispose of it properly.
    In addition, there are regular clean-up campaigns in coastal regions and on rivers, to which anyone who is interested is invited. For example, the annual Rhine Clean Up takes place on the river Rhine. If your are interested you can register in advance with your own group or join a group.

  2. Support responsible fishing
    In order to prevent further overfishing as effectively as possible, it is recommended to reduce or completely avoid the consumption of fish and seafood. It is also important to look out for fish products that come from sustainable sources and to avoid buying illegally caught or endangered fish species.
    A particularly selective and gentle fishing method is fishing with rods. Here the bycatch is only about 0.7 % and damage to the seabed can be avoided.

  3. Practice sustainable tourism
    If you want to go on holiday in coastal regions, you should opt for accommodation and cities in which construction measures interfere as little as possible with marine ecosystems and where great importance is attached to protecting natural conditions.
    Furthermore, when choosing a travel destination, choose one that is committed to sustainable tourism. Carbon dioxide emissions should also be kept as low as possible. For example, by choosing environmentally friendly transport and accommodation.

If you follow these tips, you are already taking a first step in the right direction.
Of course, this is not all that could be done. In general, all measures and actions that keep carbon dioxide emissions low and have a positive effect on climate change are good for our oceans and our marine ecosystem.

Author: Lea Marie