Happy World Oceans Day everyone! Today we celebrate the largest biome on Earth and all that it provides us with by taking stock of how important it is for us in so many ways. So as I enjoy my dinner of wild Alaskan salmon let me tell you a little about this day of appreciation.
World Oceans Day sounds like something that’s been going on for a while but it is actually pretty recent in global recognition. It was first proposed at the Earth Summit in 1992, an environmental meet-and-greet between nations put on by the United Nations in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil that was also called United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) and the Rio Summit. The purpose of Earth Summit was to discuss important environmental issues and long-term plans to ensure global health for us and the planet. Topics such as climate change, public transportation, leaded gasoline, and the limited supply of clean, fresh water and how to preserve it were the main talking points. The subject of salt water also came up, and it was Canada of all nations that suggested the creation of World Oceans Day. While the Great White North may not be the first place you associate with the great white shark and its fishy fellows, one look at a map will reveal just how connected Canada is to the oceans.
While the United States of America stretch from sea to shining sea, Canada is surrounded by three of the world’s five oceans: the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic. The other two it doesn’t see as much of are the Indian and Southern Oceans. Yet while they can be separated into these five predominant areas, all are connected and comprise the largest and most diverse biome in the world. Within the oceans as a whole are many more sub-biomes such as tropical coral reefs like Australia’s Great Barrier Reef; deep ocean thermal vents that feature creatures specially adapted to survive without sunlight at the hot sulfuric and methanic outporings of volcanic fissures; and polar pools at the extreme top and bottom of the world like the frigid Arctic Circle of northern Canada. From the tiniest phytoplankton to the titanic blue whale, the oceans are filled with a myriad of plants, animals, bacteria, and even deep sea viruses that depend on their fragile habitat and its continued preservation, of which we’ve done a poor job. Overfishing has severely impacted many ecosystems throughout the world by throwing the balance of nature out of whack. The predators of the fish we pull out like crazy are finding it harder to get their fill of food and dwindled populations of fish, sharks, penguins, whales, seals, and many more are the result. This is why it is so important to adhere to sustainable fishing as best as possible. Monterey Bay Aquarium puts forth its frequently-updated Seafood Watch to provide consumers with the best choices for theirs and the oceans’ health. Unfortunately, even with this knowledge it is often difficult to find well sourced seafood. Much of what we harvest from the sea is collected by long-line fishing where hundreds of hooks are trailed behind on thousands of feet of fishing line. It is cost effective compared to the traditional cast-and-catch method and yields a greater bounty, but in addition to more greatly depleting the population of fish such as tuna (which is delicious and very versatile for use in cooking, yet rarely fished responsibly aside from the canned kind), long-line fishing also generates a lot of bycatch, immature juveniles of the desired species or other species, including ones we do not usually eat like dolphins, sharks, seabirds, and turtles. Another major problem is due to the mislabeling of seafood which means that even the fanciest restaurants may be unknowingly serving you something other than what you ordered. One way to avoid these problems is to dine on bivalves like mussels and oysters. They are easily and affordably cultivated on aqua farms and do not have the same concerns of misrepresentation because of their more obvious appearance that is not as easily confused as a steak of red or white fish.
World Oceans Day has only been officially acknowledged by the UN since 2008, but it’s practice has been going on longer in countries like Canada and the US, both of whom recently had leaders present at the G7 (Group of 7) Summit this past weekend in Krun, Germany. They, along with France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom, discussed world issues regarding many things. Ukraine and Russia’s activities there over the last year were the major points of conversation, but I was most pleased by the decision to quit using fossil fuels by the end of this century. This is a major commitment that was presented by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and it will take some doing (and some money at first), but it is very exciting and absolutely achievable (and will be cheaper in the long run). This is good news for the oceans and the rest of the natural and developed world, although it probably is too late for some areas to avoid the impending doom that will be brought on by climate change, as long as we actually make good on this promise we can save a lot of people and places from gradual destruction.
If you can’t get enough celebration of the waters that cover over 70% of our planet then carry on the fun throughout the week. We really could justifiably extend this day of recognition into a longer period of time as it is regarding the major geographic feature of the world. Furthermore, legendary oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s birthday is June 11th and I’ll sure as hell be watching my scratchy VHS tapes of The Cousteau Odyssey on Thursday.
Thanks for reading! Hopefully, you find the oceans to be as important and fascinating as I do because they are worth our attention. We have discovered more of the surface of Mars than we have of our own ocean floor, so there is plenty more to learn. And I am eager to see what my favorite animal, the great white shark, spends its time doing when it heads out to the White Shark Cafe in the south Pacific between Hawaii and Guadalupe Island, Mexico. Direct any questions or comments below or send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to swim on back next week for more fishy fun.