WHAT IS WORLD OCEANS DAY ?
The United Nations celebrates World Oceans Day every year on June 8. As part of the celebrations, a reception is held at UN Headquarters in New York City, and the winners of the Annual World Oceans Day Oceanic Photo Competition are announced. Each year on the evening of World Oceans Day, the Empire State Building is lit in the World Oceans Day colours of white, blue and purple, representing the different layers of the ocean.
The theme for the UN's observance of World Oceans Day 2015-2016 is “Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet.”
On World Oceans Day people across the globe celebrate the significance and impact of the oceans around the planet, by highlighting their many contributions to human society, while recognizing the considerable challenges we face in maintaining the benefits that the oceans provide. The oceans cover about two-thirds of the surface of the Earth and are the very foundations of life. They generate most of the oxygen we breathe, absorb a large share of carbon dioxide emissions, provide food and nutrients, regulate climate, and are important economically for countries that rely on tourism, fishing and other marine resources for income, and serve as the backbone of international trade. Unfortunately, human pressures, including overexploitation, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, destructive fishing, as well as unsustainable aquaculture practices, marine pollution, habitat destruction, alien species, climate change and ocean acidification are taking a significant toll on the world’s oceans and seas. Peace and security are also critical to the full enjoyment of the benefits that can be derived from the oceans and for their sustainable development. As has been remarked by the Secretary-General, “There will be no development without security and no security without development”.
Many countries have celebrated World Oceans Day following the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, which was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. In 2008, the United Nations General Assembly decided that, as of 2009, 8 June would be designated by the United Nations as “World Oceans Day” (resolution 63/111, paragraph 171). The official designation of World Oceans Day by the United Nations is an opportunity to raise global awareness of the benefits derived from the oceans and the current challenges faced by the international community in connection with the oceans. The day is intended to provide an opportunity for people to reflect and emphasize the benefits that the oceans can provide and our individual and collective duty to interact with oceans in a sustainable manner so as to meet current needs without compromising those of future generations.
Piracy and armed robbery at sea
Aerial view of a Kenyan Navy launch just off the coast of Somalia
There has been an increase in acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea, particularly off the coast of Somalia, in the Western Indian Ocean and in the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa. Acts of piracy and armed robbery threaten the lives and safety of seafarers and, in some cases, seafarers have lost their lives or have been held hostage. Acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea also cause significant disruptions to commerce and navigation including preventing the delivery of humanitarian assistance, financial losses to shipowners, increased insurance premiums and security costs, increased costs to consumers and producers, and may cause damage to the marine environment. The Security Council has repeatedly reaffirmed that international law, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, sets out the legal framework applicable to repressing piracy and combating armed robbery at sea. States have developed a number of cooperating mechanisms to facilitate the arrest, detention and prosecution of persons suspected of these heinous crimes.
Marine environment and biodiversity
Marine Wildlife off Atauro Island, Timor Leste
Marine ecosystems and biodiversity are not only essential to the healthy functioning of the Earth and its atmosphere, but also to human life and development. The oceans’ regenerative capacity is increasingly under pressure from human activities, such as overutilization of marine living resources, the use of destructive practices, the introduction of invasive alien species and marine pollution from all sources. However, the biggest threat to the health of the marine environment stems from land-based activities. Pollutant and nutrient input into the marine environment can disrupt the delicate balance of marine ecosystems and destroy in particular vulnerable ecosystems. This type of pollution poses danger to human health by contaminating shell fisheries, water intakes and bathing areas and introduces significant amounts of plastics and other debris to coastal waters, threatening marine life through entanglement, suffocation and ingestion.
Oceans and climate change
View of the melting Collins Glacier in Antarctica
The oceans play a vital role in the global climate system. They produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, while also providing essential goods and services for sustaining life on Earth. Climate change and ocean acidification, caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, are bringing about changes in the oceans that include rises in sea level and vulnerability to coral and plankton structures, which are undoubtedly putting coastal communities at risk.
Marine renewable energy
Middelgruden Offshore Wind Farm in Denmark
Marine renewable energy may have a significant role in reducing reliance on non-renewable energy sources that produce emissions of greenhouse gases, including CO2, assisting to mitigate the adverse effects caused by climate change. Currently, only offshore wind energy has reached an acceptable level of development to be considered competitive. However, there are other less developed technologies that obtain energy from the seas and oceans, including wave and tidal energy, energy from currents, ocean thermal energy and salinity gradient energy.
© United Nations Photo