Growing concern over the health of marine ecosystems at the center of United Nations observances to mark World Oceans Day 2016

Day to include New York stop for traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe circumnavigating globe to highlight need to protect oceans

6 June, New York – To highlight growing concern for the health of the world’s marine ecosystems, the UN will mark World Oceans Day on 8 June with a range of events that both celebrate the benefits that oceans provide, as well as amplify the need to take greater action to protect this global resource.

Recognizing the importance of the world’s oceans, seas and coastal areas to the world’s seven billion people, the 193 UN Member States included the need to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources as a distinct goal—Goal 14—in the Sustainable Development Goals that anchor the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

Oceans cover more than two-thirds of the earth’s surface and contain 97 percent of the planet’s water. Oceans contribute to poverty eradication by creating sustainable livelihoods and decent work. More than three billion people depend on marine and coastal resources for their livelihoods. In addition, oceans are crucial for global food security and are the primary regulator of the global climate.

This World Oceans Day, the Hōkūle‘a, a traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe currently on a global trip promoting sustainable seas, will arrive across from the United Nations to highlight how the oceans unite people. The vessel’s arrival and a subsequent event at the UN will provide an opportunity to relate first-hand stories of the state of the ocean and the world’s coastal peoples.

World Oceans Day 2016 carries the theme “Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet,” for which the Hōkūle‘a crew, as global ocean navigators, can offer direct experience. The day will be celebrated by the UN in New York in several important ways, all working toward improving understanding of the interconnectedness of our environment and our livelihoods.


Events to mark World Oceans Day 2016 on 8 June:

“He Lei Holo Puni Honua,” a ceremonial presentation of declarations and sail of friendship
11-11:45 a.m. ceremony, followed by VIP and media tour of the canoe (weather permitting), Gantry Plaza, Long Island City, Queens

Nainoa Thompson, the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Master Navigator, will present UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Gyan Chandra Acharya, UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, and Palau President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. with ocean protection declarations that the Hōkūleʻa voyagers have collected from the public on their worldwide journey promoting sustainable oceans. This will be followed by a tour of the Hōkūle‘a, weather permitting.


“Voyaging to a Sustainable Planet: A Talk Story Uniting Leadership on Oceans”
3:30-6 p.m., Conference Room 1, UN Headquarters
(by invite only)

Palau President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. and representatives of the Federated States of Micronesia, together with Nainoa Thompson of the Hōkūle‘a, will discuss the UN’s Ocean Agenda and link the voyage of the Hōkūleʻa with Sustainable Development Goal 14. They also will present developments regarding the negotiation of a new legally binding instrument to protect biodiversity in marine areas in the high seas.


World Oceans Day reception
6-8 p.m., Sputnik Lobby, UN General Assembly Building

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s 2016 World Oceans Day message will be delivered and the winners of this year’s World Oceans Day Oceanic Photo Competition will be announced by multiple past winner Ellen Cuylaerts. The evening will also feature performances by musicians Jack Johnson, Paula Fuga, Chucky-Boy Chock and Brother Noland, as well as Hawaiian Serenaders.


Empire State Building to be lit for Oceans Day

The Empire State Building will be lit on the evening of 8 June for World Oceans Day in white, blue and purple, representing the different layers of the ocean. White at the top represents the most shallow, sunlit waters and also the polar ice cap. The blue represents the slightly deeper ocean waters, and the purple is for even deeper waters. The unlit portions, or black, represent those parts of the ocean where the sun does not reach.


2016 Annual World Oceans Day Oceanic Photo Competition
DOALOS is hosting a free amateur photo competition in 2016, as in years past, seeking to convey the beauty and importance of the ocean and humankind’s relation to it through five thematic categories: underwater seascapes, underwater life, above-water seascapes, positive human interaction and a youth category. Winners will be recognized at the UN reception on 8 June.


More information

World Oceans Day 2016:

Photo contest:

Hōkūleʻa voyaging canoe:

Media contacts

UN Department of Public Information

Dan Shepard, T: +1 (212) 963-9495 | E:

Ariel Alexovich, T: +1 (917) 367-6512 | E:


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