World Oceans Day

Author: Sthuthi Satish

The United Nations and international communities observe World Oceans Day on June 8 every year. While 97% of the earth’s water is in the oceans, it also provides us with oxygen and takes in most of the carbon dioxide. The theme for World Oceans Day 2019 is ‘Gender and the Ocean’, which urges the promotion of gender equality in ocean-related activities like marine scientific research, fisheries, labour at sea among others.

Melati and Isabel Wijsen founded the Bye Bye Plastic Bags movement when they were in 8th Grade, after being inspired by a lesson on Nelson Mandela, Lady Diana and Mahatma Ghandi, and wondering how they might impact a positive difference in their community and then the world. Now 19 and 17 years old respectively, the sisters have already achieved their initial mission of having plastic bags banned on the Indonesian island of Bali, as well as plastic drinking straws and styrofoam containers, and have teams in 35 countries (growing daily). They have been recognised as CNN Heros and listed in Time Magazine’s list of influential teens, and are continuing to evolve and advance their work, through creating the social enterprise Mountain Mamas, a social enterprise with a circular system, making alternative bags out of pre-loved material.

One of our Girls in Science 4 SDGs colleagues, Lara Louise Bevan-Shiraz, 14, is a member of the Bye Bye Plastic Bag team in Bali, and took part in their beach clean-up for World Ocean Day 2019. Here is what she has to say about it: “We found an awful lot of cigarette butts, fishing wire, cups, straws and plastic twine. When I moved to Bali 5 years ago, some of these beaches were still pristine. I’ve witnessed the plastic and pollution problem grow exponentially, and now every beach in Bali is severely impacted. Hopefully, by taking action now, we can do a sharp U-turn and return our ocean and coastal ecosystems to health in the next 5 years.

Bye Bye Plastic Bags, Bali, with the founders Melati and Isabel Wijsen

The oceans continue to amaze us with their beauty and diverse resources. The water is mysterious and bewitching, as a lot of it still stays unexplored. Here are a few facts about oceans that we hope will captivate you and urge you to also strive to save our oceans:

1. While only four oceans – the Arctic, Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans – were recognized till 2000, later in the year the International Hydrographic Organization established the Southern Ocean, taking the total figure to five.

2. The Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench is the deepest known point in earth’s oceans. The United States Center for Coastal & Ocean Mapping measured the depth of the Challenger Deep in 2010, and it was measured to be 10,994 meters below sea level, which is equal to piling 36 Eiffel Towers on top of each other.

3. The Mid-Ocean Ridge is the longest mountain range on the Earth, stretching across 65,000 kilometres. The oceans also contain lakes, rivers, islands and waterfalls.

4. The Pacific Ocean is the world’s largest ocean and has around 25,000 islands. Spreading across 12,300 miles, the ocean spans an area five times wider than the diameter of the moon.

5. There are around 1,000 shipwrecks lying off the Florida Keys alone, some of which are within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, there are around 3 million shipwrecks under water.

6. According to the World Register of Marine Species,there are now 240,470 accepted oceanic species, but scientists estimate that 91% of the ocean’s species are yet to be discovered.

7. According to the National Ocean Service, there’s around 20 million tons of gold dispersed throughout the oceans, which is diluted pretty much to a pulp, with the concentration only a few parts per trillion.

8. In 2002, scientists discovered an area in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean, partway between Baja California and Hawaii, where coastal great white sharks migrate in the winter. The scientists named the spot ‘White Shark Café’.

9. Only three people have managed to make it to the Mariana Trench, because of the extreme conditions there. One of those people is director James Cameron, who directed the film Titanic.

10. 90% of all the volcanic activity on the planet happens in the ocean, with South Pacific having the largest known concentration of active volcanoes.