Collective action for oceans

World Oceans Day (June 8) is an annual opportunity to remind us of the irreplaceable role of oceans on Earth.

Greenpeace activists with a banner reading "India, Protect our Oceans now" under ocean water in Andaman and Nicobar, India (Photo: AFP/VNA)
Greenpeace activists with a banner reading "India, Protect our Oceans now" under ocean water in Andaman and Nicobar, India (Photo: AFP/VNA)

"Revitalisation: Collective Action for the Ocean" was selected as the theme of the 2022 World Oceans Day, aiming to call for the unity of the entire world in protecting the “health” of the ocean as well as ensuring a sustainable future for mankind.

According to a United Nations report, the ocean covers more than 70% of the Earth's area and is considered a giant "green lung" that provides about 50 percent of the planet's oxygen. The ocean also absorbs 30 percent of the CO2 emitted by humans, thereby contributing to reducing the impact of global warming.

The ocean is the main source of protein for billions of people around the world. About 3 billion people depend on ocean and coastal ecosystems. About 580 million live in low-lying coastal areas and this number is projected to grow to about 1 billion by 2050. About 80 percent of global freight traffic is transported by sea.

However, according to the UN, humans have taken more from the ocean than they can make up for. Pollution, over-exploitation and the effects of climate change have been depleting ocean resources. About 90 percent of the large fish populations in the ocean have disappeared and 50 percent of the coral reefs have been destroyed.

Meanwhile, humans have still been constantly dumping garbage into the ocean. In a report made from more than 2,000 studies on the negative effects of plastic waste on the oceans, biodiversity and marine ecology, the International Conservation Fund said plastic waste has appeared in the most remote and primitive parts of the Earth, such as the ice sheets of the Arctic or in the stomachs of fish that inhabit the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean.

According to the Fund, the ocean still suffers from 19 to 23 million tonnes of plastic per year, of which the amount of single-use plastic waste accounted for 60 percent. The plastic products in the world are projected to double by 2040, which means that ocean pollution from plastic waste will triple from current levels.

In a study published in the Science journal, scientists from the University of Washington and Princeton University (the US) warned that life in the oceans will face the danger of extinction by 2030, similar to the worst mass extinction on earth about 250 million years ago, if humanity does not limit greenhouse gas emissions.

The first edition of World Oceans Day was held at the proposal of Canada’s Government in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In 2009, the UN General Assembly officially chose June 8 as World Oceans Day to raise public awareness of the important role of seas and oceans in the daily life of people and living creatures on Earth.

2022 is considered a pivotal year for ocean protection activities with a series of events related to the sea and islands. The world is in the second year of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), to promote initiatives for sustainable ocean protection. The 2022 UN Ocean Conference, which is scheduled from June 27 to July 1 in Lisbon, Portugal, will be a great opportunity to further accelerate the implementation of the conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources.

In his message on the occasion of World Oceans Day 2022, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged humanity to take advantage of the rare opportunity to adjust their relationship with nature. The UN’s head called on people to unite and take action to protect the oceans in the same way the world has worked together to end the pandemic.