Happy World Oceans Day! Today is a day to honour and celebrate our incredible oceans.
Oceans are teeming with life from microscopic algae to the largest animal to ever live- the blue whale. Not to mention an array of wonderful habitats and resources (including renewable energy sources) and there is still so much to discover with more than 80% of the ocean remaining unexplored.
Oceans are bene-fish-ial to us all
Oceans cover more than 70% of the Earth’s surface and roughly 70% of the oxygen we breathe is produced by them.
They have a vital role in climate control and weather, balancing global temperatures by absorbing heat in the summer and releasing it in the winter. Currents also transport warm water from the equator towards the poles and vice-versa, regulating our climates. Without them regional temperatures would be more extreme and far less land would be habitable.
Our oceans also absorb about half of the CO2 created from burning fossil fuels and they’re responsible for the water cycle on which all life depends.
Additionally, oceans provide food for millions of people and create jobs for more than 350 million people worldwide. However, our oceans sadly face a variety threats which could have dire consequences for the people and animals which depend on them.
As caretakers of our seas we are all responsible for protecting and restoring them together and for keeping them healthy.
The coast isn’t clear for our oceans
There are a number of issues impacting on the well-being of our oceans, most of which are caused by human influences and range from light pollution to collisions between marine life and boats and of course, global warming. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the biggest threats facing our oceans today.
- Chemical Pollution- pesticides and fertilizers used in industrial agriculture run off from crops and into water ways such as rivers and eventually the sea harming marine plants and animals.
- Dead Zones- are caused by global warming and dangerous waste. They have such low levels of oxygen that they can no longer support life, wiping out increasing numbers of species. There are now over 400 dead zones, the largest one of which is 63,700 square miles in size and is worryingly still growing.
- Plastic- around eight million metric tons of plastic waste enters the ocean every year which can entangle and be ingested by marine life (and work its way up to food chain to other animals including us), alter and destroy habitats and jeopardise nesting sites.
- Overfishing- Demand for fish continues to rise but fishing is happening faster than some species are able to reproduce. This is not only a threat to species targeted but also to animals which depend on them as part of their diet in the wild.
- Acidification- the PH of the sea has remained stable for 60 million years but is now changing due to the build up of CO2 in the atmosphere.
- Climate Change- huge pressure is being placed on marine life due to rapid changes in temperature and affecting species which range all the way from the polar bears in the Arctic to coral reefs and the organisms which depend upon them in the tropical oceans.
- Mining- deep sea mining provides an abundance of minerals, oil and gas but can destroy marine habitat and threatens the animals and plants living there.
Last week the government announced that they would be protecting more of our oceans by introducing 41 new Marine Conservation Zones. These will support and protect more areas around English and Northern Irish coasts and the incredibly diverse marine life which calls them home (stalked jellyfish, short-snouted seahorse and blue mussel beds are a few species which could benefit from these protections) . Excitingly, five of these new MCZ’s are in and around Kent,
-Kentish Knock East
This expansion of our blue belts has increased the number of MCZ to 91 which contribute towards a total of 355 different types of marine protected areas around the UK, spanning across 220,000 square km (nearly twice the size of England).
This is great news for British marine life and will exclude the most damaging activities from taking place within them. However, there are still vast amounts of marine life worldwide which needs our protection and support.
Water we doing at WWP?
Humboldt penguins are one of those marine species which are declining in the wild. Classified by the IUCN as Vulnerable, we are working to aid their survival and have been successfully breeding them here since 2013. For more information about this please check out Becky’s recent blog here and don’t miss our daily penguin talks and feeds at 1 and 3 pm. Visit the only penguins in Kent soon or adopt a penguin for a year to help support the work we are doing with this lovable species.
Recently we also introduced our new Sea Turtle Talk (which takes place every Saturday and Sunday and daily throughout school holidays at 12.30 pm) which educates our visitors about the plight of sea turtles and focusses on the damage being inflicted on marine life by plastic pollution and climate change.
Our ethnography and natural history museum is also home to a number of items confiscated by H. M. Customs & Excise UK Border Control and given to the park to help us with our education efforts.
These items include a variety of corals, shells and animal products (including a dried sea turtle and seahorses) which we are able to use to raise awareness about the challenges facing marine life and to educate our visitors about responsible and sustainable tourism.
How can you help?
There are so many ways we can all help to save the ocean.
Make safe sustainable choices about seafood– reduce the demand for overexploited species by choosing sustainable seafood.
Use less plastic- choose reusable bags, loose fruit and veg over pre-packaged ones, re-usable coffee cups and water bottles, metal straws etc. Also, many plastic items now have bamboo alternatives which are natural and biodegradable, we even sell some in our gift shop!
Help your local beach- lots of us will visit the beach this summer, please just remember to clean up after yourself. Or go the extra mile and take part in a community beach clean.
Reduce your energy consumption- you could choose to bike to work, take the stairs or put a jumper on instead of reaching for the thermostat- there are lots of ways to mind your carbon footprint.
Learn More- life on Earth is all connected to the ocean. The more you learn about the problems facing this important system, the more you’ll want and be able to help it. You can find a variety of resources on the World Oceans Day website, here.
Seas the day and create a positive wave of change for our incredible oceans this World Oceans Day!