Once a year, the world has a special opportunity to honor our shared ocean that connects us all, no
matter where we live. From California to Kansas to Connecticut, the ocean affects each of us and each of us affects the ocean. World Oceans Day, June 8th, provides a time to reflect on how we all depend on a healthy ocean for our
survival and how each one of us can help with the solutions to create a more sustainable society and a healthier ocean.
On and around June 8th, people around the globe will join with their communities to celebrate this year's World Oceans Day theme of “Together we have the power to protect the ocean.” This event serves as a global rallying point for raising awareness and promoting personal and community action in fun and positive ways. This year there are already hundreds of events organized to help individuals be part of the solution to environmental issues by supporting clean energy choices, trash-free coasts and beaches, sustainable seafood, and more.
The concept for a “World Ocean Day” was first proposed in 1992 by the Government of Canada at the Earth
Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The Ocean Project "adopted" this event in 2002. At that time, there were no events in
the U.S. and very few worldwide. We envisioned this event growing as a global platform to capture people's imaginations with engaging experiences that inspire them to take action for our ocean.
To help us do so, and working together with some key partners overseas, The Ocean Project developed
and widely circulated a petition to the United Nations (UN) urging them to officially recognize World Ocean Day. Tens of thousands of people from all parts of the world signed online or paper copies of the petition.
As a result
of a United Nations General Assembly resolution passed in December 2008, World Oceans Day is now officially recognized by the UN as June 8th each year. UN designation provided an important boost to those
organizations and individuals who have been deeply committed to ocean conservation and is another important step toward improving the health of our world’s ocean.
As a side note, The Ocean Project recognizes that there is one world ocean that connects us all. One need
just look at an image from space to see that our planet should have been named “Ocean” rather than “Earth.” Until 2009, we promoted “World Ocean Day” but added the “s” after the UN officially recognized June 8th as World Oceans Day. Perhaps one day the UN will embrace the singular “Ocean” but in the meantime, we are following the UN-designated use of World Oceans Day to show solidarity for the conservation of this important resource that connects us all.
Over the years, we've helped promote and coordinate World Oceans Day, working collaboratively with
partners around the world. Each year an increasing number of countries and organizations mark June 8th. Last year, approximately 600 events were held in 70 countries to and we aim to double that number the number of events in 2014, with aquariums, zoos, museums, youth groups, conservation organizations, universities, schools, state and federal agencies, sailors, surf clubs, civic organizations, bloggers and businesses all participating in different ways. In addition, social reach is helping immensely to spread the word about World
Oceans Day, through blogs like this one!
World Oceans Day also provides opportunities to build synergies, with media and decision-makers, helping to focus more positive attention on the ocean every year. For instance, Capital Hill Oceans Week (CHOW) is always
held in June, right around World Oceans Day, the last several U.S. Presidents have declared June to be National Oceans Month, and new policy initiatives are often announced on or around World Oceans Day.
To help capture the imaginations and tap into the innovativeness of Americans and others around the
world to help collaboratively solve the problems facing our shared ocean and society, we are looking to significantly grow this event. Together, with key partners, including NMEA, we are looking to develop World Oceans Day into a global force for positive change. All our work thus far has been done with only .25 FTE on average so with more dedicated resources, and being able to further collaborate with additional networks - and especially focusing on youth involvement and leadership -- this is just the beginning.
Beyond its direct reach and impact, we envision World Oceans Day as a way to create a rising tide that can help lift all ocean (and related/aquatic and climate) conservation boats. With NMEA and other strategic partners, we look forward to help making World Oceans Day even more impactful than Earth Day!
Bill Mott is a NMEA member and director of The Ocean Project, which inspires action to protect our ocean through the world's most extensive network of aquariums, zoos, science museums, youth groups, and other
organizations. Watch Bill talk about World Oceans Day in our recent Google Hangout On Air, titled: What's the story behind World Oceans Day? - An Insider's Look.