The N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores will observe World Oceans Day Saturday with a special focus on how individuals can help protect the seas.
“World Oceans Day is incredibly important to celebrate because we are constantly learning about our ocean,” said Ellie Fallaize, educator at the aquarium. “Currently, (we) have explored less than 10% of the ocean, even though it is such a dynamic and important ecosystem.
“At least one out of every two breaths we take comes from oxygen that is produced in the ocean, and around 40% of the world’s population live near coastal areas. By celebrating World Oceans Day, we are able to educate ourselves on how important this environment is, as well as the many ways we can protect the ocean,” she continued.
During World Oceans Day, aquarium visitors will answer the annual call to celebrate ocean conservation with themed crafts and activities.
“We will be celebrating this year by helping to restore our living shorelines,” Ms. Fallaize said. “In the wake of Hurricane Florence, we have been focused on rebuilding our homes and lives. This year’s World Oceans Day initiative is to ‘Restore Our Shore’.”
According to Ms. Fallaize, one of the most important and natural buffers for any large storm in coastal communities are marshes. They help lessen the impact of flooding, storm surge and wind destruction.
“We will be giving back to this amazing habitat by planting marsh grass and learning how to build up our community resiliency,” she said. “In addition, we will be joined all day by a local author, Deborah VanDyken, for book readings and signings.”
Though World Oceans Day is set aside to observe the importance of the ocean, people can do things year-round to help protect it.
“One big thing we can all do is do reduce our use of single-use plastics whenever possible,” Ms. Fallaize said. “Some easy things to do are to take Tupperware containers with you to restaurants for To Go food, carry around a reusable straw, or take reusable cloth bags to any store when you go.
“Another easy thing is to plant native plants in your garden. Not only will they attract native birds and wildlife, but they will also hold on to water and sediments better than nonnative species, which helps protect your home against flooding,” she continued.
According to worldoceansday.org, The Ocean Project has been collaborating with hundreds of organizations and networks since 2002 to grow engagement and action for the ocean.
The Canadian government proposed the idea of World Oceans Day at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992.
“Over the last two decades, our global network of partners around our planet has grown to include more than 2,000 organizations, including youth groups, aquariums, zoos, museums, groups representing sailors, divers, swimmers and other recreational interests, the maritime industry, religious organizations, governments, the tourism sector, conservation organizations, universities, schools, businesses, celebrities, and many other,” the website reads. “Each year an increasing number of countries and organizations mark 8 June as an opportunity to celebrate our world ocean and our personal connection to the sea.”
To help grow recognition of World Oceans Day, together with the World Ocean Network and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, from 2004 to 2008 the group developed and widely circulated a petition urging the United Nations to officially recognize World Oceans Day as June 8 each year.
“As a result of working with hundreds of our partner organizations, and thanks to tens of thousands of people from all parts of the world who signed online and paper copies of the petition, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution in December 2008, officially recognizing 8 June as World Oceans Day each year,” the site reads.
Since then, The Ocean Project created a World Oceans Day Youth Advisory Council, to have young people around the world engage in World Oceans Day.
For more on World Oceans Day or ideas on how else to celebrate it, visit worldoceansday.org.