Today is a day of awareness for all things pelagic – it’s World Oceans Day. Our oceans are a precious resource, but how much do you really know about them?
- Roughly 72 percent of our planet’s surface is covered with oceans, which produce roughly 70 percent of the oxygen in our atmosphere.
- Approximately 97 percent of all water on the planet is in the ocean. The remaining three percent is in freshwater or groundwater sources.
- The combined volume of our oceans is roughly 1.33 billion cubic kilometers, or 3.518×1020 gallons, or the equivalent to 533 trillion Olympic-sized swimming pools.
- The exact number of species living in the ocean is unknown, but may be as high as one million, though more than 90 percent are still undiscovered.
- Roughly 40 percent of humanity’s population – just over 3 billion people – live within 100 kilometers (62 miles) of an oceanic coastline.
Despite how massive our oceans are, and how critical they are to all life on our planet, we treat these precious bodies of water with brutal disdain. More disturbing facts include…
- Nearly 8 million metric tons of plastic trash is estimated to be dumped into the world’s oceans every year – and that number continues to rise.
- The burning of fossil fuels is contributing to acidifying the oceans, which in turn destroy their complex ecosystems and kill organisms.
- The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is believed to be at least 1.6 million square kilometers, or over 617,000 square miles – and it’s only one of the garbage patches in our oceans.
- More than 2,300 marine species are considered threatened or endangered (and remember, we don’t even know more than 90 percent of oceanic species!).
- Less than 4 percent of our oceans are protected environments in marine parks and other preserves, and the laws protecting even these areas are rarely enforced.
Okay, so what does this have to do with birds? Birds are the air, not the sea, right? Wrong! Birds, too, rely on the oceans in many ways. Pelagic birds are the most obvious examples – albatrosses, shearwaters, frigatebirds, fulmars, tropicbirds, penguins and puffins are just a few types of birds that rely heavily on the oceans for survival. Coastal birds, such as gulls, pelicans, skuas, terns and many ducks also rely on the oceans. Even birds that seem to have nothing to do with the ocean, such as hummingbirds, warblers, jays and hawks, depend on the influence of the oceans over climate, weather systems and water supplies to survive, just as we do. As oceanic habitats are destroyed, we’re slowly destroying not only all the birds we enjoy, but ourselves as well.
So what can we do? The focus of World Oceans Day 2018 is to prevent plastic pollution, which is easy enough for every one of us to work on.
- Reduce all your plastic use! Skip the straws and plastic cutlery, opt for reusable cloth bags, choose products with less plastic packaging, and use reusable drinking bottles.
- Recycle all plastic you do have to use as much as possible, ensuring it is collected properly for suitable recycling (check with your waste management guidelines).
- Pick up plastic trash whenever possible, such as through participating in beach, park or neighborhood cleanups, or just picking up trash whenever you’re out and about.
- Choose non-plastic products as much as possible, such as cotton swabs with paper handles instead of plastic, or tampons with cardboard applicators instead of plastic.
- Opt for non-plastic alternative items, such as using matches instead of disposable lighters, or a razor with replaceable blades instead of a plastic disposable razor.
These are just a few options you can easily choose to reduce plastic in your life, and every step you take will be one step closer to a cleaner, healthier ocean. Let’s celebrate World Oceans Day every day of the year!