World Oceans Day: Humans should be the ocean’s best friend

E CARTOON JUN 11, 2023.jpg “The ocean is the foundation of life. It supplies the air we breathe and food we eat. It regulates our climate and weather.”

The strong reminder on the major role the oceans have on everyday life was made by United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres when he opened the UN World Oceans Day celebration last June 8, focusing on the theme: “Planet Ocean: Tides are changing.”

“The ocean is our planet’s greatest reservoir of biodiversity. Its resources sustain communities, prosperity and human health around the world. Humanity counts on the ocean. But can the ocean count on us?”

Can we sustain the oceans so it can sustain us?

In the Philippines, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Enrique Manalo, who led the commemoration of WOD, cited various initiatives that the country is taking to help sustain the oceans.

"Understanding the fragile balance of our marine ecosystems and the significant role they play, the Philippines exerted all efforts towards finalizing an international legally binding agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ Agreement)," Manalo said. The initiative will work for a solution to plastic pollution in the oceans, one of the problems threatening the health of oceans. (Another problem is overfishing.)

Governments around the world have passed laws to protect the oceans from plastic pollution. In the Philippines, two of these laws are the banning of single-use plastics and the law making companies responsible for their plastic packaging, from manufacture to end-of-life.

This is a problem where each person can contribute to a solution.  The simple act of recycling to avoid throwing a plastic bag starts at home.  Bringing an eco-bag everywhere avoids the use of a plastic bag. Recycling plastic containers is another simple act to help the ocean. It would be good to keep in mind the numbers that state the seriousness of plastic pollution: At least 40 percent of plastic waste end up in the ocean, and if nothing is done, that may reach at least 29 million metric tons by 2040.

This will severely affect the ocean, “the foundation of life.”

“The ocean produces at least 50 percent of the planet’s oxygen. It is key to our economy with an estimated 40 million people being employed by ocean-based industries by 2030. Oceans absorb about 30 percent of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming,” according to a World Oceans Day statement.

And yet, according to the opening remarks of UN Secretary General Guterres: “Right now, humanity is its worst enemy.”

“Human-induced climate change is heating our planet, disrupting weather patterns and ocean currents, and altering marine ecosystems and the species living there.  Marine biodiversity is under attack from overfishing, over-exploitation and ocean acidification. Over one-third of fish stocks are being harvested at unsustainable levels.

“We should be the ocean’s best friend,” he said.

From your home, you can be a friend to the ocean and be part of the worldwide movement to work for the sustainable management of the world’s oceans.  Support organizations that work for sustainable fishing, or groups pushing stronger government action against the use of non-biodegradable material like plastic or foil sachets that end up in the ocean.

Remember, oceans cover three quarters of Earth’s surface, contain 97 percent of its water, and represent 99 percent of the living space on the planet by volume.

Since 2002, UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) sponsors the World Ocean Network, building support for ocean awareness. It is supported by other UN agencies who work to protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts.