World Ocean Day: why we must act now before it’s too late

June 8. PUE cares, PUE insights | 5 minute read

The ocean plays a vital role in keeping Earth alive and breathing. Every living thing on the planet depends on it for survival; it provides more than 60% of the oxygen needed for survival and is the primary source of rain that feeds lakes, rainforests, rivers and streams – the sustaining source of all life on the planet, along with the sun.

It also regulates our climate, soaking up the heat and transporting warm water from the equator to the poles, and cold water from the poles to the tropics, controlling rain and droughts.

But the ocean is now under serious threat.

Pollution, overfishing, plastic waste and other marine debris are choking marine wildlife and destroying their habitats. Sadly, the biggest threat to the marine ecosystem is human life.

On World Ocean Day, it is a chance for us all at Planet-U to reflect and look at what actions we must take together to protect and restore the ocean to prevent us from losing our ocean forever:

Making the 30×30 pledge

This year on World Ocean Day, conservation groups are launching the 30×30 campaign, a pledge for governments and world leaders to urgently increase the level of protection for marine environments, to make 30% of the world’s oceans protected habitats.

Protecting at least 30% of the planet for nature by the end of the decade was crucial to preventing mass extinctions of plants and animals and ensuring the natural production of clean air and water.

The response has been promising so far. Earlier this year, a coalition of more than 50 countries committed to protect 30% of the planet’s oceans by 2030. The High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People, which included the UK and countries from six continents, made the pledge before the One Planet summit in Paris. However, it is still important that more nations back the pledge to protect 30% of endangered marine areas.

Combatting overfishing

Earlier in 2021, the much-talked-about Netflix documentary Seaspiracy highlighted just how much overfishing is damaging the world’s seas, stating the following shocking statistics:

  • 300,000 whales and dolphins are killed as a result of fishing by-catches each year
  • 6 out of 7 species of sea turtle are either threatened or endangered due to fishing
  • If fishing continues at current levels, it is predicted we’ll be faced with the devastating prospect of empty oceans by 2048

Overfishing continues to be a major cause of marine life destruction. Reducing or eliminating seafood consumption is one of the most effective ways of helping marine species replenish while restricting trawler fishing which is destructive and wasteful is also important. Ultimately, the more protected ocean areas are, the more wildlife can recover from the effects of overfishing.

Our suggestion- research where your seafood is coming from, or reduce it from your diet.

Cleaning up our beaches

Millions of tonnes of plastic waste and litter end up on beaches and are washed into the ocean every year. Beach cleans are vital initiatives, not just to remove large amounts of litter off the beaches but also to promote education by showing people the impacts of items thrown away, when their effect on our environment might not be immediately obvious, e.g., a disposable nappy can take up to 500 years to decompose.

Beach clean-ups are growing in popularity and it is easy to get involved in one or organise your own, particularly through organisations such as the Marine Conservation Society and Surfers Against Sewerage.

Find out more about how to get started at:

Restoring ocean wildlife

Rewilding is a form of underwater gardening that reintroduces plant or animal life into the spaces they are needed and allowing them to grow without human interference. Seagrass meadows, tidal marshes and mangroves store incredible amounts of carbon, with seagrass storing 35 times more carbon than rainforests.

In the UK, where up to 92% of seagrass has disappeared, the Ocean Conservation Trust (OCT) has recently launched the country’s largest seagrass restoration project. Boosting the biodiversity of the ocean is vital to protect its health, and helping mitigate the wider issue of climate change.

Reducing global carbon emissions

The role of the ocean in regulating our climate can’t be underestimated. It produces the majority of the planet’s oxygen and absorbs 30% of human-produced CO2 emissions- nearly 10 billion tonnes.

But a result of absorbing all this carbon is that the ocean has become significantly more acidic since the Industrial Revolution. This has led to coral reefs bleaching around the world, impacting the production of vital seagrass, shellfish and harming marine habitats.

As a result, coral reefs are projected to decline to 10-30% of their former cover even in a scenario where global warming is limited to no more than 1.5C. Such losses will directly affect the habitat of shellfish. These natural super filters absorb excess carbon dioxide and filter the oceans from pollutants, so losing them would be devastating.

To stop and reverse ocean acidification, we must reduce CO2 emissions and lower the concentration that is already in the atmosphere. Renewable energy and technology adoption will be key to this process and form part of our mission here at Planet-U. Find out more about this here:

Reducing plastic waste

Plastic pollution is another one of the ocean’s biggest environmental challenges and one that continues to grow, with more and more waste discarded each year.

A staggering 8 million tonnes of plastic is said to enter the ocean each year.

According to a report from IUCN, plastic waste accounts for 80% of all marine debris studied. With less than a third of the UK’s plastic recycled, much of this waste ends up in the ocean and on beaches.

A major problem with plastic pollution is the danger it poses to wildlife. Fish, whales, dolphins, birds, seals and other creatures can become entangled in waste and swallow plastic, mistaking it for food.

Up to 1 in 3 fish caught for consumption is now said to contain plastic. Seawater absorbs chemicals found in plastic such as PCBs and DDTs, which then enter the food chain as seafood is used for human consumption. These chemicals have been linked to illnesses such as endocrine disruption and even some types of cancer.

There are many simple steps businesses and individuals can take to make significant reductions in their plastic use:

What can businesses do to reduce their plastic consumption?

  • Provide free onsite filtered drinking water
  • Provide employees with reusable kitchen utensils
  • Provide employees with reusable coffee cups, face masks and other items to use at home as well as in the workplace
  • Hold team workshops around plastic reduction and awareness
  • Only work with suppliers that use less plastic packaging
  • Create recycling at work/waste management initiatives for employees to follow
  • Create case studies/marketing campaigns that highlight success stories around plastic reduction
  • Make sure you sign your business up to a sustainable waste management provider (to be sure nothing goes to landfill, or worse, the ocean)  

What can individuals do to reduce their plastic consumption?

  • Use an eco-friendly, reusable shopping bag
  • Carry a reusable water bottle and coffee cup
  • Don’t use single-use cutlery and straws
  • Store leftovers in glass jars
  • Avoid buying items that come with a lot of plastic packaging- shop local
  • Choose brands/products that use recycled and plastic-free materials
  • Send parcels with paper packaging instead of plastic

Our plastic-free commitment

At Planet-U we’re determined to minimise our plastic usage and reduce our business impact on the environment. That’s why we’ve committed to a zero to landfill waste policy in our offices, on average 95% of our waste is recycled, the rest is RDF (Refuse Derived Fuel). We also provide all of our staff with reusable masks and coffee cups, to help them make better choices outside of work too.

Get involved and play your part

Find out more about how you can help make an impact on World Ocean Day at:

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