This post was written by Lucy from My Little Green Wardrobe.

World Oceans Day, which takes place on 8 June each year, serves as a reminder of the critical role our oceans play in sustaining life on Earth.

As one of the most neglected of the UN Sustainability Development Goals, it cannot be overemphasised how urgently we need to take action to conserve this diverse environment that makes up 71% of the Earth’s surface. 

In what is a hugely overlooked area of conservation, this World Oceans Day 2023 it’s time we gave equal billing to life below water as we do to life above it.

90% Decline in Fish Populations

80% of the world’s biodiversity comes from the sea; our oceans play host to an incredible array of biodiversity with ecosystems ranging from tropical coral reefs, vast kelp forests to deep trenches. It is home to around 250,000 named species, with the Census of Marine Life suggesting around another two-thirds remain unidentified. 

However, this biodiversity is at risk. Overfishing has already led to a decline of nearly 90% in large predatory fish populations such as sharks, tuna, marlin and swordfish since 1950. While rising temperatures mixed with the increasing acidification of seawater has seen unparalleled habitat destruction, such as coral reef bleaching – which disrupts food chains and threatens the survival of numerous marine species. 

Research from the University of British Columbia suggests that 50% of the world’s coral reefs have already been lost and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) warns if we fail to curb emissions, we could lose up to 90% of coral reefs by 2100. 

Record Fines for Water Companies

Not only are we depleting the marine life that should exist in our seas at an ever-increasing rate, we’re replacing it with waste.

Last month, Surfers Against Sewage made headlines for staging a demonstration across 12 different locations around the UK to protest water companies recklessly dumping sewage directly into the sea. It came after South West Water had been fined a record £2.1million for illegally polluting waterways. On one occasion raw sewage was pumped into the sea for more than 35 hours, with a sample taken from a stream at the nearest beach showing E. coli levels to be 2,000 times higher than a poor rating.

The Environment Agency also found on two occasions effluent from a sewage treatment works was pumped into a Site of Special Scientific Interest in Plymouth, designated due to its variety of bird life and invertebrates.

But reckless dumping from companies doesn’t stop there.

More Plastic than Fish

Every year, an estimated 8 million tons of plastic waste ends up in the ocean, with that number only increasing.  By 2050, it is projected that the ocean will contain, by weight, more plastic than fish unless we take immediate action on waste management.

Not only does this cause immense harm to fish and other marine animals, but ultimately to ourselves – not least through the ingestion of microplastics, which are now so ubiquitous they have been found present in unborn babies.

 Additionally, healthy oceans actively provide coastal protection to those of us on land. Healthy coastal ecosystems, such as mangroves, salt marshes, and seagrass beds, act as natural buffers against climate-related events like storms and rising sea levels. These ecosystems serve as effective coastal protection, reducing the vulnerability of human settlements and infrastructure to the impacts of climate change.

Without healthy coastal habitats, we are more at risk.

The £1.2 Trillion Ocean Economy

If all these environmental factors weren’t enough to deem the health of the blue planet a top priority, some may wish to consider the economic argument.

The ocean economy contributes an estimated £1.2 trillion annually to global GDP, supporting industries such as tourism, fisheries, and transportation. This provides livelihoods for millions of people worldwide and ensures the food security of coastal communities that rely on fishing as their primary source of sustenance.

Plus, we haven’t even touched on the devastation that will occur to these low-lying communities with the threat of rising sea levels.

Overlooked Oceans

While conservation of all kinds is vital, marine conservation is often overlooked in high-profile awareness campaigns.

We’re all aware that the deforestation of the planet’s rainforests presents an urgent and pressing problem, but many people don’t know oceans are key to sequestering carbon. Research suggests that tropical rainforests – branded the lungs of the planet – sequester around 1.3 billion metric tons of carbon annually. Meanwhile, studies estimate that oceans sequester around 2.5 billion metric tons of carbon per year. That’s approximately 25% of the total CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere globally each year – making the oceans a crucial carbon sink.

Additionally, the oceans are responsible for absorbing and storing vast amounts of heat from the atmosphere. The sea acts as a massive heat sink, regulating global temperatures and mitigating the worst effects of climate change. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the top 700 metres of the ocean have absorbed more than 90% of the excess heat generated by human activities since the 1970s.

Nevertheless, despite its significance, marine conservation has received less than 1% of all charitable funding since 2009, and remains the least funded of all the Sustainable Development Goals, according to charity Funding The Ocean.

Marine conservation has faced significant challenges in garnering funding levels. While marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs and coastal habitats, are just as important as rainforests in terms of biodiversity and ecosystem services, they have received comparatively little attention and far less funding. 

‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind’

This disparity can perhaps be attributed to factors such as the vastness and complexity of marine environments, a lack of public awareness, and the perception that marine conservation is more challenging and expensive to implement.

James Merchant, from the Marine Conservation Society, said: “

For some the ocean may seem out of sight, out of mind. But it’s worth remembering that the ocean has ensured a habitable climate for life on earth as we know it.

We must invest in the ocean to protect the planet, and provide long-term benefits to society, creating new livelihoods and support the global economy.

The challenges facing our oceans may seem daunting, but there is hope. International collaboration and individual actions can make a significant difference.

At My Little Green Wardrobe, we only stock swimwear and outerwear that is made from recycled materials. Some, such as Muddy Puddles’ Eco-Splash Rain Jackets and Puddlesuits, or Frugi’s Toasty Trail Puffer Jackets are made from recycled plastic bottles. Plus, our eco-friendly kids swimwear lines from Turtledove London are made from EcoNyl which sources material from old fishing nets. and used carpets, which is important because the OECD estimates that globally only 9% of plastic waste is recycled.

There are other brands taking sea conservation seriously and using their businesses for good – I would urge you to seek out those at least trying to minimise their use of plastics.

What You Can Do to Help on World Oceans Day?

Aside from switching to brands that are cutting down on single-use plastics and pioneering more ocean-friendly solutions, here are some of the ways you can take action on World Oceans Day:

Join the Movement

Head to World Oceans Day to find educational resources and events happening near you. If you’re in the UK, join Stop Rosebank’s Wave of Resistance day this Saturday, and look for your local climate justice group to get involved.

Skip the Seafood

Give the ocean a break today by avoiding seafood for the day – or even for the rest of the week or month?

While there are well-managed fisheries, many fisheries that are poorly managed and which put enormous pressure on marine ecosystems. According to the UN, 89.5% of fish stocks worldwide are either fully fished (58.1%) or overfished (31.4%).

Generally speaking, if we can reduce our consumption of meat and fish, the more impact we can individually have on our planet.

Clean a Beach

Get involved with a beach clean such as the Million Mile Clean run by Surfers Against Sewage. The charity runs events around the year and aims to clear one million miles around the UK by 2030. If you aren’t near the coast, they also organise cleans in towns and cities.

Educate Yourself

Read online resources or watch a film about the issues impacting the ocean. Options include the BBC’s two ground-breaking Blue Planet series, or the 2016 film A Plastic Ocean, named by Sir David Attenborough as “one of the most important films of our time”.

Citizen Science

Gather important data for citizen science projects run by the likes of the Marine Conservation Society UK. Citizen scientists play a valuable part in the fight for a cleaner, healthier ocean. This is a great way to involve kids and with your help, charities can collect enough information to provide evidence-based results which can be used to understand the state of our seas and campaign for change.

This World Oceans Day, let’s recognize the necessity of ocean conservation and commit to taking meaningful action. Our oceans are the lifeblood of our planet, and their health is inextricably linked to our own well-being. By implementing sustainable practices, supporting conservation efforts, and advocating for policy changes, we can protect our precious blue planet – as well as the entire planet – for generations to come.