(Photo: World Ocean Day)
Can you name our 5 oceans? Atlantic, Indian, Southern, Pacific and Arctic. Despite all these names, in reality, there is no line that separates them- it is simply one big ocean that connects us all! 8th of June marks World Ocean Day (WOD) where we celebrate our blue waters and encourage ocean conservation efforts. This year is significant- the ‘s’ was dropped from World Ocean(s) Day, signifying the solidarity of our global efforts for one ocean. The masses are coming together in support of its 2021 Conservation Action Focus- the 30x30 movement.
30x30 is a global campaign backed by scientists to have 30% of our planet protected by the year 2030. Today, only 15% of our land and 8% of ocean are protected under some type of designation (e.g. national parks or ocean sanctuaries). This ambitious 30% would mitigate severe climate change, address the possible extinction of up to a million species and offer many benefits such as flood protection and clean water provision. 30x30 has the opportunity to be heard by world leaders at the Convention on Biodiversity COP15 Summit this year so join us in our call for action now! Sign the 30x30 petition here.
(Photo: World Ocean Day)
Here are some other ways for you to contribute to a better marine ecosystem.
1. Select sustainable species
(Photo: Imb photo library- Happy fishmonger at Deira Fish Market!)
In a 2018 survey done by The Environment Agency- Abu Dhabi (EAD), it is found that local favourites- the Hamour, Shaari and Farsh found in the Arabian Gulf waters of the UAE are fished between 3 to 5 times its sustainable limit. It is appalling to know that despite the Farsh’s lifespan of 30 years, very few live over the age of 2. This means that if overfishing does not stop, we may eat these endangered species into extinction. We can help play our part by reducing the demand for breeds that are overexploited. Instead choose sustainable fishes like the Pink-Eared Emperor or Orange-Spotted Trevally. This is a compilation of mouthwatering recipes using such viable species in the UAE.
2. Mitigate marine mess
(Photo: Roman Mikhailiuk, Shutterstock)
Marine pollution is caused by waste that is dumped or leaked into the ocean. The types of wastes that individuals are responsible for include plastics, chemicals and debris.
8 million tonnes of plastic end up in our ocean every year and this is how. They find their way into our food chain and end up inside our bodies- a research done by Ghent University in Belgium revealed that up to 11,000 fragments of plastics are ingested by seafood enthusiasts each year. Non-biodegradable, this manufactured material may get smaller but never fully disappear so they stay on the face of our planet for hundreds of years. In addition, 100,000 sea mammals are killed annually by getting entangled in items like plastic-based fishing gears or by mistaking them for food (e.g. a plastic bag swollen in water may look like a jellyfish or a squid prey). Moreover, the presence of these synthetics increase the chances of coral diseases and cause our reefs to be sick. It is thus paramount to safeguard the future of our ocean by reducing our habitual usage of plastics.
(Photo: Kanna Jones, Marine photobank - Thankfully this sea lion in California was rescued. Kudos to the rescuers!)
Besides recycling, we can aim to eliminate them from our lives by searching for substitutes. Azraq offers plastic alternatives for a variety of lifestyle items including wheat straw cups, bamboo toothbrushes and even utensils made from birchwood. Biodegradable and compostable, these natural materials are much more ocean-friendly!
(Photo: @isakengstrom, Unsplash - Photo of wheat grass)
Furthermore, did you know that reusing a bag 20 times reduces the need for new ones by 82%? Consider a fabric bag next time you head to the grocery store. The annual consumption of plastic bags in the UAE itself is 11 billion, amounting to 1,184 per person. This is a startling number in comparison to the global average of 307. With that, imagine the massive difference you make with just one durable carrier. Take a look at our reusable bags here!
Some chemicals found in our everyday cleaning products like toothpaste or air fresheners can be harmful to our waters. For example, phosphate, an ingredient actively used in dish-washing soap, is known to cause algal blooms that deplete oxygen and give rise to dead zones in parts of the ocean. This results in the death and loss of flora and fauna in our aquatics as they are unable to thrive. Other harmful chemicals that are commonly found include triclosan and phthalates. Read more about the different implications of their toxicity here.
To avoid products that are detrimental to our marine ecosystem, keep a look out for those advertised as eco-friendly. They are usually made from natural ingredients and do not contain harsh chemicals like those mentioned above. There are a few local companies that produce eco-friendly cleaning and beauty products: The Botanist will intrigue you with their modern-looking yet environmentally-friendly household cleaning products. The Four Flowers has a collection of lovingly handcrafted hair and body products. How about some organic sunscreens from SunKiss? Our coral reefs will definitely thank you for this one.
Waste ends up in our ocean through different means. Perhaps thrown or blown there, they can also come from bathrooms (think, wet wipes), drains or washing machines. Currently, 9,300 tonnes of daily domestic waste is produced by residents in Dubai alone, a staggering number that highlights the need for us to be conscious about reducing our output. Reuse and recycle if possible and take extra caution in how you dispose of your waste.
(Photo: Somchairakin, Dollar Photo Club)
Another way to reduce the amount of waste produced is to embrace slow and sustainable fashion. Azraq, a non-profit organisation accredited by the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) has a list of brands to help you get started and Thrift for Good is one of them!
700,000 microfibres are washed into your waterways with a single run of laundry. Synthetics such as polyester, nylon or lycra do not break down so opt for organic or natural materials like cotton and wool to reduce the severity of its impact on our ocean. Remember to also install a filter in your machine to catch these said fibres!
3. Participate and commemorate
- World Ocean Day - Online
(Photo: The Guardians of the Sea, Sharon Choi - Science Without Borders challenge)
This year’s World Ocean Day highlights 3 steps for us to take. First, sign the petition. Second, join the celebration! There are a variety of online events available and they have many categories that include art, music, lectures and even sports. Choose to witness the World Ocean Day’s conference or simply kick back and immerse yourself in a film festival - whatever you choose, it is sure to be exciting and invigorating! Lastly, join the social media push in spreading awareness for 30x30 by using these materials.
You might have noticed Azraq’s name mentioned a couple of times in this article. Azraq, meaning blue in arabic, is a non-profit organisation dedicated to protecting the marine ecosystem and its wildlife here in the UAE. They involve and educate their members by organising a variety of activities from underwater clean-ups to monitoring sea turtles in their nesting grounds. If you would like to be part of this community, visit their website here to find out more.
On the 8th of June (World Ocean Day), Azraq will be setting up their pop-up store outside Thrift For Good from 10am to 4pm (Golden Mile Galleria Building 8). Come by to say hi and support their marine conservation efforts by purchasing some of their eco-friendly products.
That is all from us for World Ocean Day. For more information, head to their official site today!