World Oceans Day: The biggest threats to our oceans

World Oceans Day is observed every year on June 8 by the UN and other international organisations.

Fish in the Sea

The United Nations and the international community began observing June 8 as World Oceans Day in 2009 to recognise the major role oceans play in our lives and the challenges faced in preserving this resource.

According to the UN, the concept of a World Oceans Day was first proposed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992

The world’s oceans are a source of food and natural resources for many and play a major role in climate and weather patterns, making conserving their purity and the diversity of species living in them of utmost importance. 

Addressing the issue in a statement on Sunday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed the fact that women are disproportionately affected by pollution and climate change on the oceans, adding that: “For too long, women have been unable to share equally in ocean-supplied benefits.” 

Confronting gender inequality is essential to achieving the ocean-related Goal and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” he added.

As we celebrate World Oceans Day, Al Jazeera takes a look at the major challenges our oceans face today:

  • According to UN estimates, around 13 million tonnes of plastic leaks into the oceans every year.

  • The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) says that the plastic floating in the ocean kills one million sea birds and more than 100,000 marine mammals every year.

  • Predictions from a report by the World Economic Forum say that if we continue throwing the same amount of marine litter in the ocean, plastic will outweigh fish by 2050.

Fish in the Sea
Plastic will outweigh fish by 2050 [File: Getty Images]
  • There are also concerns that the increasing coastal and river-bank erosion is carrying millions of tonnes of long-buried rubbish into deep ocean canyons, where toxic waste and plastic will remain for decades. 

Plastic Bags
Plastic bags, bottles and cups float in the ocean [File: Getty Images]
  • As climate change hits the world’s oceans, scientific models show both ocean acidification and ocean temperatures rising to unprecedented levels over the next 100 years.

  • Due to these changes, the World Resources Institute (WRI) says that nearly all coral reefs worldwide will be threatened by 2050. Nearly 25 percent of all marine life depends on coral reefs for survival. 

  • Fertilisers and pesticides also pose a great risk as they end up into the ocean. Some of these have produced irreversible effects; for instance, affecting the reproductive process of different species.

  • Overfishing is also a big challenge. In Canadian waters, overfishing of cod has led to the near-extinction of the species.
Source: Al Jazeera