In June we celebrated World Oceans Day to remind ourselves of the important role the oceans play in our daily lives. Every year there’s a conservation focus to this day, and this year it was no surprise that the topic was preventing plastic pollution. As part of this celebration, we’ve put together 5 astonishing facts about our oceans (and tips for how we can conserve them) that you may not know.
1. Our oceans contribute 50-85% of the oxygen on Earth.
One of the most, if not the most important reason why we need to conserve our oceans is because they help supply us with the oxygen we breathe every single day. Remember learning about photosynthesis back in biology class? All plants produce oxygen through photosynthesis—even the tiny ones that live in the ocean called phytoplankton. These guys are a vital part of our ecosystem and help regulate the climate and weather patterns of our planet.
2. Plastic outnumbers fish in the ocean.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to most people—the oceans are home to millions and billions of plastic particles and items. This is a serious problem and if we don’t take drastic measures we’ll end up with more plastic in our oceans than fish before we know it. Approximately 8 million metric tons of plastic are thrown into the ocean annually and 236,000 tons are microplastics. Those microplastics are being consumed by fish and other sea life and ultimately ending up on our dinner plates. Get this, the average person eats 70,000 microplastics EACH YEAR.
Of course these stats are alarming, but there is so much you can do to help combat this problem! Take some tips from our other helpful blogs and get on board with reusables. The less plastic you purchase and consume, the less there needs to be produced! Invest in your own “zero waste set” and grab a reusable water bottle, some to-go cutlery, and stainless steel straws to start. Refill your water bottle wherever you can to avoid purchasing a single use one. You’ll be surprised how many water fountains or stations are around us once you start looking!
3. There is a patch of garbage in the Pacific spanning 1.6 million square kilometers.
Just so you can visualize how big that is —that’s twice the size of Texas or three times the size of France. This giant spot is called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or GPGP for short. It’s the largest of five plastic zones in our oceans—another alarming fact. Scientists have been studying the GPGP for years and have estimated that the makeup of the patch includes 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic that weigh an estimated 80,000 tonnes!
Here’s the good news. Once again, you can help keep plastic out of the ocean by avoiding single-use items. Need even more good news? There’s an awesome group called The Ocean Cleanup that has developed technology to help clean up the GPGP. If everything runs the way it’s supposed to it’s estimated to clean up 50% of the GPGP every 5 years!
The team at The Ocean Cleanup launched System 001 (also known as Wilson) in September 2018 from San Francisco. Wilson spent a few months gathering plastic but unfortunately ran into some issues this past December. But have no fear, a ton of data was collected from his first trip and repairs are being made so he can continue his journey at sea. Wilson is on the mend and will be back in action with a new and improved system! You can see all his accomplishments on Instagram at @theoceancleanup.
4. Coral Reefs aren’t so coral anymore.
You’ve probably seen these beauties on a snorkeling adventure or maybe in movies or TV shows. Not only are they majestic looking but coral reefs play a huge role in the marine life ecosystem. Another unfortunate consequence of pollution and rising temps is the bleaching of these coral reefs. Coral maintains its vibrant color from the algae that lives inside it and when the ocean gets too warm, the coral rids itself of that algae which causes it to become a dingy white color—hence the name “bleaching.”
There are some pretty incredible people out there dedicating their lives to protecting coral reefs and doing everything in their power to restore what has been damaged. The Coral Reef Alliance is an organization that partners with local communities to help protect and restore the reefs. The Ocean Conservancy helps protect against threats to every organism living in our oceans, and even the EPA has stepped up to provide assistance on the federal level.
5. You can help protect our oceans
- Be conscious of your consumption
- Reusables are best, avoid single-use when possible!
- Buy sustainable seafood. Simply put, make sure the seafood you purchase was raised wild or farm via environmentally responsible practices. If you’re not sure, just ask your local farmer or store clerk!
- Beach cleanup. It doesn’t have to be anything formal, but when you’re at the beach this summer be mindful of the trash around you and make it a point to pick up a few scraps every time you go.
- Support ocean conservancy companies and brands. Consider a monthly donation to your favorite org or rep some ocean-friendly swag like 4Ocean bracelets.
- Learn and share. Educate yourself about the ocean and help spread the word. Awareness is the first step!
We know these facts are alarming but understanding what’s going on is the first step in being able to do something about it. Every single little action you take has a big impact and it’s never too late to start making changes. We’re here to help so don’t hesitate to comment below with questions!