This weekend we happily celebrated World Oceans Day! Every year on June 8th, hundreds of events are planned all around the globe to celebrate the ocean, its importance in our lives, and how we can protect it. This year’s theme, “together we have the power to protect the ocean,” was about making a lasting change, and having participants rise up and be a voice for the ocean.
So why do we have a day dedicated to the ocean? It’s pretty simple. The ocean plays a critical role in supporting life on this planet. It generates most of the oxygen we breathe, helps feed us, regulates our climate, cleans our drinking water, and even offers ideas for potential medicines. Not to mention that it also provides us a beautiful sight and limitless inspiration!
Sharks have faced many threats to their population, one of the largest being shark finning. Lack of regulation for shark finning and poor fishing practices result in millions of sharks being killed every year in legal and illegal fisheries, decimating shark populations around the world. In addition to advocating for more protections, we also work to present on-the-ground solutions. In December 2013, Defenders helped organize a shark identification workshop in Brazil as part of an international effort to cut down on the devastating impact of the fin trade on shark species.
Off the coast of Florida lives Florida’s state marine animal, the Florida manatee. This gentle giant is a marine relative of the land-dwelling elephant. Unfortunately, manatees live under a barrage of threats. The leading human-caused threat to the Florida manatee is collisions with boats and other watercraft. To combat this issue, Defenders is working to enforce slow speed zones where manatees live. We have had much success with this, as many of the areas manatees frequently inhabit now have reduced speed limits. We’re also lobbying to expand existing protected areas, and to guide future development away from critical habitat. Click here to help manatees now!
North Atlantic Right Whales
Another species Defenders currently is working to protect is the North Atlantic right whale. Defenders of Wildlife has long led the conservation community’s efforts to protect right whales from ship strikes. Because right whales spend much of their time near the surface looking for food, they are prone to being hit by ships. In 2008, we succeeded in prompting the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to publish the first-ever speed limits for large ships. Now, we are working to ensure that those speed limits continue to protect right whales in the most vital areas of their habitat. The NMFS has publicly acknowledged that new habitat protections are urgently needed, but have done nothing so far. You too can help North Atlantic right whales: Click here to tell NMFS to expand critically-needed ocean habitat for these unique animals!
The ocean and its inhabitants are incredibly important to protect, so if you happened to miss World Ocean Day, remember that you can honor the ocean and its inhabitants every day! Together we can help support this important resource that connects us all.
Taylor O’Donnell is the Communications Intern at Defenders of Wildlife