World Oceans Day:
8 June, 2017

2017 World Oceans Day Theme:
“Our Oceans, Our Future”

Background:

Living in a country completely surrounded by oceans, Australians know the importance that these bodies of water play in our lives. It is estimated that for every one known species of marine life, there are at least three we still are not aware of. World Ocean Day is used to honour, help protect, and conserve the oceans on Earth which cover nearly 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface.

What can you do to help?

·      Always be aware of your carbon footprint and your energy consumption

·      Use fewer plastic products and be sure to recycle

·      Make sure your seafood choices are sustainable, check out this link: http://www.sustainableseafood.org.au/

·      Don’t litter! Even garbage left in our urban environments often ends up in the ocean

·      Travel and explore the ocean responsibly

·      Educate yourself about what the ocean has to offer and how it works

·      Support organizations who protect the ocean

·      Check out the World Oceans Day Website at http://www.worldoceansday.org/ to see events in your area.

Interesting Facts:

·      Water takes approximately 1000 years to travel around the entire world.

·      Through the concept of tectonic plates, the Atlantic Ocean is currently growing in size and the Pacific Ocean is shrinking.

·      Every time a washing machine is turned on, hundreds of thousands of microfibres are washed down the drain, a majority of which remains on the beaches and in the oceans for hundreds of years. To read more about what you can do to stop this, check out this article written by Greenpeace: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/makingwaves/microfibers-why-our-clothes-pollute-oceans/blog/58853/

The Great Barrier Reef:

Background:

“One of the 7 natural wonders of the world”, “Earths Largest Living Organism”, “Australia’s Most Celebrated Natural Treasure”, these are just a few of the names giving the amazing structure known as the Great Barrier Reef. The Reef runs about 2300 kilometres down the Queensland Coast, with more than 3000 individual reefs and 1000 islands. It is so massive that can actually be seen from space and it the only natural wonder with that feature.

What is happening to the reef?:

You keep hearing that all of a sudden the Great Barrier Reef is dying, but how is something that has been around for about 500,000 years suddenly being threatened? The reef’s ecosystem is very sensitive to changes to temperature. When the water temperature reaches about 30 degrees Celsius, the coral enters a state of stress. Coral contains marine algae known as “Zoonxanthellae”and this algae serves two purposes for the coral, colour and energy. When the coral is stressed it releases the algae leaving the coral to starve and soon to become transparent. Fortunately, the reef and coral have the ability to save themselves if the temperature returns to normal within 8 weeks, otherwise it will begin to die.

Although the current bleaching is considered the worst ever (22pc of the reef has died in this current phase that began in the start of 2016) that the Great Barrier Reef has experienced, this is not the first. Two lesser events occurred in 1998 and 2002. Thankfully due to Cyclone Winston arriving in February, the Reef was spared some damage as the waters rapidly cooled down in the central and southern regions.

Touring and Human interaction of the Reef:

The Great Barrier Reef experiences about 1.5 million tourists and 14 million recreational users a year from all over the world to take in its beautiful sights. Tourism has not shown to play a large effect on the Reef. In fact, the area of the Reef that saw the most damage isn’t even a tourist area. Although the Reef does not look like it did even last year at this time, tours are still encouraged to see the expansive natural wonder that is the Great Barrier Reef.

Illegal fishing and accidental catching of protected species is an issue that is also seen and occurs in the Great Barrier Reef, this is where human interaction is harmful and the fishing often is under the radar. The area known as the Green Zone is highly protected by the government, this area is approximately a third of the marine park. Fisherman sneak into the green zone because they know the quality of fish there is better due to its protection. With successful management and protection, the fish populations will continue to grow and eventually spill into areas outside the green zone.

 

References:

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2014/06/04/4018335.htm
http://www.worldoceansday.org/about
http://www.smh.com.au/interactive/2016/saving-the-reef/index.html
http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/take-action/10-things-you-can-do-to-save-the-ocean/