National Geographic Society Newsroom

World Celebrates Oceans Day

The United Nations has declared today, June 8, as World Oceans Day. Are you ready to take part in it? “While official U.N. designation is not going to change things overnight it is an important step in improving the health of our world’s ocean,” says The Ocean Project, a network in 75 countries of more than...

The United Nations has declared today, June 8, as World Oceans Day. Are you ready to take part in it?


“While official U.N. designation is not going to change things overnight it is an important step in improving the health of our world’s ocean,” says The Ocean Project, a network in 75 countries of more than 900 partner zoos, aquariums, and museums, plus conservation and education organizations, agencies, and institutions.


The concept of a “World Ocean Day” was first proposed in 1992 by the Government of Canada at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

The Ocean Project worked closely with the World Ocean Network for the last six years to promote and coordinate World Ocean Day events and activities with aquariums, zoos, museums, conservation organizations and agencies, universities, schools, and businesses. “Each year an increasing number of countries and organizations have been marking June 8 as opportunity to celebrate our world ocean and our personal connection to the sea,” says The Ocean Project’s Web site.

With the World Ocean Network, The Ocean Project also developed and widely circulated a petition to the United Nations urging the U.N. to recognize World Ocean Day officially .

World Oceans Day was declared by the United Nations as June 8 each year beginning in 2009. The official theme for 2009 is: “Our Oceans, Our Responsibility.”

Here is the official message for World Oceans Day 2009 from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:

“The first observance of World Oceans Day allows us to highlight the many ways in which oceans contribute to society. It is also an opportunity to recognize the considerable challenges we face in maintaining their capacity to regulate the global climate, supply essential ecosystem services and provide sustainable livelihoods and safe recreation.

“Indeed, human activities are taking a terrible toll on the world’s oceans and seas. Vulnerable marine ecosystems, such as corals, and important fisheries are being damaged by over-exploitation, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, destructive fishing practices, invasive alien species and marine pollution, especially from land-based sources. Increased sea temperatures, sea-level rise and ocean acidification caused by climate change pose a further threat to marine life, coastal and island communities and national economies.

NGS illustrations by Else Bostelmann

“Oceans are also affected by criminal activity. Piracy and armed robbery against ships threaten the lives of seafarers and the safety of international shipping, which transports 90 per cent of the world’s goods. Smuggling of illegal drugs and the trafficking of persons by sea are further examples of how criminal activities threaten lives and the peace and security of the oceans.

“Several international instruments drawn up under the auspices of the United Nations address these numerous challenges. At their centre lies the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It provides the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out, and is the basis for international cooperation at all levels. In addition to aiming at universal participation, the world must do more to implement this Convention and to uphold the rule of law on the seas and oceans.

“The theme of World Oceans Day, “Our oceans, our responsibility”, emphasizes our individual and collective duty to protect the marine environment and carefully manage its resources. Safe, healthy and productive seas and oceans are integral to human well-being, economic security and sustainable development.”

Ten Ways to Help Save Our Oceans

By The Nature Conservancy

“World Ocean Day was established by the United Nations to help create awareness about our seas, their importance to people, and the growing threats they face,” said Lynne Hale, director of The Nature Conservancy’s global marine program. 


“Recent studies about the threatened state of our oceans serve as an important reminder there are small and tangible steps that each of us can take to help reduce our impacts,” she said in a statement released today.

“An estimated 80 percent of all life on Earth depends on healthy oceans and coasts, and more than one-third of the world’s population lives in coastal areas or on small islands. 

“Oceans provide people around the world with sustenance, economic opportunities, recreation and spiritual renewal. 

“The world’s oceans supply us with more than U.S. $21 trillion annually in goods and services, like food, energy and transportation, and even medicine. 

“Barrier beaches, coral reefs, mangroves and wetlands also offer protection from the effects of storms and other natural disasters. 

“Yet growing demands on our planet’s seas are increasing the loss of marine habitat and rapidly depleting ocean and coastal resources.  How we manage our land thousands of miles away can have serious impacts on our seas. 

“But with a few small, simple changes in your daily routine, you can help reduce your impact on our oceans, and help to protect their resources for future generations:

1. Reduce your plastic consumption. The most frequently collected items during beach cleanups are made of plastic — think reusable shopping bags, water bottles and utensils.

2. Make informed seafood choices. Keep a copy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s seafood guide in your wallet or text Blue Ocean’s FishPhone to help you choose sustainable seafood at the grocery store or a restaurant.

3. Dispose of chemicals properly. Never pour chemicals, pharmaceuticals, oil or paint into the drain or toilets. Check with your county’s household hazardous waste program to properly dispose of or recycle chemicals and keep them out of rivers and oceans.

4. Choose green detergents and household cleaners–or make your own! Besides being better for your own health, these products are safer for the environment since what goes down the drain can end up in our oceans.

NGS illustrations by Else Bostelmann

5.Get the dirt on your beachside retreat. Before you stay in a hotel on the coast, ask staff what happens to their sewage and swimming pool water, and if they source their restaurant fish from sustainable sources.

6. Find out the source of your food. Buying local, organic food reduces your carbon footprint, supports the local economy and reduces the amount of pesticides and fertilizers that end up not just in your stomach, but as run-off in rivers and oceans, too.

7. Fill your yard with native species. Reducing the amount of grass in your lawn by planting native shrubs and flower beds will provide a better habitat for birds and other wildlife and require far less water and fertilizer, which can seep into the oceans.

8. Keep your beach visit clean. When visiting the beach, stay off fragile sand dunes, take your trash with you and leave plants, birds and wildlife for everyone to enjoy. Find a Conservancy coastal preserve near you.

9. Choose alternatives to coral. Whether shopping for jewelry, household décor or accessories for your fish tank, do your part to leave fragile coral reef habitats untouched by buying products that aren’t made of real coral.

10. Celebrate our oceans. Whether you live inland or on the coast, we are all connected to the ocean; take the time to organize or participate in activities that restore and celebrate the ocean, and help support The Nature Conservancy’s ocean conservation work by visiting


NGS illustration by Else Bostelmann

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Author Photo David Max Braun
More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn