By Aimee Welch
The Fate Of Our Oceans
Our ocean ecosystems are facing a serious crisis, threatened by climate change, a deluge of plastic and litter, overfishing, industrial and chemical pollution, and habit destruction—to name just a few. Humans have contributed greatly to this global crisis, but recent initiatives may provide the education and awareness needed to inspire action and effect change. Across the globe, we celebrate World Oceans Day on June 8, while June 1, 2019, marks the inaugural celebration of World Reef Day. That makes this month a great time to start your own movement.
Oceans In Crisis
Cigarette butts, food wrappers, and plastic beverage bottles and caps are the most pervasive and harmful types of litter found in our oceans and on our beaches. According to the Ocean Conservancy’s 2018 “International Coastal Cleanup Report,” 2,412,151 cigarette butts, 1,739,743 food wrappers, and 1,569,135 plastic beverage bottles were collected worldwide during the 2017 International Coastal Cleanup. Approximately 10 percent of the world’s fish stocks have been depleted, according to Food and Agriculture Organization estimates. Our coral reefs are declining—by 40% in Hawaii and the Great Barrier Reef, 85% in the Caribbean, and 99% in the Florida Keys.
Why does it all matter?
It matters because the largest ecosystem on the planet makes up 71% of the Earth’s surface and has an impact on the climate, economies, health and livelihood of people around the world, now and for generations to come. The bottom line: oceans are vital to the survival of life on Earth. Sunscreen chemicals damaging coral reefs While there are many threats to our oceans, studies have shown that chemicals used in the majority of
sunscreens are contributing to the decline of coral reefs. According to the National Park Service, certain chemicals awaken coral viruses, which causes them to become sick and expel algae, which leads to “coral bleaching,” and ultimately, death.
An estimated 4,000 to 6,000 tons of sunscreen is washed off in reef areas every year. Whether you live in a coastal city or in middle America, your actions make an impact. Our waterways are all connected, so what goes down your drain at home is going to end up in lakes, rivers and oceans. Covering just 1% of the ocean floor, coral reefs support the highest marine diversity in the world. The beautiful, colorful reefs we see in photographs are formed by colonies of living coral polyps, relatives of sea anemones, and jellyfish that attach themselves to rocks and soil by secreting layers of calcium carbonate.
Why Coral Is A Vital Part Of Oceanic Ecosystems
The breathtaking homes they create are some of most valuable ecosystems on Earth. Half a billion people rely on coral reefs for food and jobs; reefs provide most of the world’s oxygen; they help prevent erosion and property damage; and coral reef plants and animals are important sources for new medical treatments to treat illnesses such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, viral and bacterial infections, and arthritis, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Some analysts predict that without coral reefs, the fishing and tourism industries in many countries would collapse, leading to poverty, hunger and political instability. Understanding the importance of our delicate ocean ecosystems is an important step in protecting our oceans and preventing further reef loss. Raw Elements USA pioneers World Reef Day to raise awareness Inspired by new legislation banning the use of sunscreens containing the coral-damaging chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate (going into effect in Hawaii and Key West, Fla., in 2021), certified-natural sunscreen company Raw Elements USA pioneered World Reef Day, an annual celebration (as of June 1,
2019!) recognized by the National Day Calendar Association.
Call To Action For Our Oceans
The day is a call to action for consumers, businesses, organizations, influencers and leaders to reflect, learn and create change through education and engagement. “The launch of World Reef Day is the culmination of a lifelong dream of ours to make a difference on this planet through awareness, education and positive action,” says Brian Guadagno, founder and CEO of Raw Elements USA. “As consumers become more aware of the perils facing our oceans, we want to empower them to initiate simple changes in their daily lives, such as using reef-safe sunscreen and reducing plastic waste, which will have an enormous impact on the planet.” To learn more about coral reefs, reef-safe sunscreen ingredients, and what you can do to help, visit www.worldreefday.org.
What You Can Do To Help Protect Our Oceans And Reefs
1. Wear non-nano zinc oxide sunscreen
2. Reduce your use of plastic (don’t use plastic bags or straws!)
3. Choose non-toxic household/yard chemicals
4. Buy only sustainable seafood (https://usa.oceana.org/sustainable-seafood-guide)
5. Volunteer for beach and community cleanups (Sept. 21 is International Coastal Cleanup Day!)
6. Follow NOAA’s #30daysofocean throughout June to learn more about ocean conservation
7. Learn more, spread the message, and inspire change (www.worldoceansday.org)
Aimee Welch is a writer and editor from Chandler. She is an Ohio native and graduate of The Ohio State University, and a regular contributor to Green Living magazine.
Photo Credit: Brian Guadagno (Raw Elements)