Nature and Biodiversity

What is World Ocean Day?

Many individuals and organizations from around the world participate in World Ocean Day.

Many individuals and organizations from around the world participate in World Ocean Day. Image: Unsplash/Cristian Palmer

Ewan Thomson
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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This article was first published on 7 June 2022 and updated on 2 June 2023.

  • Carbon emissions from human activity are causing ocean warming, acidification and oxygen loss, the UN reports.
  • World Ocean Day on 8 June encourages action throughout the year to protect the planet.
  • It’s part of the global movement '30x30' to safeguard at least 30% of the world’s land, waters and ocean by 2030.
  • Thousands of events will be hosted by youth groups, schools, aquariums, zoos and businesses in 150 countries.

This year marks the 31st anniversary of World Ocean Day, a day of action that supports the implementation of worldwide sustainable development goals, while aiming to foster public interest in the protection of the ocean and sustainable management of its resources.

Protecting resources and livelihoods

The ocean covers more than 70% of the Earth’s surface. It produces at least half of the planet’s oxygen and absorbs around 30% of the carbon dioxide produced by humans. The sea is home to most of our biodiversity and 3 billion people globally rely on this for their livelihoods, according to the United Nations. The UN says around 200 million people are employed either directly or indirectly in related industries.

Carbon emissions from human activity are causing ocean warming, acidification and oxygen loss. Coastal waters are deteriorating due to pollution and eutrophication which causes harmful algae blooms. With 90% of big fish populations depleted and half of all coral reefs destroyed, more is being taken from the sea than can be replenished.

An infographic showing the threat of climate change to the ocean,
Climate change is having a range of negative impacts on the ocean. Image: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
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World Ocean Day goals

This year’s event on 8 June continues to raise awareness and support the goal of safeguarding at least a third of the ocean through a network of highly protected areas by 2030.

World Ocean Day also builds on two recent victories – a High Seas Treaty agreement to protect the world's biodiversity in international waters, and a commitment from global leaders to 30x30, conserving 30% of our lands, water and ocean by 2030.

World Ocean Day has also created a “how-to guide” making it easier for participants to advance the 30x30 movement. It includes lesson plans for children, printable posters and banners, and merchandise for volunteers. Numerous events are planned worldwide, from beach clean-ups to special screenings and exhibitions.

The Youth Advisory Council, with 26 members from 23 countries, provides ideas and recommendations for ocean and climate conservation throughout the year. Young people are vital to the future of the movement and the planet, and this year, World Oceans Day is encouraging coordinators, participants and supporters to share why they are supporting the initiatives.

“To me, celebrating World Oceans Day means celebrating all the efforts that are made by individuals worldwide,” said Rada Pandeva, Youth Advisory Council member from Bulgaria, age 20. “It is a chance to recognize the progress we are making and to remind ourselves to keep going because our own wellbeing is dependent on our ocean’s wellbeing.”

The race to protect and restore the ocean needs the support of both the public and private sector. The Friends of Ocean Action is a coalition of more than 70 ocean leaders co-hosted by the World Economic Forum and the World Resources Institute. Since 2018, its members – from civil society, international organizations, science and technology – have been working towards achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal 14: “Life below water” by 2025.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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