An Ocean Planet: World Ocean Day 2024

Stretching into a long-forgotten past, the sea has fascinated, challenged, and provided for us. But underneath the rolling blue wave, trouble signs are emerging. The ocean is under increasing stress, threatening habitats, wildlife, climate, communities, economies, and human health.

Ocean heat content keeps rising, breaking records for the fifth straight year. The acidifying burden of CO2 uptake and spiraling plastic pollution are like a fever, revealing imbalance and disease. That febrility is a warning, a reminder, and a call to action.

World Oceans Day 2024 launches a multi-year theme around catalyzing action for our oceans and climate.

World Oceans Day

World Oceans Day, celebrated annually on June 8, was proposed in 1992 by Canada’s International Centre for Ocean Development and the Ocean Institute of Canada at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Officially recognized by the United Nations in 2008, the day aims to raise global awareness about the critical role oceans play in our lives and the significant challenges they face.

The mission of World Oceans Day is to foster public interest in protecting the ocean and sustainable management of its resources, emphasizing the importance of collective and individual responsibility in preserving marine environments for future generations.

The State of the Ocean

The world’s oceans face a triple threat of heat, plastic, and acidity.

Ocean Heat

In 2023, the oceans absorbed about 287 zettajoules of heat, setting a new record. This increase in heat is equivalent to the energy of eight Hiroshima atomic bombs detonating every second of every day into the ocean. The surface temperatures were exceptionally high due to the combined effects of long-term global warming and a strong El Niño climate pattern.

Among its numerous impacts, higher sea temperatures cause sea level rise due to thermal expansion, stress, or kill coral reef systems, accelerate the melting of polar sea ice, redistribute fish populations, and deplete oxygen levels. These changes also contribute to extreme weather events on land, such as intense rainfall, droughts, and destructive storms.

Plastic Pollution

Plastic pollution has devastating effects on marine life. Animals can become entangled in plastic debris, leading to suffocation, laceration, and infections. Plastic ingestion can cause internal injuries, blockages, and starvation. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists approximately 17% of species affected by plastic pollution as endangered.

A graphic displaying the rise of microplastics in the ocean

Microplastics have been found in the bodies and tissues of marine animals, leading to poor reproductive success, retarded growth, and nutrient absorption issues.

Ocean Acidity

Due to CO2 emissions, the Southern Ocean’s acidity could double by the end of the century. In the upper layers, the pH could fall by 0.36 by 2100, seriously affecting marine fauna and ecosystems.

Acidification affects marine organisms, particularly those that rely on calcium carbonate for their shells, such as shellfish and coral. Acidity can disrupt the aquatic food chain, impacting species from phytoplankton to top predators like whales and penguins.

SOS: Save Our Seas

With awareness and collective action, we can make a difference. This is the call to action for World Oceans Day 2024 The following are a few things we can do to help heal and preserve the ocean environment and promote human well-being.

  • Reduce plastic use and properly dispose of plastics to prevent marine plastic pollution. Plastics can entangle or be ingested by marine life, causing injury or death.
  • Support sustainable seafood by choosing fish from sustainable sources and avoiding overfished species. Overfishing disrupts marine food webs and ecosystems.
  • Reduce carbon footprint by conserving energy, using renewable energy sources, and driving less. This helps mitigate climate change impacts like ocean warming and acidification that harm marine life.
  • Avoid using fertilizers and pesticides that can run off into waterways and oceans, causing algal blooms and dead zones.
    Participate in beach/coastal cleanups to remove debris and litter that pollutes the ocean.
  • Support organizations working to establish marine protected areas and conserve coastal habitats like mangroves and coral reefs.
  • Educate others and raise awareness about ocean threats and marine conservation’s importance.
  • Contact elected officials to voice support for policies and regulations that protect ocean health, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and plastic pollution.

World Oceans Day 2024: Living on an Ocean Planet

We are an ocean planet. The sea defines us as a species and how we live and thrive on our only home. For too long, we have considered it at once as a dumping ground and an inexhaustible resource. It is neither. It is the lifeblood of our planet. It courses through our veins and is the foundation of all life on Earth.

Feature image by Tim Marshall on Unsplash 


Thomas Schueneman
Thomas Schueneman
Tom is the founder and managing editor of and the PlanetWatch Group. His work appears in Triple Pundit, Slate, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, Earth911, and several other sustainability-focused publications. Tom is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

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