World Oceans Day 2021: what is the United Nations awareness day, this year’s activities and theme

The UN initiative hopes to raise awareness around human impact on the oceans.

World Ocean Day is being celebrated around the globe on June 8 as people take time to appreciate the importance of seas on Earth.

The day comes just ahead of the G7 summit being held in Cornwall later this week, where leaders are expected to address issues surrounding climate change.

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What is World Ocean Day?

Around 50% of the world's coral reefs have been depleted.

World Ocean Day is a United Nations (UN) initiative which was first declared in 1992 after the UN Earth Summit, also known as the Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro.

This meeting led to important worldwide climate change goals.

June 8 was officially designated as World Ocean Day in 2008, with a commitment to a different ocean-based theme each year.

The idea of the day is to raise awareness about the benefits humans receive from the ocean, as well as reminding us of our responsibility to treat it with care and use its resources sustainably.

The oceans are key to life on the planet.

The day also offers a chance to show appreciation for the ways in which world oceans support human life.

It’s hoped that the day helps to inform the wider public about the importance of the oceans and the impact of human activities on it, encouraging people to manage the seas more sustainably.

You can see and participate in the virtual events and activities for the day through links on the UN’s World Ocean Day website.

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What is this year’s theme?

Every Ocean Day has its own theme, and this year’s is “The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods”.

This year’s event will “shed light on the wonder of the ocean and how it is our lifesource, supporting humanity and every other organism on Earth”, the UN says.

Why is the day important?

Oceans cover significantly more of Earth than land mass, representing 70% of the planet. They produce 50% of the world’s oxygen, are the main source of protein for more than a billion people and are home to the majority of the planet’s biodiversity.

Importantly, the seas also absorb around 30% of carbon dioxide created by human activities.

However, human activities are having a huge impact on world seas, with the UN saying we’re taking more from the ocean than can be naturally replenished.

Around 90% of big fish populations are depleted and 50% of coral reefs have been destroyed.

The UN says a new balance must be created, "rooted in true understanding of the ocean and how humanity relates to it".

The aim of the day is to build a connection to the ocean that is "inclusive, innovative and informed by lessons from the past".

This year, World Ocean Day doesn’t just coincide with the week of the G7 summit but also in the year that the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development begins.

The decade offers an opportunity to help politicians and other decision-makers use our understanding of the oceans to take action to help save them from decline.

It will also aim to support a “Blue Economy”, in which research and technologies for understanding the oceans will be bolstered.

The decade is part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by all UN members which aims to reduce inequalities, spur economic growth and tackle climate change.