World Oceans Day 2024: Catalyzing Action for Our Ocean and Climate

Publish: 1:15 AM, June 7, 2024 | Update: 1:15 AM, June 7, 2024

Ocean Covers 70 percent of the earth’s surface and supports the earth’s largest ecosystem, thus the Earth can be more correctly called Blue Planet. The ocean regulates the long-term climate of the world, as it is the largest heat and carbon reservoir of the world. Currently, while climate change and marine pollution have become a burning issue, the theme of World Oceans Day 2024 “Catalyzing Action for Our Ocean and Climate” is the most time-befitting one. 

World Oceans Day has been celebrated since 1992 by all the member countries of the United Nations unifying the world to recognize the importance of the ocean and to reinvigorate the conservation and management approaches worldwide.

It is estimated that between 50-80% of the oxygen production on earth comes from the ocean and absorbs 30% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by human activities.Oceans are home to approximately 230,000 known species, with estimates suggesting there could be millions more yet to be discovered.Coral Reefs, also known as the rainforest of the sea, cover less than 1% of the ocean floor, however, they support 25% of all marine life.

Marine fisheries provide more than 3.3 billion people with almost 20% of their average per capita intake of animal protein.The global ocean economy including fishing, tourism, and shipping, is estimated to be worth around $1.5 trillion annually. Over 200 million people are employed, directly or indirectly, by marine fisheries and aquaculture industries. Around 90% of global trade is conducted via maritime routes, making oceans crucial for international commerce and the global supply chain.

However, pressure on this Buffer System (The Oceans) of the planet is increasing day by day. In the late 1700s, the air contained about 280 parts per million (ppm) of CO2, which is now about 420 ppm representing a 50% increase and it has been anticipated that by the end of the century, we could reach 600 ppm or more. This extra emission is contributing to global warming and ocean acidification. Due to global warming, the melting of ice caps and thermal expansion of ocean water are combined to result in Sea Level Rise (SLR) and increase the frequency of natural calamities. Besides, ocean acidification is a product of increased absorption of CO2 in the water that catalyzes reduced calcification thus coral bleaching, lowered immune responses, and reduced energy for basic functions such as reproduction. 

Marine Pollution including plastic pollution, oil pollution, chemical pollution, marine debris, sewage, and wastewater has become a great threat to marine ecosystems. Each year, an estimated 11 million metric tons of plastic waste enter the world’s oceans,which is equivalent to dumping a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute (oceanconservancy.org). It is estimated that marine plastics are contributing to the death of more than 100,000 marine mammals every year. Plastic can affect marine species in a variety of ways, from entanglement and injury to ingestion and toxic contamination.

Bangladesh situated at the edge of the largest bay of the world, the Bay of Bengal, is blessed with versatile marine resources. Bangladesh possesses a maritime area of 1,18,813 sq km which is nearly the area of the landmass of the country with 12 NM of territorial water, 200 NM of exclusive economic zone, and an extended continental shelf of 354 NM from the baseline. Marine fisheries contribute about 20% of the fish production of the country. Other resources include oil-gas, gas hydrate, minerals, seaweed, tourism, shipping and trade, sea salt production, etc. According to a recent report, gas hydrates underneath our Exclusive Economic Zone may produce 17-103 TCF natural gas. Bangladesh possesses a distinctive coast with many popular tourist destinations, including one of the world’s largest compact mangrove forests. Apart from these resources, international ports (Chittagong, Mongla and newly established Payra and under construction Matarbari port), Shipbuilding and shipbreaking industries provide important economic returns to Bangladesh.

Besides, the Geographic location of Bangladesh has made it one of the most vulnerable to climate change. According to many reports, the SLR at BoB is relatively higher than many other regions of the world ocean. In the last 35 years, salinity increased by around 26 percent in the country, spreading into non-coastal areas as well (reliefweb.int). In the last decade, the frequency of natural hazards in coastal Bangladesh has increased by many folds. A remarkable amount of Plastic debris from the littorals of the BoB enters the bay through the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) river system. Although the per capita consumption in Bangladesh is less than that in many other developing and neighboring nations, the mismanagement of plastic waste has led Bangladesh to rank 10th globally in mismanaging plastic waste.

Given this situation, conservation and management of the world ocean isn’t a task of one nation. It’s high time for the whole world to come forward to promise together to revive the lifeline of the planet Earth. In this regard, we want to seek the attention of the developed countries, which are the major contributors to the disturbance of the ocean, environmentally and politically,must be onward in fulfilling the targets of the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) relevant to the conservation of the ocean.

Although Bangladesh contributes only 0.56% to the global carbon emissions, the Government is determined to reduce black carbon emissions by 40% and Methane by 17% in 2030 and also working relentlessly for mitigation and adaptation of the effects of climate change. Along with these approaches capacity building, in-depth research activities, and awareness raising for the sustainable exploration and extraction of marine resources should be facilitated. For a smart and developed maritime Bangladesh based on Blue Economy, there is no alternative to recruiting qualified and skilled manpower. 

Most importantly, Climate and Ocean Literacy has become inevitable for Bangladesh, so that, every single person feels the need to be conscious about their daily activities which can deteriorate the oceans and the climate.