June 8 is World Oceans Day - a day to focus on how we are connected to the oceans and what we can do to improve the condition they're in.
Here's a quick overview of why our oceans matter, what's happening to them, and what we can do about it.
To read more and find out about events in your area, visit the World Oceans Day site.
What's At Stake
Oceans are incredibly important to us: they cover 71 per cent of the planet, provide about 80 per cent of our oxygen, and contain more than 97 per cent of Earth's water.
They also have a huge influence on weather and climate, regulating temperatures and making the planet habitable.
The oceans supply us with food - fish represent the greatest percentage of the world's protein consumed by people - and carry the ships that allow countries to trade with one another.
More than 90 per cent of the trade between countries is conducted by ships.
What We Are Doing To The Oceans
Climate change and human activities are having a profound effect on the world's oceans, and not always in the ways we expect.
For an overview of the major shifts that are taking place as a result of climate change, check out this document from Conservation.org. It lists five climate change effects on the oceans:
Some of the damage comes from things like oil spills, but a lot of what we do on land causes big problems.
In fact, more than 80 per cent of all pollution in seas and oceans comes from land-based activities.
Most of the waste we generate ends up reaching the oceans, either through direct dumping or through run-off from drains and rivers.
The World Wildlife Fund has a breakdown of the activities that are causing damage. Here are some of the main points:
Oil spills are a major problem but they only represent about 12 per cent of the oil that enters the seas and oceans each year. 36 per cent comes from drains and rivers, as waste and runoff from cities and industry.
Farms and lawns are contributing to big problems in coastal areas: runoff of fertilizer causes eutrophication, which causes more algae to grow and the algae depletes the oxygen for other marine life.
Solid garbage - things like shoes, glass bottles, plastic bags, balloons, and packaging materials - can easily end up underwater if it's not correctly disposed of. And plastic garbage, which is slow to decompose, is often mistaken for food by marine life, leading to many deaths.
A lot of untreated sewage flows directly into the seas and oceans. 80 per cent of urban sewage discharged into the Mediterranean Sea, for instance, is untreated. It can cause human diseases, and like fertilizer, it leads to eutrophication.
According to the WWF, almost every marine organism is suffering from contamination due to man-made chemicals, including those used in pesticides and common products. People once assumed the oceans are so large they'd be able to absorb and dilute chemicals safely. We now know that isn't true.
What We Can Do To Help
A supply boat avoids an oil spill 370 km northeast of Rio de Janeiro, November 2011 (Photo: Getty)
The problem of ocean pollution is practically as big as the oceans themselves. But there are some things we can do to curb the damage being done. Here's a few things to keep in mind:
• Don't dispose of paints, solvents, cleaners, pesticides or other chemicals down your drains
• Cut down on pesticides and herbicides (they end up in the seas and oceans eventually) and try out some natural pest control methods
• Get rid of used motor oil safely (talk to your local council about recycling programs or safe disposal)
• Try out some ocean-friendly products - here's a list of 10 ocean-friendly gift ideas
• Use less water - Canada is one of the highest water users per capita in the entire world, according to Environment Canada. The more freshwater we use, the more of it ends up in the oceans, depleting a limited natural resource. And the stuff we add to water, from personal hygiene products to medicine, increases the possibility it will pollute the oceans.
There are lots of films that explore the state of our oceans, the relationship between humankind and the environment, and what can be done to improve things. Here are a few projects to check out.
The Terramar Project
Although the state of our oceans affects us all, the oceans aren't actually a state - and that means they don't get the same protection as countries and territories with land boundaries do.
The idea behind The Terramar Project is to create a "citizenship" of the high seas, and create a strong community that will work together to protect our world's bodies of water.
Founder Ghislaine Maxwell explains the goals of the project to Bloomberg in the video above, and you can visit TheTerramarProject.org to find out more and get involved.
Arctic Ocean Acidification
This 12-minute doc from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program gives a scary, but clear overview of what ocean acidification is and what it's doing to the Arctic Ocean.
With interviews from experts and members of the Arctic community, it's a great doc if you want a better understanding of the effects of climate change in the north.
Director Rob Stewart, the guy behind 'Sharkwater', returned this year with a new documentary. 'Revolution' traces his journey around the world, uncovering the dangers facing our ecosystems.
Rob sat down with George this season to talk about the movie, and the world's oceans. Check that out below:
Plastic Pollution In The Sargasso Sea
This documentary project, which is partly funded by Kickstarter donations, has taken filmmakers Michelle and Justin around the world, from Greenland to the U.S. to the Sargasso Sea, to look at the effects of plastic on the marine population and ecosystem.
They're shooting a series of short docs - the first two are already online, and the third will be finished soon. Their plan is "to engage a diverse audience online, in print media and traveling public exhibits to raise awareness about the need for responsible plastics use and disposal." The docs are worth a look for their stunning timelapse footage, and their environmental message.
TED Talk: Underwater Astonishments
To get an idea of the amazing life that exists under the sea, and what might be at risk if nothing is done to prevent further pollution, check out David Gallo's TED Talk from 2008, which shows off some of the exceptional and strange marine life that's been discovered over the years.