It's beginning to look a lot like World Oceans Day

Feature Story - 2008-06-05
It's that time of year again. People worldwide are scurrying about making last minute preparations for World Oceans Day on Sunday -- trimming the coral and hanging out their scuba socks. Father Neptune is checking his list of good children who have only eaten pole-caught sustainable fish all year, and hitching up his conch shell chariot's team of eight tiny seahorses. And we at Greenpeace are doing our part with ships in the Pacific Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, activists on land pressuring seafood suppliers and retailers to go sustainable, and, in the sky, Google Earth giving people a birds' eye view of the solution to saving our seas: a global network of marine reserves.

At least somebody is celebrating World Oceans Day.

What's that? You don't celebrate World Oceans Day? Dear friends, the ocean gave us life. Not celebrating World Oceans Day is as bad as missing Mothers' Day, Fathers' Day, and Earth Day combined.

In fact, there aren't many days dedicated to taking action to save one of our planet's life support systems. Millions of people depend on the oceans for their livelihood, their food, or both.  It's estimated that the oceans absorb 30-50 percent of the carbon dioxide our fossil-fueled civilization emits. The oceans produce half of the oxygen we breathe. Quite literally, if the oceans die, our planet dies.

So how do we treat this living, breathing set of planetary lungs? We poison it with oil and toxic effluents. We use destructive fishing methods to scrape the sea-floor clean of centuries-old coral and other living things in search of a few premium species.  We kill whales in the name of fake science. We strip the fins from sharks. We send more and more boats out chasing fewer and fewer fish. We build super-destructive fishing vessles with the capacity to remove thousands of tonnes in a single trip -- more fish than entire countries can  fish out in an entire year.  And we ignore the warnings of scientists when they recommend we cut back on fishing for bluefin, yellowfin, and bigeye tuna.

Not the sort of situation you can address like Secretary's day, with a bunch of flowers and a card to say how much we appreciate all the oceans do for us and we're sorry for all the aggro.

From the sky

Google Earth What's needed is action. And that's what we're demanding.  A network of marine reserves protecting 40 percent of our world's oceans. Thanks to Google Earth's Outreach programme, Greenpeace will be marking World Oceans Day by introducing information about marine reserves into the Global Awareness layer that comes bundled with every copy of Google Earth.  You can get a sneak peak here in Google Maps at our starter set of ten marine reserves that could make a big difference.  In Google Earth, they'll be visible by clicking on the Global Awareness level and following the Greenpeace icons around the world.

Our more detailed map of reserves to save the Mediterranean is also available as a Google Map.

In the Pacific

Over the last two months, the Greenpeace ship Esperanza has been highlighting the overfishing of bigeye and yellowfin tuna and defending the international waters between the Pacific island countries as no-take marine reserves.  During their time at sea, the activists have taken peaceful direct action against fishing fleets from Taiwan, Korea, Spain, the US and the Philippines.   And they're getting results. Nine Pacific island states have declared their support for the Greenpeace plan, and introduced a form of local licensing enforcement: if you want to fish their national waters, you have to agree to leave those high seas areas alone.  That's a big step toward declaring the Pacific Commons, as we call them, the first high seas marine reserves in the world.  In anticipation of winning this campaign, we've even run a contest in the Pacific to name the three areas we're highlighting -- results to be announced Friday, June 6th, as a kick off to World Oceans' Day weekend.

On land

In May, 80 activists from 15 countries shut down five tuna suppliers at the Brussels Seafood Expo, demanding that suppliers and retailers take steps to ensure that the fish they sell comes from legal and sustainable sources. More and more fish purchasers are responding to our call for better labelling so consumers are not making uninformed choices, traceability so retailers know the fish they buy was caught legally and fairly, and for retailers to agree not to buy or sell species that are endangered or dangerously depleted.  And as the Pacific island countries move toward protecting the Pacific Commons with marine reserves, we're asking seafood retailers and suppliers to do their part -- by not buying or selling tuna sourced from the Pacific Commons.

In the Mediterranean

Meanwhile, the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise is in the Mediterranean tackling the critical overfishing of northern bluefin tuna.  Unsustainable management and illegal overfishing have brought this fishery to the brink of collapse. Greenpeace is calling for a complete closure of the fishery until proper management and enforcement are in place, including marine reserves for the Mediterranean breeding areas of the bluefin tuna.  In Turkey, that call has led to confrontation as three tuna seiners surrounded the Arctic Sunrise, the crew of one of them attacking the ship with lead weights which disabled our onboard helicopter.  What we failed to impress upon them is a point made by Marine Biologist Callum Roberts: "The fishing industry doesn´t realise that Greenpeace is their best friend." And it's true. We're calling for marine reserves today, to ensure the world has fish tomorrow. And so that those who make their living from fish, like our Turkish friends, have jobs in the future.

View Save the Mediterranean in a larger map

The oceans will be on our minds on Sunday. Spare a thought for them yourself. Take a moment to join the call for a worldwide network of marine reserves -- if you're not decking the halls with strands of kelp, it's really the least you could do for your former home, and the creatures who live there now.

Take action

Ask the United Nations to join the call to save our seas by declaring 40 percent of our world's oceans as marine reserves.


We give a voice to the planet. We rely on your donations to keep that voice loud and effective, and to keep our ships campaigning on the world's oceans.