Happy World Oceans Day!

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What is World Oceans Day?

Since 2002, people across the globe have honored June 8th as World Oceans Day. The point of this annual event is to recognize and honor the 70% of our planet covered in the briny deep. While most people love the ocean, not so many of us actually take the time to consider what it actually does for us.

Did you know that most of the oxygen in the atmosphere is generated by phytoplankton in our vast seas? The ocean also generates a tremendous amount of the food we rely on to survive. The bounty of the sea comes in the form of delicious fish, clams, oysters, and calamari. It also comes to us indirectly, in the form of abundant crops grown in fields the world over. Agriculture requires fresh water to grow. Before falling to the ground in the form of life-giving rain, our most reliable freshwater supply must evaporate from the surface of the shining sea.

The World’s Greatest Conservation Challenge

You may be asking yourself why a place like Safari West would celebrate World Oceans Day. We’re an African wildlife preserve. We specialize in not the fishes of the sea, but the beasts of the savanna. In fact, the only fish in our collection are the koi who gracefully patrol the shores of Lemur Island.

Now, we love our koi, but we’re not doing this just for them. In truth, we celebrate World Oceans Day because we’re conservation advocates. When it comes to conservation, every ecosystem matters and the ocean is the largest ecosystem out there. The five great oceans (Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Arctic, and Southern) face many grave challenges today. Global climate change has lead to rising temperatures and ocean acidification that has decimated coral reefs. Poorly regulated industrial fishing has resulted in a massive decline in fishing stocks. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United States, “roughly one-third of assessed fish populations are over-fished and over half are fully-fished”. Trying to tackle all the issues at once would be both exhausting and impossible. That’s why we use World Oceans Day to highlight one issue each year.

World Oceans Day 2018

This year, we’re using World Oceans Day to draw attention to a particularly nefarious problem; plastics. As we’ve covered elsewhere, plastic has become one of the most ubiquitous substances on the planet. It’s everywhere, it doesn’t biodegrade, and almost inevitably, it winds up in the sea. We’ve all seen pictures of seabirds trapped in six-pack rings. You’ve probably heard about sea turtles mistaking grocery bags for delicious jellyfish. You may even have seen the headline this week about a pilot whale that beached and died in Thailand. An autopsy uncovered a mind-boggling 17 pounds of plastic trash in the creature’s belly.

This tragic event joins a growing mountain of evidence demonstrating the dangers of our plastic addiction. Thankfully, this mountain hasn’t been ignored and change is in the air. single-use plastic grocery bags are in their final days. Plastic straws appear to be following close behind, and we’re seeing more options than ever when it comes to replacing single-use plastic bottles.

Doing Our Part

Here at Safari West, we’ve made tremendous strides in reducing the amount of plastic waste we produce. The little plastic creamer packets we used to provide for our breakfast guests have been replaced by reusable carafes. Plastic straws went away years ago and this year, nearly all our bottled water comes in plastic-free containers.

We’ve also partnered with our friends at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in their Seafood Watch program. If you enjoy sushi, southern fare, or any other cuisine heavy in seafood, you should download their app. With it, you can make sure what you put in your body was fished sustainably and in a way that helps to keep our oceans healthy and abundant.

If you’re going to be visiting Safari West on June 8th, please join us in honoring World Oceans Day. Reflect on the sea, what it gives us, and how amazing it is. Consider how you might be able to reduce your own personal impact on our beautiful oceans. And of course, stop by and visit our very own Cheetah Marie! She’s put together a display showcasing all the steps we’ve taken to reduce our plastic footprint and she’s always happy to share some tips!

Happy World Oceans Day and see you at Safari West!

Jared Paddock

Safari West staff and conservation writer.

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Happy World Oceans Day!