What is World Ocean Day?

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Stefan Ellerbeck, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • Carbon emissions from human activity are causing ocean warming, acidification and oxygen loss, the UN reports.
  • World Ocean Day encourages action throughout the year to protect the planet.
  • It’s part of a global movement to safeguard at least 30% of the world’s land, waters and ocean by 2030.
  • Thousands of events will be hosted by youth groups, schools, aquariums, zoos and businesses in 150 countries.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of World Ocean Day. Canada initially proposed the concept at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The event was officially recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in 2008. This international day of action supports the implementation of worldwide sustainable development goals. The aim is to foster public interest in the protection of the ocean and sustainable management of its resources.

Protecting resources and livelihoods

Oceans cover more than 70% of the earth’s surface. They produce at least half of the planet’s oxygen and absorb around 30% of the carbon dioxide produced by humans. The sea is home to most of our biodiversity and 3 billion people globally rely on this for their livelihoods according to the UN. The organization says around 200 million people are employed either directly or indirectly in related industries.

Carbon emissions from human activity are causing ocean warming, acidification and oxygen loss. Coastal waters are deteriorating due to pollution and eutrophication which causes harmful algae blooms. With 90% of big fish populations depleted and half of all coral reefs destroyed, more is being taken from the sea than can be replenished.

An infographic showing the threat of climate change on the oceans
Climate change is having a range of negative impacts on the ocean. Image: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

World Ocean Day goals

This year’s event will raise awareness and support for the goal of safeguarding at least a third of the ocean through a network of highly protected areas by 2030. For the first time World Ocean Day has created a “how-to guide” making it easier for participants to advance the “30 x 30” movement. It includes lesson plans for kids, printable posters and banners, and merchandise for volunteers. Numerous events are planned worldwide, from beach clean ups to special screenings and exhibitions.

Young people are vital to the future of the movement and the planet. The Youth Advisory Council with 25 members from 22 countries provides ideas and recommendations for ocean and climate conservation throughout the year. “Young environmental conservationists like us need to raise awareness amongst our peers as well as older generations” says Yutong Yang, Youth Advisory Council member from China.

“But that’s not enough; It is our duty to come up with new and creative solutions to the problems we’re facing, and to envision and usher in a healthy future for our planet by working together despite our differences – every day of the year!”

The race to protect and restore the ocean needs the support of both the public and private sector. The Friends of Ocean Action is a coalition of more than 70 ocean leaders co-hosted by the World Economic Forum and the World Resources Institute. Since 2018, its members – from civil society, international organizations, science and technology – have been working towards achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal 14: “Life below water” by 2025.

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