Karol Bagh | IAS GS Foundation Course | 29 May, 6 PM Call Us
This just in:

State PCS

Drishti IAS Blog

World Oceans Day: Raising Awareness for Healthier Oceans

  • 10 Jun 2024

Oceans cover 71% of the Earth’s surface and hold 97% of the planet’s water. The world's oceans, with their complex web of temperatures, chemistry, currents, and life forms, are vital to sustaining life on Earth. They regulate our weather, climate, coastlines, food supply, and produce much of the oxygen we breathe. Historically, oceans and seas have been essential routes for trade and transportation that facilitated the progress of civilizations and cultural exchange. However, as we navigate the 21st century, the health of the oceans is deteriorating due to pollution and ocean acidification. This decline not only poses a significant threat to small-scale fisheries and the communities that depend on them, but it also adversely affects ecosystems and biodiversity of the entire planet.

A Brief History

In recognition of the importance of the ocean for regulation of life on earth, the United Nations General Assembly designated June 8 as World Oceans Day through resolution 63/111 on December 5, 2008. The concept was initially proposed at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro to celebrate the ‘shared ocean’ and the personal connection that living beings have with the sea. The day aims to raise awareness about the role of the ocean in our lives as well as how people can contribute to its protection.

World Ocean Day 2024

Each year, World Ocean Day has a specific theme to focus attention on a particular aspect of ocean conservation. For 2024, the theme set by the UN is ‘Awaken New Depths’. The theme attempts to underscore the need for a fundamental shift in our relationship with the ocean. It further seeks to highlight that previous efforts for ocean preservation have merely touched the surface. Therefore, in order to spark widespread momentum for the ocean, there is a need to delve into new depths.

Challenges to Ocean Health

To address the challenges concerning the health of the ocean effectively, one must first understand the current threats facing the ocean and what are the strategies that can be implemented to mitigate and prevent them.

  • Climate Change and Global Warming: The ocean and climate change are intricately connected, as the climate change posses significant threat to marine health. According to the latest findings from the State of the Ocean Report 2024, the rate of ocean warming has doubled compared to two decades ago, with 2023 witnessing one of the most significant increases since the 1950s. Despite the commitments outlined in the Paris Agreements to limit global warming to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, ocean temperatures have already risen by an average of 1.45°C. Furthermore, in the hotspots such as the Mediterranean, Tropical Atlantic Ocean, and Southern Oceans it has surpassed 2°C. As the rising temperatures have immense effects on oceans, it leads to coral bleaching and ocean acidification. Coral reefs, for instance, are extremely sensitive to warming waters, which results in their bleaching and subsequent decline.
  • Ocean Acidification: Ocean acidification, a consequence of increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, is another critical issue. The ocean absorbs higher levels of CO2, due to which the pH level of water decreases, which in turn increases the life-threatening risks to marine species. With the ocean absorbing 25-30% of fossil fuel emissions, an excess of CO2 is altering the fundamental chemical makeup of the ocean. Since pre-industrial eras, ocean acidity has surged by 30%, and projections indicate it will escalate to 170% by 2100. UNESCO's research indicates that coastal species are particularly vulnerable to these changes: while acidity levels in high seas are steadily increasing, coastal waters are experiencing drastic fluctuations, oscillating between high and low acidity levels. These rapid shifts pose significant threats to young generations of marine organisms, which are too delicate to withstand such conditions, which will lead to higher mortality of marine animals.
  • Rising Sea Levels: The ocean absorbs 90% of the surplus heat emitted into the atmosphere, causing water to expand as it warms. Currently, warming ocean temperatures contribute to 40% of the overall global increase in sea levels and over the past three decades, the rate of sea level rise has doubled, reaching a total of 9cm. In addition, there is also an increase in thermal expansion in which water molecules change their shape and become more distant among each other due to the increasing temperature. This poses threats to both marine ecosystems and terrestrial life, causing wetland flooding, erosion, as well as contamination of agricultural lands.
  • Plastics and Ocean Debris: Human activities, particularly improper waste disposal and littering is one of the biggest reasons behind marine pollution. More than 80% of marine pollution originates from land, with an estimated eight million tons of plastic entering the ocean annually. Improperly disposed plastic items, such as food wrappings and bottles, accumulate in ocean gyres, and form garbage patches. The biggest garbage patch is the Great Pacific garbage patch, between Hawaii and California. This severely impacts the sea life and leads to marine animals being suffocated, entangled, infected as well as suffer internal injuries.
  • Other Types of Pollution: Various forms of pollution, including nonpoint source pollution, oil spills, ocean dumping, and noise pollution from shipping and other industries, also pose threats to marine ecosystems. Moreover, agricultural and industrial runoff, sewage discharge, and deliberate dumping of pollutants into the ocean further exacerbate these issues.
  • Overfishing and Commercial Whaling: Illegal and unregulated fishing practices, coupled with commercial whaling activities, drive many marine species to the brink of extinction, which threatens food security and ecological balance. Furthermore, offshore drilling and deep-sea mining operations also pose environmental risks like oil spills, habitat destruction, and biodiversity loss.
  • Shipping and Transport: Maritime transport which is essential for global trade, generates pollution through waste and trash disposal. Shipping activities contribute to pollution through emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides, which harms coastal areas and marine life.

Soltutions: A Way Forward

  • Establishing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs): MPAs are recognized for providing refuge to 72% of the 1,500 endangered marine species listed on the IUCN Red List. Recent data from UNESCO demonstrates that MPAs with stricter regulations are more successful in safeguarding local ecosystems and mitigate the impacts of unregulated fishing, drilling, and mining activities.
  • Reducing and Preventing Pollution: Transitioning to renewable energy sources, implementing stricter regulations on waste disposal, and banning single-use plastics are essential steps in reducing marine pollution. In addition, increasing public awareness campaigns and community engagement activities simultaneously are also vital for promoting sustainable practices and minimising environmental impact.
  • Changing Consumption Habits: The regulation of consumption of fish and meat, particularly in affluent countries, can alleviate pressure on marine resources and reduce pollution from fisheries and animal farming. Encouraging sustainable food choices and promoting plant-based diets can further help mitigate environmental degradation and protect marine ecosystems.
  • Promoting Sustainable Energy and Lower Emissions: By decarbonizing maritime transport and investing in clean ocean-based energy technologies we can for reduce pollution and mitigate climate change impacts. Research and innovation in renewable energy and emission reduction strategies can facilitate this transition to a sustainable maritime industry.
  • Research and Awareness: There is a serious need for investing in scientific research and promoting public awareness are essential for addressing ocean-related challenges effectively.


In conclusion, safeguarding the ocean requires concerted efforts at local, national, and global levels. By implementing sustainable practices, promoting conservation initiatives, and fostering public awareness, we can protect marine ecosystems and ensure a healthy and thriving ocean for future generations.


SMS Alerts
Share Page