For the last 22 years, June 8th has brought World Oceans Day, a United Nations-recognized day of ocean celebration. This year we witnessed the creation of America’s first official Ocean Month. Established by Presidential Proclamation, Obama set June as a month for “our obligations to good ocean stewardship.”
World Oceans Day traditionally showcases and highlights ocean events from around the world. This year we saw such fantastic events and campaigns such as Peace Corps in the Philippines, “Selfies for the Sea,” Surfrider Foundation’s Youth Events and countless other efforts to drive awareness and action for the ocean.
Recognizing the importance of international attention on the ocean, it seems Obama has hopes to join America’s ocean focus and activities with that of the world’s. During this first Ocean month we saw incredible events like large moves by states to understand and combat Ocean Acidification and the Grandson of Jacques Cousteau living a record-breaking 31 days in the world’s only operating underwater ocean research base.
This month also brought us the first official State Department conference with direct focus on the ocean. The Our Ocean conference was more than just a recognition of our oceans. It was more than yet another meeting of an insulated network of professionals. Rather, this was this administration’s chance to announce to the world its focus on the importance of ocean issues. It was the centerpiece to Obama’s Ocean Month Proclamation.
At the conference itself we saw the announcement of efforts to track and curb illegal fishing by President Obama, an interactive Google Hangout, the banning of commercial fishing in an area the size of California, the screening of Dr. Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue film, and even an incredible $7 million endowment for the Ocean’s by Leonard DiCaprio’s Foundation.
Colleagues and experts in the ocean community have spoken on the current changing tides. They have lauded how global attention has been focusing more on our impact on the world and the need to protect such resource banks as our ocean.
I, too, am excited at the momentum and with each new victory, but I give the caveat that now is not the time to rest our laurels. The ocean community needs to continue this push and turn the current waves to tsunami. We cannot allow this momentum to break against the sea wall of apathy and our society’s short attention spans. Just as the establishment of Earth Day or month’s dedicated to social justice issues started the long road on the continuing fight, so must we treat this effort as the first of many steps.
Let’s work together to make sure that we continue pushing and have a binder full of ocean victories for next year.
Fabien Cousteau image via Megayachtnews.com