World Oceans Day: The Importance of Protecting Our Environment and Our Livelihood

Swimming, surfing, fishing, boating and diving – coastal dwellers practically live in the ocean. We rely on it for recreation and relaxation as well as income. June 8 is World Oceans Day and the focus is on the preservation and sustainable management of the “lungs of the earth”. Coastbeat explores the way protection and prosperity go hand in hand. 

World Oceans Day is…

World Oceans Day is an opportunity for us to celebrate and take action for the protection of our blue planet. On June 8, passionate people around the world will do their bit to raise awareness about the importance of a healthy ocean.

The conservation action focus of World Oceans Day in 2020 is a global push for the protection of 30% of the ocean by 2030. Top scientists say we need half of the planet in its natural state to prevent the extinction of one million species and safeguard all people that rely on nature to survive and thrive. 

As well as providing a home for a plethora of unique marine creatures, our oceans produce over half of the world’s oxygen, regulate our climate and weather patterns and supply us with food and medicine.   

As coastal dwellers who enjoy swimming, surfing, fishing, boating and diving, we know just how special the ocean is. Many of our local businesses derive an income from ocean-based activities and rely on it for their livelihood. 

World Oceans Day: The Importance of Protecting Our Environment and Our Livelihood

Why we depend on the ocean

Professor Kevin Markwell from the School of Business and Tourism at Southern Cross University says the promotion of our coastline is so important.

“These areas are crucial in driving much of Australia’s domestic and international tourism,” he says. 

Research commissioned by Tourism Australia shows that the greatest drivers of international visitor demand are our coastal and aquatic activities. When asked to name the most appealing attraction in Australia, 46% of respondents put our beaches at the top of their list.

If the economic viability of coastal tourism is reliant on a healthy marine environment, it makes sense to prioritise the protection of our oceans.

Professor Markwell says.

World Oceans Day: The Importance of Protecting Our Environment and Our Livelihood
Grey nurse sharks in a school of fish. Photo by Justin Gilligan

The tourism industry must be aware of the impact it has on sensitive ecosystems. 

“More often than not, tourism operators are working in a way they believe is best practice but often they don’t have the scientific data or knowledge available to understand what their impacts may well be,” Professor Markwell explains. “There’s a need for a lot more collaboration between industry and science in terms of solving some of these problems.”

Professor Markwell lists over-development, plastic pollution and more recent concerns such as the effect of chemicals in common sunscreens as some of the tourism related threats our oceans face. 

“There’s a variety of ways the industry and specific businesses can try to address these problems,” he says. “Establishing proper planning controls, ensuring that the behaviour of operators and tourists is such that it reduces environmental impact and sponsoring research so that we can understand more about the effect we’re having on marine ecosystems.”

World Oceans Day: The Importance of Protecting Our Environment and Our Livelihood

The positive changes

Professor Markwell has observed a shift in consumer behaviour towards ecotourism and experiences that promote environmental and cultural protection and understanding.  

“People are now much more aware of their individual impacts and will often make choices around what they purchase based on the environmental performance of those goods and services,” he explains. “I think there are greater expectations generally in terms of the kinds of tourism they’re willing to patronise.”

Whether you simply enjoy gazing at the sun as it rises over the sea, operate a dive centre, and run a surf school, it’s in your interest to get educated and take action to protect our pristine oceans. Celebrate World Oceans Day and consider the ways you can ensure its health for generations to come.

Read more about how to show your support here.

World Oceans Day: The Importance of Protecting Our Environment and Our Livelihood

Want to support the largest creature in the ocean? Learn more about Gowings Whale Trust and donate today. 

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