Turquoise blue water lapping against sandy white beaches. Giant waves crashing against sea walls. Large chunks of ice floating in the Arctic.
However you see it or define it, the ocean is all around us. And today, in honor of World Oceans Day, we dive into a better understanding of this wonderful natural resource.
This vast body of water:
-- covers 70 percent of the planet’s surface
-- generates most of the oxygen we breathe
-- cleans the water we drink
-- provides us with foods, medicines, minerals, energy resources, jobs, recreation and more
-- supports our economy, transports goods and people, and plays a role in national security
-- is a major influence on weather and climate
-- contains a great diversity of life and ecosystems, from the smallest virus to the largest animal on Earth, with more diverse animal and plant life than on land
-- is less than 5 percent explored, providing an area of great opportunities for young people considering their career
All of these functions rely on a healthy and diverse ocean. Yet, the ocean faces many challenges, from climate change (which leads to ocean warming, sea level rise and acidification) to overfishing (the United Nations estimates that approximately two-thirds of ocean species are overfished) to polluted runoff (creating “dead zones” where sea animals cannot survive).
Visit theoceanproject.org, which spearheads World Oceans Day, to learn more about what you can do to make a difference to protect our oceans. Tips include how to choose ocean-friendly paper, select sustainable seafood, and be a “green” architect, chef, landscaper, wedding planner and other business professional.
Locally, a great place to discover what is in the ocean around us in Southwest Florida is the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center, which has aquariums filled with local species and will celebrate World Oceans Day today from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. In addition to regularly scheduled daily programs, which include a nature walk at 11 a.m. and a coastal birds program at 2 p.m., visitors to the center can enjoy a touch tank experience featuring Rookery Bay species such as conchs and crabs at 12 p.m. Visitors can watch films about the ocean, calculate their carbon footprint, receive sustainable seafood guides, and pick up additional information about how to protect the ocean.
As part of the Ocean Project’s nationwide “Wear Blue and Tell Two” campaign for World Oceans Day, Rookery Bay today will offer “buy one admission, get two free” for people wearing blue. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 6-12 unless otherwise noted. Through August 6, Rookery Bay offers Free Fridays for kids 12 and under with weekly themes on topics such as sea turtles, sand dollars, coastal birds and marine mammals. For more information, call (239) 417-6310, visit rookerybay.org, or stop by the center at 300 Tower Road, near the corner of County Road 951 (Collier Boulevard) and U.S. 41.