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A Celebration of our Oceans

For World Oceans Day on June 8, The Florida Aquarium will offer special activities and programs throughout the day and this weekend to highlight the wonders of our oceans and the need to protect them.


Of course, this is nothing new for the institution. As Aquarium President and Chief Executive Officer Roger Germann recently put it, “From The Florida Aquarium’s perspective, every day is World Oceans Day, World Rivers Day, World Stream Day, World Estuary Day. Environmental stewardship is our mission, and we give it 100 percent every day.”


Yet that doesn’t mean Germann and his team aren’t enthusiastic about the annual event. He explained, “The reason we get excited about World Oceans Day is that it is the one moment where people everywhere rally around the cause. We tell the story the other 364 days of the year, but it is nice that this [World Oceans Day] brings more attention to it.”

 

The conservation group Ocean Project credits Canada with proposing the idea of a World Oceans Day in 1992, inspiring unofficial celebrations. Ocean Project, World Ocean Network and other environmental groups have been sponsoring a formal World Oceans Day since 2002. They also launched a petition process that resulted in the United Nations General Assembly recognizing the day.

 

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), to which The Florida Aquarium belongs, is a major supporter. The goal is to celebrate the oceans and to generate support and collaboration for protecting them. 

 

It is a cause, Germann stressed, that links all countries.


“The one shared resource need we all have is water, whether it is in the Great Lakes, Hillsborough Bay or Lake Victoria in Africa. The great connector for human life and animal life is water quality and quantity.”


Because of the research, education and outreach efforts of organizations such as The Florida Aquarium and the campaigns of movements such as World Oceans Day, the welfare of our oceans is becoming more of a public priority.


Germann, who previously worked at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, said, “I’ve been in aquarium work since 2000 and have seen enlightenment grow steadily since early days, when sometimes the environmental message just seemed like white noise.


“Now it has evolved into a worldwide movement. And we [The Florida Aquarium] play a big part in it by introducing people to the aquatic world. And, our research – focusing on corals, sea turtles and sharks – is having a positive impact.”


Indeed, at its Center for Conservation facility at the Florida Conservation and Technology Center (FCTC) in Apollo Beach, the Aquarium and its research partners are pioneering the reproduction of imperiled corals to reintroduce back into the wild.


Each year, World Oceans Day has a theme, and this year it is threat of plastics to our waters, which The Florida Aquarium has long highlighted. You won’t find plastic straws in your drinks or plastic bags at the gift shop at the facility.


As Aquarium staffers point out, research shows about 8.8 million tons of plastics flow into the ocean each year, equal to one dump truck full of plastics per minute. The plastic entangles fish, birds and turtles. Wind and currents can result in massive accumulations of the trash. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a collection of plastic debris between Hawaii and California, is estimated to be twice the size of Texas. Recently, an environmental group posted videos of a colony of penguins in the South Pacific living on an island made entirely of plastic.


In addition, plastic trash breaks down into micro-plastics, which enter the food chain and are consumed by all predators, including humans, that eat marine life, with undetermined health effects.


While visitors to the Aquarium’s World Oceans Day’s events will learn about microplastics, ocean acidification and other threats, the programs also will be design to generate wonder – and fun.


For instance, “Passports,” distributed to attendees, will be stamped at different stations, each of which will be devoted to showcasing different aquatic creatures, from seahorses to alligators.


The Aquarium horticulturalist will lead volunteers in planting young cypress trees. Participants will learn the real dirt about wetlands vegetation. 


As always, Germann said, the Aquarium will focus on how to “make conservation actionable.”


He believes protecting the oceans, which cover 70 percent of the planet and provide most of our oxygen, should be beyond politics.


Germann noted, “Sometimes people see certain issues, such as protecting the environment, as a government problem, not a personal responsibility.” That is why he said on World Oceans Day, as it does every day, The Florida Aquarium will strive to bring our resource challenges to “an individual level” that shows people how they can help save our Blue Planet.

 

Story by Joe Guidry, former opinion editor, The Tampa Tribune.