A dolphin with a plastic bag attached to its fin

Why do we celebrate UN World Oceans Day?

8 June marks World Oceans Day. Find out how we depend on oceans and watch 5-year-old Charlie tell his story about cleaning plastic from beaches.
  Published:  08 Jun 2018    |      Last updated:  08 Jun 2021    |      2 minute read

The Pacific Ocean is the biggest ocean in the world. There are 5 world oceans in total – and they're vital to our survival.

According to The Ocean Project, the ocean is important because it:

  • Generates most of the oxygen we breathe.
  • Helps feed us.
  • Regulates our climate.
  • Cleans the water we drink.
  • Supplies us with medicines.

Aside from all that, it's also a source of beauty, relaxation and artistic inspiration. Do we need any more reasons for keeping it healthy?

Plastic pollution

Lorry loads of plastic pollution end up in the oceans each year. It poses a threat to sea life and the food chain. And it looks really ugly.

photo of rubbish piled on a beach
Plastics are choking our oceans
Credit: istock

A fair chunk of that pollution is made up of tiny plastics that are too small to see. These microplastics could be even more deadly because they absorb poisons – making them a million times more toxic than surrounding seawater. Harmful chemicals linked to plastic have been found in species from plankton to dolphins.

Charlie's story

Charlie was only five when this was filmed back in 2018, but in his own words he's already cleaned "all over all the beaches – kind of more than 100".

With his parents, he stops plastic bottles and other litter ending up in the sea.

I pick up rubbish with my mummy and my daddy so that all the different animals don't get dead... all the different animals in the sea. 


We could tell you more, but Charlie does a much better job of explaining:

What is the history of World Oceans Day?

You can thank the Canadian government for World Oceans Day. It came up with the concept back in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Brazil.

But save some applause for The Ocean Project and World Ocean Network. They sent out a petition to the far corners of the Earth demanding that the United Nations rubber stamp World Oceans Day. It worked. Since December 2008, the day has been officially recognised.

Facts about plastic

Up to 12m tonnes  of plastic ends up in the sea each year. Creatures like turtles, birds and sea mammals can get tangled up in plastic – or mistake it for food. The effects can be fatal.

Did you know...

  • Synthetic clothes like fleece jackets shed tiny plastic fibres during washing. These can pass through the sewage system to our lakes, rivers and seas – or get spread with sewage sludge on farmers’ fields. 
  • Paints, yellow road markings, vehicle tyres and shoe soles all contain and shed polluting plastic.
  • Personal care products like cosmetics, sun creams and bathroom toiletries often also contain plastic.
  • 100,000 tiny bits of plastic could end up in the ocean with each shower you take, depending on the products you use.

So plastic pollution is a big problem that our government and other world leaders need to take seriously.