DHEC is celebrating World Oceans Day on June 8. Established by the United Nations, the day recognizes the role of oceans in our everyday life. It also inspires actions to protect the ocean and encourage sustainable use of marine resources.
The ocean provides a myriad of benefits including food, medicine, climate regulation, natural resources, jobs, and recreation. In addition, ocean environments are home to countless living organisms, from bacteria and fungi to fish and marine mammals. Many threatened and endangered species live within the oceans, including the sea turtles that nest on South Carolina beaches.
The ocean is also critically important to South Carolina’s economy. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), South Carolina’s ocean economic sectors, including living marine resources, marine construction, ship and boat building, marine transportation, offshore mineral extraction, tourism and recreation, accounted for over 87,000 jobs, over 3,600 establishments, $2.1 billion in wages, and $5.4 billion in GDP in 2018.
At the same time, the world’s oceans are currently facing significant threats, including pollution, overfishing, warming ocean temperatures, and habitat loss. It is estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean each year.
According to NOAA, while plastics break into smaller and smaller pieces over time, they never completely degrade. The remaining tiny plastic particles are referred to as microplastics, and they’re ubiquitous in ocean and coastal environments around the world.
Plastics and other types of debris pose a threat to marine animals, including threatened, endangered, and commercially valuable species. Marine debris can also impact recreation, navigation, and public health.
DHEC’s Adopt-a-Beach program is a volunteer-based cleanup program that aims to reduce litter along the state’s coastline.
Over the past 5 years, Adopt-A-Beach partners have removed an estimated 5,800 pounds of marine debris from South Carolina beaches. Cigarette butts are the most commonly found type of marine debris on South Carolina beaches – over 58,700 have been logged and removed by Adopt-A-Beach partners in the last 5 years.
For more information on how to participate in the program, visit the Beach Cleanup page at MyCoast South Carolina.
Through the Adopt-a-Beach program, DHEC displays the core value of Promoting Teamwork. By celebrating World Oceans Day, we are demonstrating the agency strategy of Education and Engagement.
Looking for other ways to be an ocean steward and make a difference?
Consider the seafood you eat and choose sustainable options when possible. Consult South Carolina Aquarium’s Good Catch, a resource that generates awareness and leads communities in support of local fisheries and consumption of responsibly harvested seafood.
As you celebrate the world’s oceans today, check out these other cool ocean facts from NOAA.
- The ocean covers over 70% of the Earth’s surface and includes over 96% of the Earth’s water.
- Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on Earth and can be seen from the moon!
- The deepest part of the ocean is in the Mariana Trench, nearly 7 miles beneath the waves!
- Coral reefs cover only 1/50th of the ocean floor, but about one quarter of all the marine species make coral reefs their home.
- No light penetrates the ocean at depths greater than 3,280 feet.
- Aided by deep diving rovers and remote sensing cameras, scientists are still discovering new species beneath the waves.
- The Gulf Stream transports more water than all of the Earth’s rivers combined.
- The mid-ocean ridge crisscrosses the globe for over 40,000 miles and is the largest geological feature on Earth.
- About 95% of the ocean remains unexplored!