Commentary

Celebration of World Ocean Week

Executive Director of the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation Jennifer Kennedy ask us to learn about the importance of the ocean and the wealth of marine life in our local waters.

Allies and Partners

Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest opinions about fostering environmental stewardship. The series is coordinated by ACES, the Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

Take a deep breath. Did you know that plankton in the ocean produces over 50% of the oxygen we breathe? The ocean is amazing – it provides oxygen, seafood and recreation.

It also absorbs carbon and helps stem the impacts of climate change. It contains an astonishing number of creatures, from tiny plankton to the largest animals on Earth. The health of all life on Earth depends on a healthy ocean. That is why each year in June, we celebrate World Ocean Day (although many of us celebrate the ocean all year!).

World Ocean Day occurs on June 8 each year. The United Nations General Assembly officially recognized World Ocean Day in 2008. The day was once called World Oceans Day, but the “s” was dropped in 2021 to acknowledge that there is one world ocean that connects us all.

The Gulf of Maine supports many marine species. If you visit the rocky shore at low tide, you may have a close encounter. You may see different kinds of marine algae and invertebrates such as periwinkles, mussels and crabs. Please only observe the animals and do not remove these sensitive creatures from their home.

Harbor and gray seals haul out on the coast at low tide in some areas. These semiaquatic animals are equally at home in the water or on the land (although they do not move very gracefully on land!).

Further offshore, you can find whales, dolphins and porpoises. Fin, humpback and minke whales are the most common whale species in our area. Since the late 1990s, we have been studying the distribution and behavior of whales.

Our work involves photographing whales from local boats, identifying individuals, and collecting data on location, behavior and any other marine life or human activity in the area. We use this data to learn about whale distribution, monitor human threats (sadly, the biggest threats to whales are vessel strikes and fishing gear entanglement), and study the life history of individuals. We share this information with other organizations and agencies in the Gulf of Maine.

One threat to the ocean that we all play a part in is marine debris – litter in our ocean and on our beaches. We have been collaborating with volunteers since 2001 to monitor and clean up marine debris in New England.

At each beach cleanup, we record the litter that we pick up. This data helps us determine what types of trash are most prevalent. We use this information to develop pollution prevention and education programs.

Each year, we pick up thousands of pieces of plastic on the beach. What do we find? Top items include plastic bottle caps, wrappers, cigarette butts, and pieces of foam from cups, insulation and packaging.

Each summer, we also see hundreds of balloons and plastic bags on the ocean. The trash in the environment can have disastrous consequences for marine life, which can swallow it or become entangled. If you pick up even one piece of litter from a beach, park or roadway, you could save the life of a marine animal.

Want to get involved? You can join a public beach cleanup, contact us to set up a private cleanup for your group, or conduct your own cleanup using our digital cleanup kit: https://blueoceansociety.org/cleanupkit. For more information on our beach cleanups and other programs, visit www.blueoceansociety.org.

Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect marine life in the Gulf of Maine through research, education and inspiring action.

Jennifer Kennedy is executive director of the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation.

This column was coordinated by ACES youth corps member, Caleb Bradshaw. To share any comments or questions, please send an email to acesnewburyport@gmail.com. To learn more about ACES and its Youth Leadership Initiative, visit website https://www.aces-alliance.org.

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about the author
Jennifer Kennedy

Jen Kennedy grew up in Rochester, NY and currently lives in Eliot, ME. She graduated from Cornell University with a BS in Natural Resources and received her MS in Resource Administration and Management from UNH. In 2001, she co-founded Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation, and serves as Executive Director. She has a particular interest in marine debris issues and working collaboratively to solve the problem, and loves getting out on the water whenever she can, whether at the beach, on a kayak or on a whale watching boat. 

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