Celebrated each year on June 8th, World Oceans Day aims to raise awareness around the key issues our oceans are facing while promoting effective ocean conservation practices and sustainable ocean management. At SLO active, protecting our oceans is at the very core of our mission, and giving back to the ocean is at the heart of everything we do. Our oceans are essential to life on earth, and we cannot live without them.
World Oceans Day was originally proposed by the Canadian Government at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. In June 2008 the United Nations announced the official declaration of World Oceans Day, to support the implementation of sustainable development goal 14 . Fast forward a decade, and World Oceans Day is now celebrated by countries all over the world.
This year the theme for World Oceans Day is “Gender and the Ocean”, so we are keen to draw attention to some of the gender inequalities within ocean-related activities such as marine scientific research, fisheries, labour at sea, migration by sea and human trafficking, policy-making and management. For greater action is needed if we are to preserve our oceans and their ecosystems, and this requires all individuals to work together with the same vision.
By empowering girls and women, we will hopefully make greater progress in managing sustainable ocean use and conserving the earth’s most precious resource.
Of the oxygen we breath is produced by the ocean
Of the Earth’s surface is covered by the ocean
Depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods
The oceans play a crucial role in supporting human life on earth. Around 50% of the oxygen we breathe is produced by phytoplankton and marine algae in the ocean, while around 30% of carbon dioxide produced by humans is absorbed by our oceans, helping to maintain clean air quality and reduce the impacts of global heating.
Of course, it’s not just humans that depend on the oceans for survival.
Our oceans cover roughly 70% of the earth’s surface and are home to around 94% of the Earth’s living species exist. Currently, there are around 240,470 known unique ocean species, although scientists believe this figure is only a very small percentage of the total number of species inhabiting our oceans.
So how can we help empower more women to get involved in protecting our life-giving oceans? Let’s first take a look at some ocean-related sectors where females are currently underrepresented, and the action which is being taken to improve gender equality.
One example of an area in which women are currently underrepresented is in the field of Marine Biology.
Over recent years, there has been an increase in the number of women working in science, however, those studying and working are still predominantly male, with women making up only for 30% of the world’s researchers, and even lower percentages at higher decision-making levels.
The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO), recognises this gender imbalance, and have to take action to ensure gender mainstreaming in its activities and projects to promote gender equality. One way in which IOC-UNESCO is helping to empower women and encourage them to pursue a career path in ocean-related science is their “Initiative for Women Marine Scientists”.
As part of this scheme, IOC-UNESCO encourages women scientists to share their stories and achievements, and promote them as role models for young women who can identify with them, and hopefully follow them to success.
Among the women whose stories have been shared is Francesca Benzoni. Benzoni is a marine biologist specialised in the ecology and integrated systematics of reef-building scleractinian corals, who made the discovery of a new coral reef species in the Gambier Islands during one of the Tara Oceans Expedition.
Professor and director at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Lisa Levin, is another marine biologist whose story has been shared by IOC-UNESCO to celebrate her various accomplishments in the field while studying benthic ecosystems in the deep sea and shallow water. Throughout her career, Lisa has been involved in 30 oceanographic expeditions around the world, 12 of which she served as Chief Scientist.
The surf industry is another example of an industry which has experienced huge gender inequality over the years. While the sport now is thankfully progressing in the right direction, back in the 1970s-1990s surfing had a highly male-dominated culture. Professional female surfers received minimal sponsorship or prize money in comparison to men and were almost invisible in the surf media.
Over the past ten years, there have been some radical changes to close the pay gap and end gender inequality, although some of these changes have only happened over the last couple of years. One of the biggest changes came in 2016, when The World Surfing League (WSL), the organiser for worldwide professional surfing contests, announced it would be adjusting the prize money available so that it would be the same for both men and women. Previously, the men’s purse was US$551,000 (split between 36 surfers) and the women’s purse US$275,500 (divided among 18 surfers).
This followed after The Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing, requested California state officials to join the fight for gender equality. This led Californian state officials to impose a rule that any competitive event held on coastal state property, with a prize, that includes both male and female competitors, must provide equal prize money. This even applies to one-off surf competitions and lower-level surf leagues providing the competition is held on a state beach.
Female empowerment within the surf industry has also been encouraged by competitive surfer Dr Easkey Britton.
The Irish surfer visited Iran in 2010 and started running a surf workshop to encourage Iranians – particularly Iranian women to learn to surf. The workshops proved to be a huge success, with around 80 participants by the second year, and the majority of them women. In a recent article published by Vice, Dr Britton said “The moment that best captures this reaction for me was back in 2013, when a young boy watching Mona Seraji and Shahla Yasini [another Iranian sports women] surf for the first time at Ramin Beach stopped and asked us if this was something boys could do too”. To find out more about Dr.Britton, check out the interview we did with her as part of our Fierce Female series.
Women are certainly making their presence known in other sports too, however, in most water sports, women are still largely under-represented. In the USA around 90% of kite-surfers are men while only 10% are women. However, over the years, women have fought to prove that water sports are not just for men, demonstrating their strength, skill and determination.
To conclude our guide, let’s take a minute to reflect on one of the oceans most miraculous abilities.
Our ocean tides are considered one of the most reliable phenomenons in the world. As long as the moon and the sun continue to dance in orbit around each other, you can rely on the tide to come and go twice a day in almost all parts of the world. This is due to the gravitational force from the Moon and the Sun, which pulls the water in the oceans upwards. This makes the oceans bulge, which causes high tide in the areas of Earth facing the Moon and on the opposite side. While this happens, the ocean water drains away in other areas to fill these bulges, creating low tides.
However, while the connection between the ocean tides and the lunar cycle is well recognised, it’s also believed that nature’s rhythm of the moon and tides, plays a documented role in regulating women’s menstrual cycles and fertility. On average, a woman’s menstrual cycle consists of around 29.5 days, which is the same length as the lunar cycle. It is also thought that the timing of the menstrual cycle, the fertility cycle, and labour are also influenced by the moon-dominated tides of the ocean.
This natural connection between women and the ocean is just another reason why we should be empowering women around the world to immerse themselves in protecting one of nature’s most miraculous wonders. The ocean is a part of us and we must do all we can to ensure it’s magical beauty is preserved.
This includes plastic straws, plastic coffee cups and takeaway containers. Make the switch to reusable versions using more sustainable materials.
For those in the UK, National Trust’s website features information where and when beach cleanups will be held.
At the heart of SLO is our Earth to Ocean model, where we have partnered with Changing Tides Foundation, Project Aware and Plastic Oceans UK. All three organisations are dedicated to cleaning up our oceans.
Over 73 million sharks are killed each year for their fins, a delicacy when mixed into a soup. This mass fishing disrupts precious marine ecosystems, causing disbalance in the food chain.
The Marine Conservation Society has created a guide ranking fish consumption on their sustainability level. The guide can be found here.
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