Did you know that our oceans cover more than 70% of the Earth’s surface and contain 96% of all the planet’s water? Even more astounding: Less than 10% of the ocean’s floor has been mapped, and the number of species living in the ocean is still unknown despite decades (centuries, even!) of marine scientific research. 

Once you begin a deep dive (pun intended) into learning more about the waters surrounding us, it quickly becomes clear how little we really know about our oceans—and how much we need to do to protect them. 

World Ocean Day: June 8 

This concern for the effects of human actions on the oceans prompted a conversation around ocean awareness and conservation in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. But it wasn’t until December 2008 that June 8 was officially declared World Ocean Day by the United Nations in the hopes of preserving our precious marine world for future generations.

Since then, each annual World Ocean Day has been organized around a different theme focusing on different aspects of ocean protection and conservation. This year’s theme is “Planet Ocean: Tides are Changing.” In addition to the United Nations, organizations such as the Marine Stewardship Council, Oceanic Society, World Wildlife Fund and many others are working to ensure our oceans’ wellbeing. 

Astounding Facts About Our Five Oceans

Earth’s five oceans are recognized by their geographic locations: Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Antarctic/Southern and Arctic. Irrespective of size, each is a marvel all its own and home to myriad species and habitats. Here are just a few key facts about each:

The Pacific Ocean is the largest and separates Asia and Australia from the Americas. It includes the deepest point of all oceans, Challenger Deep, in the Mariana Trench. 

The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest ocean, separating Europe and Africa from the Americas. The waters here are a vital source of fish for millions of people and animals, but overfishing has created scarcity. 

The Indian Ocean is the third-largest ocean. It’s located between Africa, Australia and South Asia. It has the warmest waters, and the deepest point here is called the Java Trench. 

The Southern Ocean is the fourth-largest ocean surrounding Antarctica and the South Pole. This is where you’d sight emperor penguins and Antarctic fur seals! 

The Arctic Ocean is near the North Pole. It is the smallest and shallowest of the world’s oceans and is home to that iconic symbol of climate change, the polar bear. 

Sea turtle in the ocean eating a plastic bag.

4 Ways to Help Ocean Conservation Efforts 

Many organizations are involved in ocean conservation at both the global and regional levels. Efforts are varied and sometimes coordinated or pursued independently. But action at the individual and community levels is also critically important! Here are a few ways you can help protect our oceans, whether you’re landlocked or smelling the salty sea air. 

1. Conservation Travel

Sustainability-focused travel with organizations like Nat Hab allows us to travel across our oceans or to lands close to them in a mindful manner that aids conservation efforts! Check out some of our favorite ocean-bound expeditions: 

Pacific Ocean: Haida Gwaii, Galapagos, Baja, New Zealand  

Travel to the islands at the edge of the world when you head to Haida Gwaii and the Haida UNESCO World Heritage Site—a biodiversity hotspot. The Galapagos Islands are any nature lover’s dream trip, and with Nat Hab, you get to see sea turtles and penguins at close range. Mexico’s Baja Peninsula is one of the best ways to see hundreds of great gray whales as they migrate to the warm waters to mate and give birth each year. To be surrounded by them is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And New Zealand’s South Island provides a chance to see kiwis (those adorable brown birds!) in their native habitat. 

Atlantic Ocean: Iceland, Scotland 

Puffin colonies are a huge draw in the Atlantic, whether you’re visiting the remote Westfjords of Iceland or the rugged and uninhabited Isles of Scotland.

 Arctic Ocean: Summer Churchill, Churchill Polar Bear Tours 

The opportunity to see the northern lights may bring you to Churchill, Canada, but you won’t want to leave once you’ve met the area’s friendly beluga whales. This is also the polar bear capital of the world— if there’s one spot where you’re most likely to see them up close, this is it.

Indian Ocean: Madagascar, Sri Lanka 

Another biodiversity hotspot, Madagascar is like nowhere you’ve ever been. Not only are its rain forests home to diverse flora and fauna, but this is the only place on Earth where more than 100 different types of lemurs live! And in Sri Lanka, your chances of spotting a leopard are increased, as this is one of the few locations on the planet where leopard populations are high.

Southern Ocean: Antarctica 

There’s a certain mystery associated with travel to the White Continent, especially given how remote and inaccessible it may seem to most humans. But a sailing expedition here is an adventure of a lifetime, where the landscape and wildlife are equally mesmerizing.

2. Support for Ocean Conservation Organizations

World Wildlife Fund offers ocean-related symbolic animal adoptions, gifts, donations and other items for purchase where the proceeds go toward the organization’s marine conservation efforts, such as establishing nature-positive seascapes by regenerating marine ecosystems and resources and providing scalable and sustainable global oceans solutions, among other initiatives. 

3. Get Reef Friendly

World Reef Day is also celebrated in June and is closely associated with World Ocean Day. Take action to ensure our coral reefs are protected and preserved for future generations by using reef-safe sunblock when diving or snorkeling, avoiding buying coral reef souvenirs, and supporting marine protected areas to preserve and protect coral reefs. 

4. Education and action

A simple Google search will turn up tons of resources online, but the UNESCO website has a particularly thoughtful toolkit and other information you can use to raise awareness and educate others in your community on how they can help, as well as more ideas for ways to take action right away to ensure our precious ocean resources remain intact.