By Agatha Oei, Sim Yan Ling and Liew Shan Ling (Millennia Institute)
Many of us are aware of Earth Day but how many among us knows of World Oceans Day? Some may even wonder, “Why celebrate Oceans Day?”
The reason is simple. Our oceans too are crying out for help – its inhabitants have dwindled throughout the years of overfishing and pollution. What used to be clean ocean shores are now dirty and filled with litter. What used to be plentiful in the oceans are now drying up – within half a century, many populations of fish, including large predator species like sharks, have declined dramatically, some by a shocking drop of 90 per cent!
Human activities are increasingly threatening the health of our oceans and diminishing the diversity of marine life. Although oceans make up 72 per cent of the Earth’s surface, less than one per cent is currently protected.
“Together we have the power to protect the oceans” was the theme for this year’s World Oceans Day (WOD), which falls on 8 June. This day celebrates biodiversity of marine life and aims to increase public awareness of the importance of protecting our oceans and their wildlife. The three of us from Millennia Institute had the opportunity to explore Resorts World Sentosa’s (RWS) S.E.A. Aquarium that Sunday to check out part of its month-long activities in celebration of World Oceans Day and ocean conservation.
When we first arrived at the entrance of the Aquarium, we chanced upon an energetic performance by a ‘junk’ band. It was part of the kick-off ceremony for an Amazing Race-like event for schools that was held in conjunction with the launch of WOD.
The band used common household items like kettles and plastic buckets to create the beats and rhythms, sending home too the idea that recycled materials can be given a second life. All of us in the audience were thoroughly engaged in the performance and clapped along; some even joined in and tried their hand on the ‘instruments’.
Another activity was the making of a colourful coral reef using recycled materials, found at the entrance of the Aquarium. Visitors stuff unwanted balloons with cotton wool and planted (glued) it on a ‘seabed’. This is another example of the clever use of recyclable materials to create a wonderful piece of art.
The activity also sent out the message that each of us play a role by creating a small part of this ‘underwater garden’ – symbolising that each of us can play a part, no matter how small, and instead of tossing our trash into the oceans, we can do our part by recycling or reusing it.
We ventured further and found ourselves at the ‘Make a Guess’ booth. There, we followed clues given on covered boxes to guess what mystery objects lay hidden inside. If we did not manage to guess correctly, we could reach in and feel the object. The twist was that the difficulty level is upped by a notch as we progressed.
In the first box, we found ourselves groping at a smooth object with a rounded top. To our surprise, it was just a water bottle! Such a common item did appear differently in our minds’ eyes. This game aimed to show us that small things such as empty bottles can actually impact the oceans in a big way. Many of us toss our trash into the oceans not knowing of its disastrous impacts; such negligence can build up towards massive pollution and damage of the oceans’ ecology.
As we journeyed further into the Aquarium, our attention was drawn to the Ocean Dome at which a speaker was in the midst of giving an educational talk. We learnt some ways we would help conserve the oceans, fascinating facts about the Aquarium, and that the largest animal currently at the Ocean Dome habitat is the Manta Ray, which can grow up to seven metres!
There was also a roving magician to engage the visitors, holding young kids especially spellbound with his illusions and tricks. Bluub, the lovable marine conservation mascot, also made appearances throughout the day and we rushed to take pictures with this bubbly character.
Our last stop was the horseshoe crab conservation booth named ‘Pick That Up!’ We had to find all the toy horseshoe crabs buried under litter and rescue them as quickly as possible. It was truly a game that got our adrenaline rushing as we tried to pick out as many of those crabs as possible using plastic tongs before time runs out. This highlighted the importance of conserving marine life before they are pushed into extinction – indeed the clock is ticking for them!
Along the way, the 4Rs of conservation were constantly reinforced: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rethink. The least familiar process, Rethink, means for us to do a re-evaluation before we make needless purchases, or buy things which may harm the environment. We need to consider if that purchase is a ‘need’ or merely a ‘want’. Do you know that it takes around 1,800 gallons of water just to grow enough cotton to produce one pair of jeans?
Since we only have one Earth, our home, we should join hands now to protect our oceans, and make the 4Rs a routine in our lives.
You can still catch yourself some nuggets of wisdoms (and have fun while doing so) about marine conservation as the World Oceans Day programme at RWS SEA Aquarium runs through the entire month of June.
Take the World Oceans Day pledge and tell us what you will do to protect our oceans.
Agatha, Yan Ling and Shan Ling are students from Millennia Institute and they write for MI Wired, an online platform for students to showcase their writing. They are advocates of social and environmental causes.