Oceans cover more than 70 percent of the Earth and support nearly half of all species in the world, but each year billions are spent to clean up pollution that creates an unsafe habitat for animals and marine life.
To reiterate the importance of conservation and promote ocean education, Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium will host a local World Oceans Day celebration June 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will showcase activities, discussions and hundreds of marine animals from tiny seahorses to 3,000-pound walruses.
Locals can see zookeepers give toys and treats to sharks, polar bears, sea otters and “E.T.” the walrus. Children can learn ocean conservation education and participate in ocean activities at the zoo’s Marine Discovery Center. All activities are free with zoo admission.
“This is an opportunity for us to celebrate oceans around the world and locally,” said Stacey Luhring the zoo’s senior education specialist for volunteer service and guest experience. “We want visitors to create a personal connection to local bodies of water.”
Globally, World Oceans Day is celebrated on June 8. This year’s theme is “Youth: the Next Wave for Change.” Organizers hope to challenge participants to view ocean protection as a way of life. Luhring said the zoo has been working with other local conservation groups, including Puget Sound Starts Here, which promotes lifestyle changes to protect and preserve Puget Sound.
“We’ll be talking to visitors about actions, like scooping pet waste and using commercial car washes to keep chemicals out of storm water drains,” Luhring said.
Organizers also promote sustainability, specifically when choosing what to eat, she added. Luhring said the zoo uses a seafood watch card program to help locals decide which fish and shellfish are sustainable to eat. She also advises visitors to choose smarter packaging, so it does not end up in local bodies of water.
“We just ask people what they are already doing when we do our talks and we hit one message in each section of the zoo, so we’re not overloading,” Luhring said.
During the zoo’s World Oceans Day activities, keepers will have a whole host of enrichment activities to keep animals entertained and active. Polar bears will be given a “bucket ‘o fun” with fish inside. The bears will have to break the top off to get their treats. Walruses will get PVC pipe stuffed with fish to slurp out. Keepers will feed the sharks and dive inside the North Pacific aquarium to swim with fish.
These animals are important teaching tools used to educate locals about ocean conservation, said Dave Smith, senior staff biologist for aquarium.
“The oceans are a huge part of global network,” he said. “They affect our food source, our weather. They drive the whole planet. We like to show this message through our animals.”
For more information about World Oceans Day, visit www.worldoceansday.org.