Henderson Beach State Park was packed to the gills over the weekend for the parks inaugural World Oceans Day celebration.



Partnering with the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge, park employees and volunteers welcomed more than 50 people to the event Saturday. Among those at the World Oceans Day event were the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge animal ambassadors; Nona the screech owl, Landlord the tortoise, Trike the gray squirrel and Spinner the flying squirrel.



According to park employee Lynda Smith, protecting the worldís ocean is one of the most important things we can all do.



"If you look at a globe, you see that we're all connected by one body of water," Smith said. "Protecting the world oceans is an important cause for a number of reasons, including the regulation of climate and the generation of oxygen."



Although the concept of World Oceans Day was first suggested in the early '90s, the United Nations didnít officially grant the event recognition until 2008. Since then, the event has gained popularity within communities across the earth. Now, every year on June 8, communities around the globe recognize World Oceans Day with various events and activities.



Smith told The Log that this was the first World Oceans Day event held at Henderson Beach State Park and the turnout was great. Coordinated yearly by The Ocean Project and The World Ocean Network, the theme of this year's World Oceans Day was together we have the power to protect the ocean.



From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., children and adults alike learned the importance of a healthy, clean ocean from the park and refuge employees. Ten-year-old Sarah Newfield-Groover was one of the many informed, ocean-minded children who attended the event.



"Protecting the ocean is important," Sarah said. "We learn about it in school all of the time."



Besides the animal ambassadors, the day was marked by a sea turtle presentation by park employees. The Emerald Coast is home to a number of sea turtle species, including the leatherback, the green sea turtle and the area's primary sea turtle species, the loggerhead.



All of the turtle species in our area are either endangered, or have recently come off the endangered list and are still listed as threatened. From April to November, they make their way to the beaches to lay their eggs.



"They can nest two to three times a year, with upwards of 50 to 80 eggs per nest," Smith said. "The mother turtle crawls along the beach where she digs a body pit to lay her eggs, and then she leaves."



Many people donít know what they are looking at when it comes to sea turtle nests, and Smith told The Log this is why itís so important to educate them with presentations like the one they held on Saturday.



After all of the animal fun, the children participated in crafts to remember their day and a few brave children even stuck their hands into a number of touch tanks full of sand fleas, crabs and other aquatic animals.