It seemed kind of fitting that Coney Island's annual Mermaid Parade would be flushed with a downpour of rain, giving attendees an authentically soaked look that said, "I just arrived via sea foam and a giant shell." On June 17, seapunks, pirates and nautical enthusiasts gathered in their finest underwater cosplay to celebrate all things mermaid, but there was more happening than just ocean-themed fanfare.
Aside from the start of Cancer season, June is also National Oceans Month and June 8 was World Oceans Day. Both are meant to find ways to celebrate and protect marine life and other ocean resources. Scientists and environmental activists have a lot to say about ocean conservation, but aside from facts, there's a mythical lure to what lies beneath the surface of the deep blue sea.
The Mermaid Parade isn't an activist-led event, it's a cultural staple and bit of a freak-fest that sea and myth-loving artists started in 1983. On their website, organizers indicated the following goals:[It] brings mythology to life for local residents who live on streets named Mermaid and Neptune; it creates self-esteem in a district that is often disregarded as "entertainment"; and it lets artistic New Yorkers find self-expression in public."
The scene of the parade was wet-and-wild fun, and the half-human-half-fish crowd was there to have a good time and spread the message about ocean sustainability. I ran into a crowd of merfolk whose looks ranged from SpongeBob-themed getups to ornate seashell crowns and bedazzled eyebrows who said that regular people could learn a lot from mermaids aside from the pop-culture tropes in TV and movies.
Nathaly Martinez, 19, from New York City said that Disney's The Little Mermaid inspired her to care about the ocean as a kid. "I grew up and I wanted to be a mermaid—that was my dream," Martinez told VICE Impact. "Anything bringing attention to [the ocean] is helpful," Martinez said. "Even though it's through mythical creatures that you're getting knowledge from, that at least is something."
Luke Brooks, 24, was visiting from Wisconsin and was at the parade to scope out the arts scene. "I think living in New York you get landlocked, so it's good to remind people about the magic of the ocean," Brooks told VICE Impact. "There's so much beautiful life there and unknown species and I think we should know as much as we can and protect as much as we can."
Check out the merpeople who had a good-ass time at the parade below. Also, if you're looking to get involved with ocean conservation without putting on a costume, then help save the ocean with the UN's #CleanSeasPhoto challenge. The UN is calling on anyone with a smartphone and an eye for composition to snap some pics of the ocean and post their work on social media to potentially win a prize and clean up the seas.