Though much of the ocean is in precipitous decline due to humanity’s meddling, there are still Hope Spots that harbor the vibrance and biodiversity that can turn the tides on ocean degradation and form the foundation for tomorrow’s healthy ocean. Yet, even these precious ecosystems — Mission Blue has identified 19 of them — are today strained and stressed by our thoughtless plundering and pollution of the finite ocean.
Close to the US’s doorstep, the Mesoamerican Reef is one such Hope Spot. What does it contain that gives us reason for hope? For one, the area contains one of the largest populations of manatees in the world, as well as four different types of marine turtles: Green, Loggerhead, Leatherback and Hawksbill. There, you can find 65 species of stony coral, 350 species of mollusk and more than 500 species of fish. One of these fish is the legendary Whale Shark, which uncharacteristically congregates in the region to eat and mate.
In 2010, Mission Blue launched a 10-day expedition to the Mesoamerican Reef to highlight the research being conducted by scientists of the mangrove forests, coral reefs and sea turtles. The joy of seeing marine life thriving was matched by a protective urge to preserve this critical habitat. Indeed, like many other places in the ocean, the Mesoamerican Reef is subject to the stresses of overfishing, coastal development and oil exploration, as well as ocean acidification and warming.
These pictures were taken by our staff photographer and videographer, Kip Evans. The clear water and robust interplay of life is palpable even in these digital reproductions of the Mesoamerican Reef. Please support our efforts to preserve Hope Spots so that future generations can enjoy this ecosystem — the touch, feel and smell of it! — not only as appreciative observers, but also as humans who benefit from the irreplaceable support a healthy ocean gives us and the planet.