Hope Spots

Silvia Earle's wish:I wish you would use all means at your disposal – films, the web, expeditions, new submarines, a campaign! – to ignite public support for a network of global marine protected areas, hope spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet.

Hope Spots are special places that are critical to the health of the ocean — Earth’s blue heart. Some of these Hope Spots are already formally protected, while others still need defined protection. About 12% of the land around the world is now under some form of protection (as national parks, world heritage sites, monuments, etc.), while less than three percent of the ocean is protected in any way. Mission Blue is committed to changing this. Networks of marine protected areas maintain healthy biodiversity, provide a carbon sink, generate life-giving oxygen, preserve critical habitat and allow low-impact activities like ecotourism to thrive. They are good for the ocean, which means they are good for us. We are often asked, “How much protection is enough?” We can only answer with another question: How much of your heart is worth protecting?

Click the map below to enlarge. Details about each Hope Spot are provided in the list below.

Want to nominate a new Hope Spot? Click HERE.

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  Hope Spots

1 Chagos
Archipelago
The Chagos archipelago is located in the middle of the Indian Ocean and consists of 55 low-lying coral islands that span across 550,000 square kilometers. Chagos waters are home to the world’s largest coral atoll and contain as much as half of the Indian Ocean’s remaining healthy reefs. Originally part of the Mauritian territory, Chagos was declared part of the British Indian Ocean Territory in the 1960s which consequently leased the largest island to the US for use as an airbase.  In 2010, after years of work by numerous NGOs, the 640,000 sq km Chagos Marine Reserve was declared by the UK.  The entire area has been closed to commercial fishing since that time and there are currently legal challenges to the marine reserve as it impacts the return to the islands by native Chagossian people who were displaced when the airbase was built. 

2 Outer Seychelles North of Madagascar, off Africa’s coast, just beyond the Seychelles Plateau are the Outer Seychelles. Scattered in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the Outer Seychelles are a collection of five coralline island groups that include 72 low-lying sand cays and atolls. The Saya de Malha Banks are part of the Mascarene Plateau, an underwater ridge connecting the Seychelles and Mauritius in the western Indian Ocean. The banks are located at 8°30 – 12° S and 59°30 – 62.30° E on the extended continental shelf of the two island states, as jointly submitted to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLCS) in 2009, and now agreed for joint management. The banks cover an area of approximately 40,000 km2. The Saya de Malha Banks are considered to be unique due to their geological origin, and because they represent the largest shallow open ocean water biotope in the region. The area qualifies as an EBSA because of the high biological productivity associated. The remoteness of the Saya de Malha Banks from direct sources of anthropogenic stress, and the currently low level of human activities, make it a crucial reservoir to maintain the biodiversity in surrounding inhabited islands and shores of the Western Indian Ocean.

3 Coral Triangle The Coral Triangle is a marine area located in the western Pacific Ocean. It includes the waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and Solomon Islands. The Coral Triangle is a global center for biodiversity and is considered by many to be the most diverse marine ecosystem in the world.

4 Micronesian Islands The Micronesian Islands are located in the western South Pacific Ocean. The 2,100 tropical islands scattered across the heart of the Pacific offer some of the most pristine and bio-diverse underwater environments on Earth.

5 Coral Sea The Coral Sea is a marginal sea off the northeast coast of Australia. Named for its staggering number of corals, this area includes the Great Barrier Reef and is one of the most diverse marine habitats on Earth. Spectacular coral reefs, remote islands and towering underwater mountains along with deep-sea canyons add to the diversity and uniqueness of this area.

6 Kermadec Trench The Kermadec Trench is a submarine trench in the floor of the South Pacific Ocean just to the east of the Kermadec Islands and northeast of mainland New Zealand. The Kermadec Trench is one of the Earth’s deepest oceanic trenches, plunging more than 10 kilometers beneath the ocean’s surface — about five times deeper than the Grand Canyon.

7 Gulf of California The Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez, is a large inlet in the eastern Pacific Ocean located along the northwestern coast of Mexico. Covering about 160,000 square kilometers, the Gulf of California covers 4,000 kilometers of coastline and reaches depths of over 3,000 meters.

8 Gulf of Mexico Deep Reefs Along the Continental Shelf of the Gulf of Mexico, there are some 200 shelf-edge reefs and banks that are biodiversity hotspots. These reefs and banks support an abundance of soft corals, subtropical and tropical invertebrates and more than 90 species of fish, including many large predators.

9 Patagonian Shelf The Patagonian Shelf is part of the South American continental shelf on the Atlantic seaboard. Two currents mix in the waters near the Patagonian Shelf — the southward flowing Brazil Current, which is warm and saline mixes with the northward flowing Falklands or Malvinas Current carrying cool, less saline, nutrient-rich sub-Antarctic water.

10 Eastern Pacific Seascape The Eastern Pacific Seascape spans Central and South America, covering a total of 2 million square kilometers. A number of the world’s most important natural habitats lie within the Eastern Pacific Seascape, including Malpelo and Cocos Islands, Coiba, and the Galapagos, where Charles Darwin carried out his groundbreaking research. Each region within the Eastern Pacific Seascape has unique environmental, economic and cultural importance.

11 Chilean Fjords & Islands With over 83,850 kilometers of coastline, and a number of offshore islands, Chile’s marine territory is vast. Southern fjords offer important habitats for whales, dolphins, seals and other marine mammals, while the placid waters below the surface host a diverse array of coral, including several species unique to the area.

12 Ross Sea The Ross Sea is a deep bay found in the Southern Ocean. It’s mostly ice covered waters are composed of two related ecosystems: the Ross Sea Shelf Ecosystem and the Ross Sea Slope Ecosystem. The Ross Sea is often referred to as the most pristine marine ecosystem on earth — unlike most of the world’s ocean it has remained relatively free from widespread pollution, invasive species, mining and overfishing.

13 Mesoamerican Reefs The Mesoamerican Reef region lies within the Caribbean, extending from Isla Contoy on the north of the Yucatan Peninsula to the Bay Islands of Honduras. It is the second longest barrier reef and is home to over 350 species of mollusk and 500 species of fish, including the whale shark — the largest fish in the world.

14 Gulf of Guinea Part of the eastern tropical Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Guinea is located off the western coast of Africa. The marine flora and fauna of this region remai relatively unknown, but this area is largely intact and recognized as a critical area to protect in order to preserve African biodiversity conservation.

15 Charlie Gibbs Fracture Zone The Charlie Gibbs Fracture Zone is a major transversal topographical feature located beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. Reaching depths ranging from 700 meters to 4,500 meters, the Charlie Gibbs Fracture Zone is a system of two main parallel deep rift valleys.

16 Sargasso Sea Located off the shores of Bermuda in international waters, the Sargasso Sea is the Earth’s only sea without a land boundary. The open-ocean ecosystem lies within the high seas and is bounded by currents circulating around the North Atlantic sub-tropical gyre.

17 Gakkel Ridge The Gakkel Ridge is the deepest and most remote portion of the global mid-ocean ridge system. The diversity of life found surrounding the hydrothermal vents of the Gakkel Ridge are not well known, but it is thought that the unique ecosystem hosts distinctive and diverse life found nowhere else on earth.

18 Bahamian Reefs The Bahamas are located off the southeastern tip of Florida and host forests, wetlands, swamps, and the Andros Barrier Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the western hemisphere. The Bahamas island eco-region consists of over 3,000 low-lying islands and covers over 14,000 square kilometers.

19 Bering Sea Deep Canyons Home to ocean albatross and kittiwakes, orcas, walrus and fur seals, king crab, squid, salmon and cold water corals, the Bering Sea Canyons Hope Spot supports a near endless variety of life. But the Bering Sea’s beautiful and carefully-balanced marine environments are in danger, threatened by industrial fishing that is depleting the region’s resources and risking destruction of this Hope Spot.

20 Central Arctic Ocean Also known as the Arctic Donut Hole, an area of high seas 2.8 million km2, or about the size of the Mediterranean Sea, surrounded by the EEZs of US, Norway, Russia, Greenland and Canada. The central Arctic Ocean is the last un-fished arctic high seas enclave. While it is currently a nutrient poor area, the disappearance of ice and other climate related impacts may well change this. This also means it is vulnerable to overfishing, may be slow to recover, and removal of fish could threaten wildlife such as ringed seals and beluga whales dependent on the fish, as well as polar bears, also indirectly dependent on the fish. Protecting the Arctic Donut hole is also an opportunity to protect an area before the fishery is destroyed.

21 The White Shark Café Shared Offshore Foraging Area (SOFA) is an area of seasonal aggregation for endangered adult great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) in oceanic waters of the Northeast Pacific. It occurs entirely in international waters. The sharks come from two coastal wintering areas, one in central California, USA, and the other one at Guadalupe Island, Mexico, as well as from Hawaii. Shark aggregation in a persistent and predictable area for several months of the year is of importance for the population even though it occurs in a region where dynamic oceanographic processes are not known to occur and where primary productivity is low. The functional use of this area by adult white sharks is still unclear; it may function as a foraging area and/or it may be used primarily for mating purposes, as males tend to aggregate more than females and are very active in the water column suggesting some form of mating display.

22 Sala y Gómez and Nazca Ridges The Salas y Gómez and Nazca ridges are sequential chains of submarine mountains of volcanic origin located in the Southeastern Pacific Ocean, jointly extending over 2,900 km. Its western end intersects the East Pacific Rise inside the Chilean Exclusive Economic Zone of the Easter Islands and its eastern end adjoins the western end of Nazca ridge. The Nazca ridge spreads in a southwest – northeastern direction. Currently, 226 species of invertebrates and 171 fish species of 64 genera are known to inhabit the 22 explored seamounts of the ridges. Considering the overall number of seamounts in the region, the discovery of many more species can be expected. The area is a biodiversity hotspot with one of the highest levels of marine biological endemism, amounting to 41.2 % of fish species and 46.3 % of benthic invertebrates even surpassing the rates for hydrothermal vent ecosystems. 

23 The Tasman Sea The Tasman Sea is an area of the South Pacific Ocean between Australia and New Zealand, approximately 2,000 km across, and extends 2,800 km from north to south. The Tasman Sea, east of Australia, has been identified as one of five global ocean warming “hotspots.” Temperatures here have risen here by 2ºC over the past 60 years - three times the average rate of warming in the world’s oceans. The vulnerable Antipodean Albatross and at least 5 other species of threatened seabirds forage in the Tasman. There is virtually no continental shelf associated with the Tasman Sea; where shelf-edge fronts occur, they are essentially the landward boundaries in both Australia and New Zealand. High levels of biodiversity are associated with the area’s seamounts. Significant islands are Lord Howe Island, Ball’s Pyramid, Middleton Reef, and Norfolk Island. 

24 Walter’s Shoal Walter’s Shoal is a group of seamounts off the coast of Madagascar. It has been targeted by deep-sea fishing and also lobster fishing but there is little known about its ecology. It is a unique feature in the Southern Indian Ocean forming part of the Madagascar Ridge. Despite being 700 kilometres from the coast, the tips of the some of the mountains are only 50 metres below the surface. Walter’s Shoal is home to many species of fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. It was discovered in 1963 by the South African Hydrographic Frigate SAS Natal captained by Cmdr Walters. When found it had a huge population of Galapagos Sharks but they have since been fished out.

25 Coral Seamount Seamount hosting rich coral communities and cold-water coral reefs on the SW Indian Ridge. It has been taken forward as an EBSA (Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas in the Open Ocean) by the United Nations, and also is a voluntary benthic protection area from the fishing industry. Taxonomists working with us are describing several new species. 

26 Atlantis Bank Tectonic seamount on the SW Indian Ridge with an important past role in geological studies. Also in process as an EBSA Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas in the Open Ocean.) Home to significant populations of pelagic armourhead (by far the largest population known in the area.) Populations of large octocorals and sponges. Large flat-topped seamount with plenty of sharks. Also populations of venus basket sponges with new species of commensal shrimp (Spongiocaris n.sp.). Also a voluntary BPA. In sub-tropical water compared to Coral Seamount which is in sub-Antarctic water. 

27 The Aghulas Front The Agulhas Front (AF) is a strong oceanic front that occurs from subsurface to intermediate depth beneath the upper 100 to 150 meters of the ocean that originates at around 20o–25o E below the southern tip of Africa. It extends to between 65o–90o E where it merges with the Southern Subtropical Front in the Indian Ocean sector of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC.) It is a key feeding area for the critically Endangered Amsterdam Albatross which now numbers only 100 pairs. The front is also a key area for at least 3 other threatened albatross species breeding on the French southern territories. The Whale and Dolphin Society have also identified it as a key area for Blue Whale. The EBSA workshop showed it is also important for Tuna.

28 Core of the South Pacific Gyre This Hope Spot encompasses the Galapagos Rise and is bounded to the west by the East Pacific Rise: one of two potential high-use regions for post-nesting females within the South Pacific Gyre as indicated by an Eastern Pacific leatherback tracking dataset.

29 Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone This area includes the Challenger Fracture Zone and is bounded by the Sala y Gomez ridge to the north, and the Valdivia Fracture Zone to the south. At its southeast edge, the circulation around the feature forces a salinity gradient in the ocean, with fresher and warmer waters of the western Pacific lying to its west. Cooler and saltier waters lie to its east. It is one of two potential high-use regions for post-nesting females within the South Pacific Gyre as indicated by an Eastern Pacific leatherback tracking dataset.

30 French Overseas territories (Wallis & Futuna)

Wallis and Futuna is a French overseas territory lying about 2/3 of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean. It lies between Fiji and Samoa, has 274 sq km of land and consists of twenty islets and three main volacanic island, Wallis Island, Futuna Island and Ile Alofi. The territory is split into two island groups, about 260 km apart. 

The Wallis and Futuna Islands have 129 km of coastline and both island groups have fringing reefs. There are five toothed whales known to inhabit the waters of the Wallis and Futuna Islands according to the IUCN Red List. They include the Pygmy Killer Whale, Blainsville’s Beaked Whale, Ginkgo Toothed Beaked Whale, Spinner Dolphin and Fraser’s Dolphin. The South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) confirms only the presence of the humpback whale. The discrepancy is most likely due to the fact that Wallis and Futuna has had no directed research program into marine mammal diversity. There are 20 species of seabirds with known distributions in the Wallis and Futuna Islands: one species of albatross, five species of petrel, one shearwater, two tropic birds, two frigate birds, three boobies, three noddies and three terns.

Unlike many of the other Pacific Island countries and territories, there are no commercial fisheries based in Wallis and Futuna. There are no domestic or foreign longline vessels registered to fish in the exclusive economic zone of Wallis and Futuna. The last commercial fishery to operate was the troll fleet but has been closed since the 1950s. France remains in control of foreign affairs for Wallis and Futuna and therefore all multilateral agreements that France is party to, so is Wallis and Futuna including the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) and the Memorandum of Understanding for the Conservation of Cetaceans and their Habitats in the Pacific Islands Region. There are no local rules or laws that exist for protection of Wallis and Futuna environment. 


31 Lord Howe Rise The mythical sunken continent of Atlantis in the North Atlantic is the subject of famous European legends, but ironically, the sunken continent of Zealandia in the South Pacific is real, yet much less famous. Located approximately 800 kilometers east of Australia, it sank into the Pacific Ocean long before humans evolved. In the northern section of Zealandia lies a 1.5 million square kilometer section known as the Lord Howe Rise. From the depths of this site, a mountain rises above the sea surface to form Lord Howe Island, which is a terrestrial conservation hotspot, a World Heritage Site and is surrounded by shallow waters with more than 100 species found nowhere else on Earth. Further west, and far less-explored, lies a large submerged portion of the Lord Howe Rise, which is a high seas biodiversity hotspot. Recent expeditions have found hundreds of species of sponges, crabs, sea urchins, sea stars, and octopuses, many of them new to science and quite possibly occurring nowhere else. Much of this Rise is a plateau studded with volcanic seamounts. Fishes such as orange roughy are attracted to seamounts to feed or to breed. Unfortunately, in many places this has become a fatal attraction: large offshore fishing trawlers dragging nets through aggregations of breeding orange roughy continue to deplete the population of this especially vulnerable species. Whether seamount fishes on the Lord Howe Rise escape this fate hinges on its adequate protection. 

32 Maldive Atolls This is one of the most species rich marine areas within the region. The islands contain a number of atolls with major natural freshwater lakes and wetlands that are refuges for a range of birds. While a detailed biodiversity inventory has not been undertaken, it is estimated that there are about 250 species of scleractinian corals and 55 genera of hermatypic corals. Fish populations are diverse and extremely abundant as well as invertebrate fauna. Five species of turtle and a number of other globally and locally threatened marine species such as whales and whale sharks, black corals, dolphins, pearl oysters, stony corals, eels, skates and rays, parrot fish, bait fish trochus shells, triton shells, and puffer fish have been declared as protected species.

33 Lakshadweep Islands, India The reefs of the Lakshadweep are poorly surveyed, but among the highest diversity reefs in India and are an important biogeographic link between the subcontinent and East Africa. Although inadequately surveyed, the waters around the Lakshadweep are relatively high in marine mammal diversity dominated by spinner dolphins and bottlenose dolphins, although recent observations include killer whales and melon-headed whales, among others. Sea turtle densities (hawksbill and green) are also high in many Lakshadweep waters. The reefs are currently recovering from a devastating coral mass mortality that killed between 70-95% of coral during the El Niño event of 1998. Benthic recovery has been mixed, driven by a complex interplay of hydrodynamics and post-settlement mortality. Fish communities are also in a state of flux post-mortality, though a study of fish communities in the Lakshadweep indicates that the population has considerable resilience.

34 Andaman Islands, India The Andaman Islands comprise around 325 volcanic islands and islets, covering a total land area of approximately 6,400 km2. The marine environment is characterized by high-diversity fringing reefs, extensive mangroves and seagrass meadows. With upward of 200 species of coral, the Andaman Islands are the highest diversity reefs in India. The reefs have received scant biological attention, and there are few reliable ecological or taxonomic baselines to go by. The mangrove forests of the Andamans are also among the most extensive in the country, and perhaps the least disturbed. The extensive seagrass meadows in the north are home to the highly endangered dugong, and may represent the most feasible place for its conservation in the subcontinent. Being as remote as they are, the Andaman Islands get scant ecological attention, but the few studies done in these waters indicate that these systems are perhaps the richest marine environments in the country.

35 Subantarctic islands and their surrounding seas, New Zealand Isolated in the Southern Ocean, the New Zealand subantarctic islands and their surrounding seas are among the least human-modified environments anywhere in the world. Isolation has helped shape the biodiversity of the oceanic islands and the marine habitat. Rare and globally threatened mammal and bird species include the New Zealand sea lion—the world’s most endangered sea lion—at least three endemic species of land birds, several endemic species of seabird which breed only in the sub-antarctic, and two species of penguins classed as vulnerable or endangered. But the state of overall knowledge of the biology of the marine area is low. There are for example many groups which have not yet been investigated including ten unlisted species of sponge and several collections of bryozoa.

36 Southeast Shoal of the Grand Banks Jutting into the North Atlantic Ocean are the Grand Banks, a shallow, submerged extension of Newfoundland with a long history of fishing in a place where mammoths once walked. Located on the southern portion of the Banks is a 10,300 square kilometer sandy plateau, called the Tail or Southeast Shoal. This site, rising to within 40 to 60 meters of the surface, is one of the major areas where the cold, southward-flowing Labrador Current and the warmer, northward-flowing North Atlantic Current meet. The confluence of these currents along the shallow plateau results in an abundance of nutrients that fuel phenomenal populations of a small fish called capelin. Their abundance provided a world-class feeding ground for Atlantic cod, Atlantic halibut, northern gannets, harbor porpoises and fin whales. So abundant were the cod on the Grand Banks that explorers prior to Columbus voyaged from Portugal and Spain to fish them. Cod populations could have been sustained forever had they been managed wisely. Instead, intensive overfishing in the area has severely depleted this species and damaged their critical habitat. In places such as the Southeast Shoal, where fishing remains a threat and fish populations are depleted, no-fishing areas are an important means for recovery. Under international law, most but not all of the Grand Banks is within Canada’s Exclusive Economic Zone. 

37 Emperor Seamount Chain In the frigid darkness of the deep North Pacific Ocean between the Hawaiian and Aleutian Islands is a chain of silent volcanoes that arose millions of years ago from molten rock, 80 kilometers below the Earth’s surface. Until the 1970s, they harbored large numbers of deep-water corals and fishes. They are
the Emperor Seamounts. Albatrosses, whales and tunas visit the nutrient-rich waters above the Emperor Seamounts to feed before continuing their ocean-spanning migrations. Kilometers below them, corals and deep-sea fishes dwelt in splendid isolation until they were discovered and plundered in the 1960s and 1970s. Large offshore trawlers invaded these undersea paradises, dragging away their deep-sea corals and fishes, including alfonsinos and pelagic armorheads. Even four decades later there is little indication of coral recovery. Yet, harbored within the complex terrain of these seamounts are small nooks, crannies and overhangs that were too difficult to trawl. These areas have served as a refuge for the deep-sea life that once blanketed the Emperor volcanoes and may hold the seeds of promise for their recovery, if properly protected. 

38 East Antarctic peninsula The East Antarctic Ice Sheet flows off the Antarctic continent into the Southern Ocean that surrounds it. It is an expanse of ice abruptly surrendering to sapphire seas. Coastal currents, among them the Prydz
Bay Gyre, mingle with the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, supporting marine life throughout the circumference of the continent. Penguins, seals, krill, and toothfish rely on this vast expanse of frigid habitat. Glacial streams have over millennia carved deep canyons into the continental shelf and slope along the East Antarctic coastal region.
The Gunnerus Ridge rises from the depths of the ocean bed, to a seamount—a mountain that sits beneath the surface rich in biodiversity—off its northern end. The unique marine habitat off the continental shelf of Prydz Bay is due to a large channel formed during prehistoric times. The seals and seabirds off the shores of East Antarctica feed mostly on krill and silverfish—both of which are vital to a healthy ecosystem. Prydz Bay alone is home to at least 1 million breeding pairs of snow petrels, as well as Antarctic terns and a variety of albatross species. East Antarctica also supports many colonies of Adélie and emperor penguins. About 750,000 pairs of Adélie penguins and an estimated 50,000 pairs of emperor penguins forage over great distances, with emperors traveling up to 900 kilometres from their colonies and Adélies more than 480 kilometres. Large populations of minke, humpback, blue, and fin whales also inhabit the waters of the East Antarctic. The area is home to crabeater, Weddell, Ross, and leopard seals. Crabeaters are particularly prolific, with 1 million estimated to breed off East Antarctica. The region also harbors up to 42 percent of the world’s little-known Ross seals, designated a Specially Protected Species under the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. 

39 Grand Recif de Toliara, Madagascar The Grand Recif de Toliara is 18 to 25 km long and 3 km wide. Five hundred reef fish species have been recorded in the area and there is a high diversity of other marine life. There are also significant stands of mangroves and extensive seagrass beds. The Grand Recif barrier reef of Toliara and neighbouring reefs in southwest Madagascar constitute one of the West Indian Ocean’s largest coral reef systems and thus represent a significant biodiversity ‘hotspot’ for the region. Much of this biodiversity remains, to date, unknown to science. Several marine species listed as endangered or vulnerable to extinction are known to exist in Madagascar’s waters, including the dugong, sea turtles, the whale shark and the coelacanth. To date, over 130 species of reef-building corals, more than 600 species of sponge and 552 species of reef fishes have been described from the Grand Recif of Toliara alone. 

40 Central American Dome The Dome’s core position is about 300 km from the Gulf of Papagayo, between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Its total area comprises 1,570,474 km2. The Costa Rica Dome is an area of high primary productivity in the northeastern tropical Pacific, which supports marine predators such as tuna, dolphins, and cetaceans. The endangered leatherback turtle which nests on the beaches of Costa Rica, migrates through the area. The Costa Rica Dome provides year-round habitat that is important for the survival and recovery of the endangered blue whale. The area is of special importance to the life history of a population of the blue whales, which migrate south from Baja California during the winter for breeding, calving, raising calves and feeding. 

41 Western Pacific Donut Holes These are four high seas enclaves in the Western Pacific Ocean which are entirely surrounded by EEZs. The four high sea enclaves have been described as the West Oceania Marine Reserve (WOMAR); Greater Oceania Marine Reserve (GOMAR); Moana Marine Reserve (MOANA); and the Western Pacific Marine Reserve (WPMR). The high seas enclaves are adequate and viable sites for the creation of marine reserves. Stationary features, which are likely to receive adequate protection within the enclaves, include: seamounts; abyssal plain habitat; possible hydrothermal vent communities; and the tropical corals and pelagic species that may be present at Horizon Bank. Further conservation measures will be required to ensure the adequate protection of highly mobile species, including sea turtles and tuna. The creation of marine reserves in the enclaves could enhance regional tuna management. They calculate that the high level of fishing pressure in WOMAR and GOMAR
means that the half-life, or the amount of time taken for populations to decrease by half, of tuna is ~2 months in WOMAR, although somewhat longer in GOMAR. This is considerably lower than the median figure of 6 months for all EEZs in the region. They suggest that closing WOMAR and GOMAR to fishing could bring the tuna half-life of these enclaves into line with the regional average, with significant benefits for tropical tuna populations in the PIR. It has been calculated that closure of the
four high seas enclaves could reduce overfishing of bigeye tuna by 10.7% (SPC-OFP, 2008). By their nature, high seas enclaves are buffered from many of the human impacts that have contributed to environmental degradation in inshore and continental shelf areas, including nutrient pollution, small-scale and recreational fisheries and sedimentation as a result of coastal development. Thus while these areas may not be the best example of high seas ecosystems, they are a politically feasible target for protection—indeed two probably have been closed to purse seining already, both through the Parties to the Nauru Agreement and the Western and Central Pacific RFMO. 

42 Scott Islands, Canada This area is critical for seabirds. More than 400,000 pairs of Cassin’s auklets nest on Triangle Island in the Scott Islands, comprising the world’s largest colony, while others nest around the Queen Charlotte Strait. Triangle Island is also home to some 40,000 pairs of rhinoceros auklets and 26,000 pairs of tufted puffins. Other nesting seabird species in this PCA include common murre, thick-billed murre (Uria lomvia,) pelagic cormorant, glaucous-winged gull (Larus glaucescens) and various species of storm petrels (Oceanodroma spp.) The threatened marbled murrelet occurs in the protected waters, feeding on forage fish. Steller’s sea lions and harbor seals are regularly sighted. Sea otters, once locally extirpated, are still rare visitors to this area, despite their reintroduction on Vancouver Island. Blue, humpback, killer (both transient and resident), gray and minke whales also frequent these waters.

43 Northwest Passage The area is home to the largest Narwhal congregation on earth, one seventh of the world’s beluga population (including the whales that visit Cunningham Inlet and Arctic Watch every year), bowhead whales, walrus, seals and more. Protection would ensure the survival of a vast majority of arctic wildlife, including several million migratory birds that congregate in the area like nowhere else. Snow Geese, Arctic Terns, Northern Fulmar, Dovekie, Black Legged Kittiwake, Ross and Ivory Gulls, Brant Geese and more. Arctic cod are the mainstay to most of the arctic wildlife in this region; schools in the region have been known to weigh in at nearly 30-tons. The nearly two thousand beluga whales that congregate in Cunningham Inlet are part of the Baffin Bay herd, and make-up for one of the largest remaining congregations of Beluga whales on earth. Due to the harsh climate of the Arctic and the presence of year-round sea ice, the Northwest Passage’s ecosystem is more vulnerable than other bio-networks. In addition, unlike most of the modern world, local residents depend on the area’s living marine resources for food and cash income. As a result, the Arctic may be unable to support activities, such as year-round shipping, that are sustainable in more temperate regions. Protection plans are advancing with Canada working to protect marine life at the eastern gate to the Northwest Passage. 

44 Abrolhos Bank The Abrolhos Region (56,000 km²) is a mosaic of marine and coastal ecosystems that encompasses the
largest reef area and the highest marine biodiversity in the southern Atlantic, harboring a wealth of endemic and IUCN Red-listed marine species. The unique “chapeirão” reefs in Abrolhos consists of mushroom-shaped pinnacles, built predominantly by Brazilian endemic species, covered with fans of fire coral and round knobs of brain corals. Many commercially valuable species of reef fish can be found in the region, including several threatened fish species. The Abrolhos Bank corresponds to the main breeding ground for humpback whales in the western South Atlantic Ocean. Three species of small cetaceans (guiana dolphin; rough-toothed dolphin and bottlenose dolphin) use the Abrolhos bank for feeding and breeding throughout the year. It’s important to note that Abrolhos bank constitutes the only site along the distribution of guiana dolphin where this species occurs offshore. The southern right whale, a species listed as Endangered, also uses the Abrolhos bank for breeding and calving. The Abrolhos Archipelago is also an important nesting site for marine birds, including the red-billed tropicbird Phaethon aethereus, the boobies Sula dactylatra and Sula leucogaster, the magnificient frigatebird Fregata magnificens and the migratory brown noddy Anous stolidus, as well as three IUCN Red-listed marine turtle species: the Endangered green (Chelonia mydas) and loggerhead (Caretta caretta) turtles, and the Critically Endangered hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata.)

45 Chiloe National Park Expansion, Chile The area is pristine, being largely inaccessible and has had no significant human impacts. Marine biodiversity is high. The site is as the northern end of the Magellan faunal province and while it is representative of this, there are elements of the adjacent Peru-Chelian province as well. The area is important for cetaceans, seabirds, sea lions and marine otters. In addition, in late 2003, researchers discovered a new nursery ground for blue whales was discovered near the the Gulf of Corcovado and the western coast of Chiloe island. The researchers claim the area, located in a sheltered network of fjords surrounded by long-dormant volcanoes, is one of the most important blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) feeding and nursing grounds yet discovered in the southern hemisphere.

46 Ascension Island Isolated Ascension Island lies in the middle of the rich equatorial waters of the South Atlantic, around 1,600 kilometres from the coast of Africa and 2,250 kilometres from the coast of South America. The 91 square kilometres of island is the peak of a huge undersea volcano, which rises up from the seafloor just to the west of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The most important seabird-breeding station in the tropical Atlantic, the island holds the world-population of the endemic Ascension frigatebird and almost half a million sooty terns. The seabird population was estimated to number in the region of 20 million birds before the introduction of feral cats, but a successful cat eradication completed in 2004 has seen seabirds begin to return to the mainland from the offshore rock stacks to which they had previously been restricted. Ascension’s waters meanwhile harbour globally important marine biodiversity, home to the second-largest green turtle breeding population in the entire Atlantic (also the biggest green turtles ever recorded), as well as a unique assemblage of western and eastern Atlantic flora and fauna. The inshore marine environment is in a relatively pristine condition, having never been exposed to commercial fisheries. Whilst relatively unexplored, work by the Falkland Islands based Shallow Marine Surveys Group (SMSG) in partnership with Ascension Island Government (AIG) commenced in 2012, to learn more about this remarkable environment. The surveys found the marine environment to be visually dominated by fish, particularly by one species, the black trigger fish (Melichthys niger). The reefs are completely grazed and predated by fish to such an extent that a significant component of the biodiversity remains hidden to avoid this pressure. A primary goal was to catalogue such ‘cryptic’ species; the SMSG/AIG project found a surprisingly high ‘cryptic’ diversity that has been particularly poorly documented in the past. The surveys yielded many new geographical records and likely candidates for new species. Inshore species of note include maturing hawksbill turtles, resident bottlenose dolphins and humpback whales, which arrive around September / October to raise their young in the warm waters. The isolated nature of Ascension has also lead to the evolution of unique and highly vulnerable species, with two tiny rock pools behind Shelly Beach being the only known habitat for two particularly interesting species of shrimp, found nowhere else in the world, as well as clusters of unique globular alga and endemic coral. The offshore marine environment meanwhile holds important populations of tuna, swordfish and record-breaking marlin. Ascension Island has been exploited by a long-lining fishery between 2010-2013, which has received criticism with regards to its regulation and management. This fishery has now been closed whilst a review takes place and a new Director of Fisheries develops policies for the sustainable management of its EEZ.  The Ascension Island Marine Sustainability (AIMS) Project funded by the Darwin Initiative and led by AIG Conservation Department and the South Atlantic Environment Research Agency (SAERI) with partners in the Falklands (SMSG) and UK (RSPB and BAS),  will commence in April 2014and will increase biodiversity knowledge around Ascension Island. The project will be delivered through three work packages that will substantially fill biodiversity gaps and address near shore and offshore fisheries ecology understanding. Integrating these data will allow it to be incorporated into a GIS platform as a basis for a future marine spatial planning framework and evidence based proposals for marine protected areas.

47 Kosterfjorden/Yttre Hvaler, Norway/Sweden The Kosterfjorden/Yttre Hvaler area is representative for marine areas in Skagerrak. The area has a very high diversity of marine species and contains many unique habitats and species that can not be found elsewhere in Sweden or this part of Norway. It contains rich and unique deep sea coral reefs dominated by Lophelia pertusa and is an important area for a great variety of
invertebrates, fishes, sharks and seals. The area also hosts internationally important numbers of seabirds. The eastern parts of the proposed area in the northern Skagerrak (Koster-/Väderöfjorden and Singlefjorden) are situated in Swedish territorial waters and the western part (Yttre Hvaler) is situated in Norwegian territorial waters. The central position of Kosterfjorden/Yttre Hvaler is approximately 58°58,70 N and 11°01,60 E. Many invertebrate species have been recorded in the area, e.g. sea-pens, sponges and brachiopods. Lightly trawled fjords like Singlefjorden still contain many species that are sensitive to trawling. The area is known as an important area for reproduction and growth of a lot of commercial fish species, molluscs and crustaceans, but also sharks and rays which, however, have decreased dramatically in recent times. Moreover, the area contains many important feeding grounds for the common seal (Phoca vitulina) and, to a smaller extent, the grey seal (Halichoerus grypus.) The Skagerrak area (48.500 km2) is also identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International and hosts internationally important numbers of e.g. guillemot (Uria algae,) herring gull (Larus argentatus,) great skua (Catharacta skua,) little auk (Alle alle.) But it also contains many unique traits that cannot be found elsewhere in Sweden or this part of Norway (south and east of Vestlandet,) e.g. deep soft and hard bottoms, very exposed shallow sediments and rocks and deep water coral reefs, dominated by Lophelia pertusa. The species diversity is very high, with ~7000 species recorded to date. Deep water coral reefs dominated by Lophelia pertusa are one of Scandinavia’s most species-rich environments. Small patches of living Lophelia pertusa colonies have long been known to exist in the Swedish Koster-/Väderö-fjorden. Only in 2002, a previously unknown coral reef at least 1.2 km long and 200 m wide was found north of Tisler in Yttre Hvaler in Norway, close to the border to Sweden, possibly the largest reef found in inshore waters so far. Living corals were found between 160 and 74 m depth and yellow varieties of Lophelia pertusa were documented for the first time. There are at least two more, yet unexplored reefs nearby. Koster-Väderöfjorden (~426 km2,) in the Swedish part of
the area, has already been declared a Natura 2000 area according to the EU Habitats Directive. In Norway, the area is listed as a candidate area in the national marine protection plan currently under development. 

48 Mergui archipelago, southern Burma The Mergui Archipelago (also Myeik Archipelago or Myeik Kyunzu; Burmese) It is an archipelago in far southern Myanmar (Burma) and is part of the Tanintharyi Region. It consists of more than 800 islands, varying in size from very small to hundreds of square kilometres, all lying in the Andaman Sea off the western shore of the Malay Peninsula near its landward (northern) end where it joins the rest of Indochina. Geologically, the islands are characterized mainly by limestone and granite. They are generally covered with thick tropical growth, including rainforest, and their shorelines are punctuated by beaches, rocky headlands, and in some places, mangrove swamps. Offshore are extensive coral reefs. The archipelago’s virtual isolation from most of mankind’s influence on the natural environment has given the islands and the surrounding waters of the Andaman Sea a great diversity of flora and fauna, contributing to the region’s growing popularity as a diving destination. The area was only opened up to foreign tourism in 1997 after negotiations between Burma and dive operators from Phuket in Thailand. The archipelago’s isolation is such that much of it has not even yet been thoroughly explored. Owing to the archipelago’s remoteness, a live aboard cruise is the only way for visitors to go diving in areas with names such as Big Bank, Rainbow Reef or Silvertip Bank. Some islands have huge boulders, soft corals and sea fans. Others offer wall diving, caverns, tunnels and drop-offs. Dive sites such as Shark Cave feature grey reef, nurse shark and Blotched sting rays. Black Rock has manta rays and schools of mobula (devil) rays. Photographers are attracted by frogfish, ghost pipefish, ribbon eels and cowries as well as many crustaceans such as lobsters, crabs, and shrimps. The best diving conditions exist from December to April, with whale sharks and manta rays visiting from February to May. 

49 Quirimbas Islands, northeastern Mozambique The Quirimbas Islands lie in the Indian Ocean off northeastern Mozambique, close to Pemba, the capital of the province of Cabo Delgado. The archipelago consists of about 27 islands, including Ibo, Matemo, Medjumbe, Quirimba, Metundo, Quisiva and Rolas Island. Originally home to fishing settlements, the islands’ population grew around Arab trading posts and thrived under the Portuguese trading routes when it was known as the Ilhas de Sao Lazaro (Islands of St. Lazarus.) Today, many of the islands are uninhabited. These islands are known for their high-quality diving sites, including phenomenal drop-offs, some up to 400 meters. The Quirimbas National Park, spanning an area of 7 500 km², includes the 11 most southerly islands, which are partly surrounded by mangroves. The park was established in 2002. With up to 30-metre visibility and water temperatures around a balmy 28 degrees C you can expect to see all coral reef species typical of the Indian Ocean region as well as game fish – yellow fin tuna, dogtooth tuna and marlin. There are also manta rays, eight species of shark (to date), whale sharks, huge schools of feeding barracuda, king fish of many species, red snappers, green and hawksbill turtles, pods of humpback dolphins not to mention the humpbacked whales in season. Green turtles can be seen coming to lay their eggs on one of the many brilliant white palm fringed beaches. 

50 Spitzbergen Island Spitsbergen (formerly known as West Spitsbergen; Norwegian: Vest Spitsbergen or Vestspitsbergen) is the largest and only permanently populated island of the Svalbard archipelago in Norway. Constituting the westernmost bulk of the archipelago, it borders the Arctic Ocean, the Norwegian Sea, and the Greenland Sea. Spitsbergen covers an area of 39,044 km2 (15,075 sq mi), making it the largest island in Norway and the 36th-largest in the world. The administrative centre is Longyearbyen. Other settlements, in addition to research outposts, are the Russian mining community of Barentsburg, the research community of Ny-Ålesund, and the mining outpost of Sveagruva.The island was first used as a whaling base in the 17th and 18th centuries, after which it was abandoned. Coal mining started at the end of the 19th century and several permanent communities were established. The Svalbard Treaty of 1920 recognized Norwegian sovereignty and established Svalbard as a free economic zone and a demilitarized zone. The island has an Arctic climate, although with significantly higher temperatures than other places at the same latitude. The flora benefits from the long period of midnight sun, which compensates for the polar night. Svalbard is a breeding ground for many seabirds, and also supports polar bears, reindeer and marine mammals. Six national parks protect the largely untouched, yet fragile environment. The island has many glaciers, mountains and fjords. Polar bears are the iconic symbol of Spitsbergen, and one of the main tourist attractions. Spitsbergen shares a common polar bear population with the rest of Svalbard and Franz Joseph Land. About thirty types of bird are found on Spitsbergen, most of which are migratory. The Barents Sea is among the areas in the world with most seabirds, with about 20 million counted during late summer. The most common are Little Auk, Northern Fulmar, Thick-billed Murre and Black-legged Kittiwake. Sixteen species are on the IUCN Red List. Particularly Storfjorden and Nordvest-Spitsbergen are important breeding ground for seabirds. The Arctic Tern has the furthest migration, all the way to Antarctica. There are six national parks on Spitsbergen: Indre Wijdefjorden, Nordenskiöld Land, Nordre Isfjorden Land, Nordvest-Spitsbergen, Sassen-Bünsow Land and Sør-Spitsbergen. The island also features Festningen Geotope Protected Area; some of the northeastern coast is part of Nordaust-Svalbard Nature Reserve. All human traces dating from before 1946 are automatically protected. Svalbard is on Norway’s tentative list for nomination as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.