|Sea Lion foraging|
|Cormorants nesting with eggs|
The Galápagos Islands are unlike any other place on Earth—and our first day amply demonstrated this, as voyage participants branched out by land and sea. Some hiked the island while others took a zodiac and snorkeled. Sightings included iguanas sunbathing, flightless cormorants nesting, orcas foraging and sea lions dining—all before noon!
Sylvia introduced participants to Mission Blue Hope Spots. 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 protected, while others are important enough that it is imperative that they be protected. 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 one percent of the ocean is protected in any way. Mission Blue is highlighting the importance of protection for 18 Hope Spots.
National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry explained the importance of showing what’s beneath the ocean’s surface, noting that most people have no idea. In addition to his gorgeous images highlighting the bounty and the beauty of the ocean, he also has a keen interest in depicting the dangers it faces. Specifically, he works to capture images that evoke emotion; for example, showing the killing of top predators like bluefin tuna and sharks that now face the threat of extinction. Without these species, he noted, the health of the ocean is compromised—along with our own.
Renowned ocean researcher Dr. Daniel Pauly asked “How did we get the ocean and ourselves into this catastrophic situation?” He then offered his insights on the topic of shifting baselines—and how we humans often accept these changes unconsciously, whether natural or human-induced. Every person and every generation resets their perception of “normal” from where they started and reflect only on those changes that occur during their lifetime. Previous changes are not usually considered when dealing with the loss. As an example, 50 years ago in the Galápagos Islands, the Sailfin Grouper was abundant; today it has been overfished to the point that it’s now listed as “vulnerable.” Locally, the loss is accepted. Globally, the impact of this phenomenon is terrifying.
After the day’s sessions concluded, seven working groups formed to generate action plans around the concept of “idea champions.” Later this week, their plans will be revealed.
See photos from the Mission Blue Voyage at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/missionblue/