December 31, 2010

by Brendan Tougher,
SEAlliance Contributor

SEAlliance Hope Spots, Google Earth

Although 71% of the earth is made of water, currently less then 1% of the global marine environment is protected. As humans continue polluting and overfishing the ocean, it becomes increasingly evident that protected areas must be established. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) or Hope Spots as the Sylvia Earle Alliance (SEAlliance) calls them ( are gradually being established to partially compensate for destructive human activities. SEAlliance has identified 18 Hope Spots across the globe that are unique places critical to the health of the ocean. By focusing their efforts to impart protection through MPAs, the SEAlliance hopes to help increase awareness towards the need for protected areas in the ocean. This action will provide an environment in which marine life can thrive. Each location is specifically chosen because it is where marine species reproduce and grow, making them vital habitats for species survival. Hope Spots can contribute to the health of the ocean as a whole, which in turn can provide for a healthy planet.

Hol Chan MPA,  Meso American Reef, (c) Kip Evans

Species biodiversity and abundance are key components to a healthy planet, however both are dramatically threatened due to ongoing extensive anthropogenic effects on the ocean. In mid-October, 2010, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan, devoted a day to address the urgent need to protect the worlds’ marine biodiversity and the vital role it plays in many of the earths’ life-supporting functions. The Oceans day at the CBD was divided into four sessions. The first session reviewed progress, noting the failure to meet goals set after the previous convention, and acknowledging that it is essential that future goals are met. A goal to increase the area of global MPAs ten-fold by 2020 was agreed upon: a goal that was initially supposed to be met by 2012.

A second session focused on the need to better enact so-called integrated marine and coastal area management (IMCAM), to establish networks of MPAs, and to improve scientific management practices using methods such as geographical information system methods. The majority of MPAs that exist today are along coastlines where a holistic management approach is needed for proper protection. Ecosystem based management that encompasses both the marine and terrestrial landscape is necessary for the health of MPAs.

Hol Chan MPA,  Meso American Reef, (c) Kip Evans

MPAs also need to be established in the high seas to include areas where many species undertake migrations. These waters are far from the shores of any country but must be protected to discourage inappropriate actions that are taking place without the surveillance from a nation or international organization. The third and fourth sessions at the CBD Oceans meeting dealt with management issues involving multi-stakeholder inclusion, and issues dealing with local and national political management, as well as the establishment of an intergovernmental forum for monitoring marine biodiversity on a trans-national basis.

The success of Hope Spots isn’t as simple as placing a name on a list and assuming recovery will occur. If these areas are to succeed in regenerating biodiversity and species abundance, ecosystem based management practices must occur. Better marine law enforcement and marine research must also take place in order to protect and better understand the vulnerability and resilience of the unique ecosystems that are being protected. If humans are to ensure that a healthy ecosystem remains for future generations, it is critical that marine habitats are restored in order to support a healthy planet. Meeting the goals set forth at the Nagoya Convention on Biodiversity would be a step in the right direction.

One Comment

  • Tammy Evans says:

    I think what your doing is amazing. Thank you. I’m just a member of the Okanagan Indian Band in Vernon British Columbia. I have just loved nature and animals of all types. The documentary Mission Blue just drew me in. The passion and big enough heart to be able to do something. I feel a lot of us want to do some thing but are financially not able. So Thank you too everyone. God bless.

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