February 22, 2011

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Representatives from the world’s leading environment and marine conservation NGO’s met last weekend in Gstaad (Switzerland) to share programmes, ideas and initiatives for protecting the world’s oceans.
As part of an event co-hosted by the Bertarelli Foundation and the BLUE Marine Foundation, a group of marine biologists and international specialists evaluated the recent creation of the Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Chagos Archipelago, the world’s largest marine reserve with an area of 500,000 square kilometers in the British Indian Ocean Territory.

Ernesto Bertarelli
The main theme of discussion between the experts was how to specifically manage the Chagos reserve, in particular how to get the most from this enormous no-fishing area for the Indian Ocean ecosystem. A number of questions were raised on how to make the Chagos MPA an international benchmark and case study to guide future actions towards the protection of the oceans, and how it could be replicated in the next few years to create other large Marine Protected Areas in some of the world’s most valuable marine ecosystems.
Overall, experts consider marine resources to be rapidly depleting mainly due to overfishing and, that if the trend stays the same, by mid of this century there won’t be any fish left in the sea. It is therefore imperative to create protected areas where ecosystems can regenerate and biodiversity maintained. Today only 1% of oceans are protected: the goal is to reach 10% in the next ten years through the creation of large marine reserves. Several British overseas territories as well as the Mediterranean Sea or the Maldives are on the agenda for discussion.
The event in the Swiss Alps was co-organized by the Blue Marine Foundation, a UK charity founded by the producers of Charles Clover’s film “The End Of The Line”. It featured world expert Sylvia Earle, a National Geographic ambassador renowned for her work in protecting the oceans as the special guest, alongside representatives of organizations such as International Union for Conservation, Fauna & Flora International, Fish 2 Fork, Zoological Society of London, WWF, Pew Charitable Trust, Chagos Conservation Trust, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Changing Oceans, National History Museum, Mission Blue and the National Geographic Society.
Grand Hotel Park, Switzerland

“This has been a terrific opportunity to exchange ideas and visions. With 70% of our oxygen coming from the seas it is of paramount importance that we care about the oceans. They are the life support system for human kind. To protect them we all need to contribute and the private sector’s involvement is imperative. We must thank Blue Marine Foundation and the Bertarelli family for what they are doing,” said Sylvia Earle.
The scientific workshop was followed by a fund-raising gala at the 100-year old Grand Hotel Park, recently reopened after renovation. Sponsored by Swiss jeweler Chopard, over 1.2 million Swiss Francs were raised for new projects to protect the oceans.
Dona Bertarelli, co-president of the Bertarelli Foundation, commented: “Meeting Sylvia Earle and organizing this workshop with leading experts from around the world has been the most enlightening experience. Marine reserves are not a choice but a necessity. Our actions of today have a direct effect on what the oceans will look like for our children. It is a social responsibility to raise awareness and resources to save the oceans and protect our life support system for future generations.”
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