May 31, 2012

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By Mera McGrew

Bermuda— Key leaders come to Bermuda this week to support what could be the world’s largest no-take marine reserve in the Atlantic Ocean. Conversations will focus on the importance of preserving the Sargasso Sea, a 2 million-square-miles gyre, home to a number of endemic and threatened species.

The Blue Halo initiative refers to the proposed marine reserve that will encompass much of Bermuda’s Exclusive Economic Zone (E.E.Z.) within the Sargasso Sea. The landmark initiative proposes the creation of a halo-shaped protected area that would extend from the shores of Bermuda out  200-miles in every direction. The Pew Environment Group’s Global Ocean Legacy Program is currently working with the government of Bermuda, Mission Blue and other non-governmental organizations to ensure the establishment of this landmark protection program.

Speaking at this week’s event are oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, Dr. Richard Rockefeller, the chairman of the Executive Committee of the Sargasso Sea Alliance, as well as Jay Nelson, the director of the Pew Environment Groups Global Legacy project.

Sylvia Earle calls the Sargasso Sea “the golden floating rainforest of the Atlantic ocean.”

The Sargasso Sea is a gyer, off Bermuda, in the central North Atlantic Ocean. It is a unique pelagic ecosystem based on species of brown algae, Sargassum, that are able to develop without contact with land. The habitat also plays a critical role in the life cycle of a number of species including the Endangered Cahow (Pterodroma cahow), the Porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus), and Atlantic bluefin tuna.

Currently, overfishing, dumped garbage and other global pressures threaten all the species and unique habitats found in the Sargasso Sea. Conservation is needed to protect resources and the biodiversity of this critical ecosystem. The establishment of the proposed Bermuda Blue Halo initiative would be a  first step towards  this goal and eventual protection of  the Sargasso Sea.

“This truly is a unique opportunity for Bermuda,” says Chris Flook, the director of the Bermuda Blue Halo initiative. “As Bermudians, we have a stake in protecting our marine environment, and the Blue Halo initiative is a way to celebrate and protect it for generations to come.”

Top image: Taken by Mera McGrew from Nonsuch Island, Bermuda.

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