Written by Madison Churchill; photos by Hannah Gabrielson
Donned in thick neoprene and extra-long fins, we dive below the surface. One breath at a time takes us deeper into an underwater world, bringing everything into focus with each descent. We are freediving at Lime Kiln State Park on San Juan Island, a historically thriving kelp forest that’s now under threat. What we see now is alarming. One dip beneath the surface reveals a barren of sea urchins as far as the eye can see. These spiny invertebrates serve their function in small numbers, but when left unchecked, can devour kelp like no other. Some stalks of kelp have been spared and continue to grow, but there’s been a clear shift. Something is out of balance.…
By Dan Laffoley and Dr. Sylvia Earle
Later this year a major meeting will occur in China under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which will establish the ‘post-2020’ global biodiversity goals to better protect nature and the planet. This meeting is set against ever-increasing urgency and desperation to get a grip on the now deeply concerning and accelerating decline in nature, increases in major disruptions from climate change, and the impacts of this on the planet, nature, people, and the very viability of options for our future. In doing so the meeting in China remains one of THE opportunities of our generation to focus the attention of Governments on significantly scaling up ocean biodiversity protection. But why then does the CBD seem to be dropping an emphasis on the ocean?…
Header image: An expanse of Sargassum. (c) The Nonsuch Expeditions, JP Rouja
By Teresa Mackey, Programme Manager, Sargasso Sea Commission
The Sargasso Sea, a two million square nautical mile expanse of the North Atlantic, has long been an area famed for mystery and intrigue. Although sometimes referenced in popular culture in connection with the mythical ‘Bermuda Triangle’, for scientists around the world it is an area of interest due to its oceanographic history and the biodiversity of the high seas ecosystem.
One mystery of the Sargasso Sea that continues to perplex scientists is the life cycle of the endangered European eel (Anguilla anguilla) and American eel (Anguilla rostrata). There is good scientific evidence that their spawning occurs in the Sargasso Sea, although the exact location has never been observed by scientists.…
Header image by Jeff Hester, Photographers Without Borders
(JANGAMO BAY, MOZAMBIQUE) FEBRUARY 25th, 2021
The expansive coast along Mozambique’s Jangamo Bay offers a warm welcome to its visitors with serene blue waters, rolling sand dunes and idyllic palm trees. In Jangamo Bay, tourists can witness migrating humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) and connect with manta rays (Mobula alfredi and Manta birostris) beneath the surface.
Unfortunately, the area also experiences the prominent global issue of overfishing due to unsustainable practices, including shark killing. However, local nonprofit marine conservation organization Love The Oceans has been working to transform this fishing-fueled economy into an economy supported by ecotourism backed by a healthy marine ecosystem.
Love The Oceans has delivered sustainable fishing workshops and educational projects teaching sustainability, biology and marine resource management to more than 1,250 school children to spark a passion for marine life and the ocean within the next generation.…
Header image: Photo of K21, an adult male from the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population, taken off the Seattle waterfront. Photo credit: John Durban.
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON (2020)
The Salish Sea has been declared a Hope Spot by international nonprofit Mission Blue in recognition of SeaLife Response, Rehabilitation, and Research (SR³) and their partners’ conservation goals to protect the local marine biodiversity. SR³ is kicking off their celebration as the Hope Spot Champions with the opening of a new marine animal hospital in Seattle, coming soon.
Connecting the waters between Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, Canada, the Salish Sea is bursting with iconic and beloved creatures like the endangered Southern Resident killer whales and humpback whales. As the original inhabitants of the sea, these mammals called the region home thousands of years before human beings walked to draw borders between countries, build ports, and develop commercial fishing to feed the rest of the two-legged world.…
Featured image by Danny Copeland.
Dive into the Aeolian Islands Hope Spot StoryMap!
AEOLIAN ARCHIPELAGO, ITALY (2020)
The Aeolian Archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea, north of Sicily is a string of seven volcanic islands named after Aeolus, the Greek demigod of the winds. Under Italy’s brilliant blue skies, the rocky islands are speckled among sparkling cerulean waters and hold a cornucopia of life. Each of the Aeolian islands is a UNESCO World Heritage site, designated in recognition of their unique volcanic activity – three islands are active volcanoes, and the remaining four islands still represent secondary volcanic phenomena.
Many local organizations are fueling projects to preserve the islands with the support of the Aeolian Islands Preservation Foundation (AIPF), who works in collaboration with other national and international groups.…
Featured image by Jason Boswell
In November 2019, Cape RADD (Research and Diver Development) became the newly-appointed Champions of the False Bay Hope Spot. Run by a small team of passionate marine biologists and conservationists, Cape RADD serves as a platform for researchers in the False Bay area of Cape Town, South Africa. Read on to learn more about the important work they are doing in South Africa!
Inspiring the next generation of marine scientists
Cape RADD’s team of scientists aim to better understand the underwater world by using a variety of sampling techniques including transects, quadrats, remote underwater video and mark-recapture to monitor long-term changes to biodiversity in the area. They conduct a number of research projects including kelp forest grazer density and distribution, fish and shark population estimates, microplastic pollution, and more.…
The Pandemic Put Tourism to the Galápagos Islands on Pause. As a New Hope Spot, What’s In Store for a More Sustainable Future?
Featured image: Kip Evans
GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, EASTERN PACIFIC OCEAN (OCTOBER 29TH, 2020)
Tourism has been the main industry in the Galápagos Islands for the 25,000 people who live across the five inhabited islands. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the flow of tourists has stopped – along with many islanders’ source of income. Scientists and conservationists have long considered the protection of the Galápagos Islands to be in need of a second look thanks to recent studies that show complex migration patterns connecting sharks and other creatures of the Galápagos to Cocos, Malpelo and Coiba islands. During a time of global shut-down and rapid change, now may be time for momentum towards greater protection for not only the Galápagos Islands but of the entire Eastern Pacific Ocean.…
KANGAROO ISLAND, SOUTHERN AUSTRALIA (AUGUST 10TH, 2020)
Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third-largest island, and one of immense biological significance. A plunge beneath Kangaroo Island’s crystalline waves reveals a bursting rainbow of life – lucky divers can spot animals like striped reef fish, radiant sea stars, enigmatic jellyfish, pods of 100 dolphins and several threatened and endangered species. However, not unlike many other marine ecosystems, it faces the threat of ever-growing human interference.
Kangaroo Island North Coast has been declared a Hope Spot by international marine conservation nonprofit Mission Blue in recognition of the Hope Spot Champions’ goals of increased marine protection for the island’s surrounding waters and the expansion of ecotourism and research tourism in the area. Mission Blue also recognizes the need to protect Kangaroo Island from a proposed timber port project.…
Environmental Groups Urge Costa Rica and Ecuador to Create World’s First Bilateral Marine Protected Area
Featured image by Nonie Silver
ECUADOR, AUGUST 28TH, 2020
Environmental groups Mission Blue and Turtle Island Restoration Network called on the Ministers of Environment of Costa Rica and Ecuador today to move forward in creating one of the world’s first marine protected areas connecting the UNESCO biosphere reserves of two countries.
The letter urges that Costa Rica and Ecuador act quickly to create the Cocos-Galapagos Swimway, a 240,000 square-kilometer underwater highway that connects the National Parks of two sovereign nations — Costa Rica’s Cocos Island National Park with Ecuador’s Galapagos Marine Reserve — both of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Scientific research in the Eastern Tropical Pacific conducted by a network of organizations known as MigraMar revealed endangered and threatened marine species like whale sharks, green sea turtles, leatherback sea turtles, silky sharks, and scalloped hammerhead sharks use this swimway to migrate between the marine reserves.…