If you have been following this blog, you have become familiar with a myriad of issues facing our oceans today: acidification, global warming, over fishing, ect. Yet, what is actually being done about it? While most of the environmental headlines have focused on the Paris talks, only recently has news coverage begun to highlight the numerous achievements in ocean conservation in 2015. New marine reserves, parks and protected areas have been formed in the Northern and Southern Pacific oceans, around Easter Island, and off of the coast of New Zealand. Sticking to his pledge made in March of 2014, President Obama massively expanded the area protected by the US in the Pacific Remote Islands, nearly tripling the previous coverage of the area and bringing the US on par with the two other leading countries in marine territorial protected area, being Australia and Greenland.
Check out these interactive maps of the world’s marine protected areas:
By Area: http://mpatlas.org/explore/#
Recently, another major conservation victory has been announced by the Great British Oceans Coalition campaign group. The Ascension Island area, located in the Southern Atlantic and home to the world’s largest marlins and a breeding site for sea turtles and sea birds, is confirmed to be formally announced as a marine reserve by 2017. This is big news because it will be a big park, just under the size of the UK itself, which signals the commitment of the British government to ramp up its historically poor marine protection coverage. Further, as an official “reserve”, the area will have the highest level of legal protection. Certainly a step in the right direction!
Here is the BBC article: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-35216313
However, the battle has only just begun. Even with the new legislations, only about 3% of the world’s oceans will be protected, with most of the world’s countries (even the Western powers!) only protecting around 1-2% of their territorial seas, and even the three leading countries each only cover a “whopping” approximate 27% (see National Geographic map link above). Further, only just over 1% of the oceans will be given the highest legal protection of “reserve” status that fully inhibits resource extraction or recreational human use (Boonzaier, 2015). This low level of protection is a major issue, as a study argues that 20-32% of US seafood imports are collected illegally (Pramod, 2014). Remedying this problem is not easy since enforcement of the protected areas requires continuous management and funding, making marine protected areas difficult to maintain effectively if they cannot economically support themselves or generate as much national income as would be obtained by allowing fishing or sport. However, a recent study in the Mozambique Partial Marine Reserve has displayed that local residents would be willing to pay for limited recreational access to the area, much like the national park system on land, and perhaps displays a model for extending the terrestrial balance of human use and conservation into the sea (Daly, 2015).
We have a long way to go, but hopefully this success in 2015 is only the start of much larger scale ocean conservation legislation in years to come!
Boonzaier, Lisa, and Daniel Pauly. “Marine Protection Targets: An Updated Assessment of Global Progress.” Oryx 50.01 (2015): 27-35. Web.
Daly, Cak, G. Fraser, and Jd Snowball. “Willingness to Pay for Marine-based Tourism in the Ponta Do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve, Mozambique.” African Journal of Marine Science 37.1 (2015): 33-40. Web.
Pramod, Ganapathiraju, Katrina Nakamura, Tony J. Pitcher, and Leslie Delagran. “Estimates of Illegal and Unreported Fish in Seafood Imports to the USA.” Marine Policy 48 (2014): 102-13. Web.