Marine Conservation Institute Releases Gulf Gems Report Highlighting Critical Areas to Protect in the Gulf of Mexico

Protecting Key Ecosystems is Essential to Ensure Future Vitality of the Gulf

Marine Conservation Institute today announced it has released a new report, Gulf Gems: Treasured Places in Troubled Waters, highlighting critical areas in the Gulf of Mexico. The document aims to bring awareness to important places in the Gulf that are currently unprotected or under-protected from extractive and potentially damaging human activities.

When the Deepwater Horizon disaster occurred in 2010, the most visible damage appeared on the shorelines and beaches of the Gulf States, impacting recreation, tourism and countless other economic activities.  Additionally, a large portion of the oil released remained in the ocean depths and may have seriously impacted deep water ecosystems. Due to the slow growth of these deep sea environments and the difficulties of exploring at depth, scientists may never fully understand the extent of the damage.  Direct restoration of these deep water areas is not feasible, so compensatory restoration (restoration of similar ecosystems damaged by different causes) and protection of these sites are the best options for the Gulf.

The ten locations featured in the report cover the spectrum of Gulf habitats, from the deep sea corals of Viosca Knolls to the shallow seagrass beds of Big Bend Aquatic Preserve, and include some of the most vibrant areas remaining in the Gulf.  Criteria for selection included uniqueness, ecosystem representativeness, biological diversity, current exploitation and possible threats.  Many of the sites are key habitat areas for commercially important fish species, such as groupers and snappers, but are virtually unknown to the public due to their depth or remoteness.  The report features visually stunning images, descriptive text and suggested protected measures for each highlighted site.

“The recent spill in the Houston Ship Channel further highlights the need to protect places that can provide resiliency for the Gulf of Mexico,” said Michael Gravitz, director of policy and legislation for Marine Conservation Institute.  “We need to identify important places in the Gulf of Mexico and limit extractive activities to ensure a sustainable future in that area.”

Although regulators are working to strengthen technological solutions to oil spills, the possibility of another major spill still looms over the Gulf.  Protecting critical areas from potentially damaging extractive activities allows these areas to act as “buffers” against future tragedies.

Strongly protected marine areas are a goal of the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES, pronounced glôr-ees), an initiative announced by Marine Conservation Institute in October of 2013.  A strategic, science-based way to safeguard marine ecosystems on a global scale, GLORES is designed to catalyze strong protection for at least 20% of the ecosystems in each marine biogeographic region by 2030.

About Marine Conservation Institute 
Marine Conservation Institute is a team of highly-experienced marine scientists and environmental policy advocates dedicated to saving ocean life for us and future generations.  The organization’s goal is to help create an urgently-needed worldwide system of strongly protected areas—the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES)—a strategic, cost-effective way to ensure the future diversity and abundance of marine life.  Founded in 1996, Marine Conservation Institute is a U.S.-based nonprofit organization with offices in Seattle, near San Francisco and in Washington DC.  For more information, please go to:


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