Officially proclaimed World Oceans Month, this past June brought a series of impressive announcements about new initiatives to protect our oceans. From President Obama’s proposal to create the world’s largest marine monument around the US Pacific Remote Islands to New Zealand formally declaring the Akaroa Marine Reserve, June 2014 will be remembered by ocean advocates for decades to come. Each exciting declaration about the establishment of a new protected area in our oceans is analogous to glimpsing an iceberg; on the surface we only see a small chunk of the total ice, or the finished product of long periods of time and effort (whether geologic or human). But as every floating iceberg ultimately starts with snowflakes, each marine protected area and marine reserve begins with many small, but important, human actions.
Yet these sometimes long and involved processes can be difficult to keep track of. Until now, there was no central place to follow them or find key information, such as: Who is leading the charge? Who is building the case? How did this start? And, most importantly, how do I help?
Marine Conservation Institute developed MPA Campaign Tracker to answer these essential questions. The tool was created as part of the MPAtlas project and highlights ongoing campaigns, from smaller one-time efforts to larger sweeping initiatives. The marine conservation community is encouraged to share efforts behind marine protected areas in MPA Campaign Tracker. If you are working on, or know of, a new or existing marine protected area campaign or proposal, we’d love to hear from you and help share your important work with the greater conservation community. Please contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read on to discover some of the incredible and vital places highlighted in MPA Campaign Tracker, and the people who are working hard to protect them.
When President Obama recently announced his intention to increase the protected waters surrounding the US Pacific Remote Islands it may have seemed sudden, but marine experts have been working for years to piece together an understanding of these intricate and important oceanic island ecosystems. Only after years of work and collaboration do the results clearly demonstrate a compelling case for an area’s protection. When the science is strong, it slowly builds the momentum needed to prompt political or management action. Fortunately, President Obama’s announcement was not without precedence. In the neighboring Northwest Hawaiian Islands, Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have all afforded increasing amounts of protection to the area. Now designated as Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, the Northwest Hawaiian Islands have been a recognized and important marine area for over 100 years.
Further south, the Akaroa Marine Reserve was formally declared in New Zealand just last month. The process began many years ago when a local fisherman named Brian Reid joined a dive club and became concerned for the marine life in a local harbor. Thus began a twenty year campaign by Brian, his wife Kathleen, and a small group of dedicated people who slowly and meticulously pieced together the threats facing this important marine area. From the first formal application for marine reserve status in 1996 to the official opening of the reserve this year, the thorough process involved studies of the harbor, the rare Hector’s dolphins, other local marine life and the unique habitat that is so fundamental to it all.
MPA Campaign Tracker also tracks the work of world renowned oceanographer (and Marine Conservation Institute Board Director) Dr. Sylvia Earle and her organization Mission Blue who are advocating protections for “Hope Spots.” As Dr. Earle so eloquently explains, “Hope Spots are special places that are critical to the health of the ocean — Earth’s blue heart.” Her tireless travel and work to shine a light on the plight of our world’s oceans inspire many in the marine conservation community to keep tenaciously building the case for marine protection worldwide.
We are energized by this year’s World Oceans Month announcements and invite you to explore them and other important initiatives further through the MPA Campaign Tracker. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.