Marine Conservation Institute has a lot to celebrate this holiday season as 2015 comes to a close. This year saw more area of the planet protected than any other time in history. In 2015, implemented marine protection increased by nearly 300,000 square kilometers and proposed marine protection increased by about 2.4 million square kilometers. In a time when our oceans face immense pressure from overfishing, climate change and pollution, strong marine protection is desperately needed to ensure healthy oceans for us and future generations.
We bring to you the 12 days of “Fishmas”, a celebration of 2015’s monumental marine protection advancements!
12. On the 12th and final day of Fishmas, we energetically applaud Palau’s enormous new marine reserve that protects 80% of its ocean, 500,000 square kilometers. This no-take marine reserve is one of the five largest fully protected marine areas in the world.
11. On the 11th day of Fishmas, we celebrate New Zealand’s reiterated intent to create a 620,000 square kilometer ocean sanctuary in the Kermadec region that will cover 15% of its exclusive economic zone.
10. On the 10th day of Fishmas, we applaud Chile’s commitment to create a 720,000 square kilometer marine protected area around Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island that will single-handedly increase protection of Chile’s waters by 16.4%.
9.On the ninth day of Fishmas, we celebrate Chile’s creation of the Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park, a 297,000 square kilometer area around the San Ambrosio and San Felix islands that instantly protected a further 8.2% of Chile’s waters.
8. On the eighth day of Fishmas, we celebrate Chile’s plan to design a 100,000 square kilometer network of multi-use marine protected areas with no-take marine reserves in the Patagonia fjords over the next five years. When implemented, this new network will protect an additional 2.7% of Chilean ocean.
7. On the seventh day of Fishmas, we applaud The Bahamas for expanding its network of marine protected area coverage by creating 15 new parks and expanding three others, totaling 45,000 square kilometers of new area protected.
6. On the sixth day of Fishmas, we congratulate the British Government for creating one of the world’s largest, no-take marine reserves around the Pitcairn Islands, a UK Overseas Territory in the South Pacific. Once fully implemented, this marine reserve will protect over 830,000 square kilometers of ocean!
5. On the fifth day of Fishmas, we celebrate the announcement of new shark sanctuaries in the waters surrounding Bonaire and Saba in the Caribbean Sea and the waters around the Federated States of Micronesia. The sanctuaries will span the islands’ complete exclusive economic zones and will prohibit all commercial shark fishing up to 200 nautical miles from each island. These shark sanctuaries will protect a combined total of nearly 3 million square kilometers.
4. On the fourth day of Fishmas, we applaud Panama’s designation of two new marine protected areas: Cordillera de Coiba and the Caribbean’s Banco Volcán. These two new protected areas will cover 31,435 square kilometers of Panama’s territorial waters, increasing Panama’s total protected marine area from 3.7 to over 13%.
3. On the third day of Fishmas, we celebrate the first Hope Spot in the Mediterranean. This past November Dr. Sylvia Earle, Founder of Mission Blue, named the Balearic Islands a Hope Spot– a special place worth safeguarding as a marine protected area for its significance to the health of the Mediterranean Sea. Marine protection in the Balearic Islands now reaches 49,000 hectares in total (18% of Spain’s inland waters).
2. One the second day of Fishmas, we celebrate two new proposed National Marine Sanctuaries in Maryland and Lake Michigan covering 2,302 square kilometers. Announced by President Barack Obama at the Our Ocean conference in Chile, these two protected areas are the first to be identified by NOAA for possible designation under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act in over a decade.
1. On the first day of Fishmas, we celebrate Cuba and the United State’s collaborative marine protected area program to foster conservation and understanding of shared natural marine resources in both countries. This cooperative program will initially focus on Gauanahacabibes National Park, Bank of San Antonio, the Florida Keys, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuaries and possibly others.
Today’s cover photo: By David Burdick (http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/reef1388.htm) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons