One of the questions I am asked most frequently is how much of the ocean do we need to protect? I often reflect philosophically on the response from Dr. Sylvia Earle (Marine Conservation Institute Board Member, National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence, and Mission Blue founder), “More than half the world is ocean, the blue heart of the planet. You decide: how much of your heart do you need to stay alive?”
For the better part of the past 2 decades, a growing number of conservation scientists have shown convincingly that we are overwhelming our planet, and our oceans are threatened by overfishing, habitat degradation, climate change, ocean acidification and many other threats.
So it is of critical importance that we address this question of how much is enough. In the last couple of months, we have seen some heavy hitters in the conservation field weigh in on this important question.
The extraordinary evolutionary ecologist E.O. Wilson is making news by calling on the world to set aside half of the planet for nature. This provocative proposal comes at a time where human caused alteration of the environment is escalating into what is now widely viewed as the 6th mass extinction of species on our planet. The existential threat is not just to these species but also to us and our well-being.
Renowned marine conservationist, Professor Callum Roberts and his team at the University of York exhaustively reviewed the marine science literature and found that protecting a third or more of the ocean is needed to maintain marine life.
The work of these preeminent conservationists underscore why the Global Ocean Refuge System initiative has as its goal at least 30% full protection of the world’s oceans.
The Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES) initiative is designed to dramatically scale-up conservation efforts to protect life in our seas. The difference between what is currently protected (~2% of the ocean) and the 30-50% that scientists recommend, is staggeringly large. GLORES is intended to catalyze a dramatic increase via providing strong incentives for decision makers to secure full protection for important ocean places. Incentive systems provide prestige and will draw attention to marine protected area efforts, giving nations and political leaders added incentive to transform current weak efforts into robust conservation. Eco-tourists will similarly seek out these countries and protected places as unique opportunities to visit and support conservation.
The decisions we make on a daily basis effect the future of the planet and as Earth day approaches, we need to remember that over 95% of the inhabitable space on Earth is in the ocean. We would be wise to heed the advice of these conservation leaders and protect enough of our ocean, the blue heart of our planet, to provide a healthier future for coming generations and the glorious life in the sea. Find out more and become a GLORES partner today – and let’s protect enough of our planet to provide a healthier future for coming generations of people and marine life.
Cover photo courtesy NOAA