Promoting Healthy Oceans: The Global Ocean Refuge System

Healthy oceans are essential to human survival and prosperity, yet oceans are severely impacted worldwide by human activities, including overfishing, climate change, industrialization, pollution and habitat destruction. The solution? Marine protected areas (MPAs).

“Oceans include about 97% of Earth’s water, offer 99% of the living space on our planet, and provide more than half the oxygen we breathe.” [1]

Marine Conservation Institute scientists and colleagues published a paper in Frontiers in Marine Science this week explaining why strong MPAs are needed and describing a strategy to attain better protections for marine wildlife globally: the Global Ocean Refuge System, or GLORES.

The authors point out MPAs have been implemented around the world and can be effective conservation tools that mitigate some of these threats and build resilience – but only when designed and managed well. MPA effectiveness has been the focus of a lot of scientific research over the past two decades. Unfortunately, the insights gained from these studies rarely guide the real-world design and implementation of MPAs, so MPAs vary in their level of effectiveness and ecosystems remain unevenly represented.

 

“The process by which an MPA earns GLORES recognition includes being nominated, evaluated according to science-based MPA standards, awarded, and reviewed regularly.”

 

There is a clear need for guidance to improve the effectiveness of MPAs. Hameed et al. point to the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES), a strategic initiative led by Marine Conservation Institute, as an effective way to address this need. At the same time, there is a need to accelerate the implementation of MPAs to achieve the representative 10% protection of our oceans that countries are committed to under the Convention on Biological Diversity as well as the United Nations Sustainable Development goals. Ultimately, scientists suggest a target of 30% or more is necessary if we are to adequately recover and maintain marine wildlife.

GLORES aims to set high conservation standards to improve the quality of MPAs and catalyze strong protection for at least 30% of the ocean by 2030. Such a substantial increase in marine protection is crucial for maintaining the resilience of marine ecosystems and restoring their benefits to people. GLORES provides a comprehensive strategy that employs the rich body of MPA science to scale up existing marine conservation efforts.

“GLORES aims to support the creation of a network of strongly protected marine areas that cover enough of every region in the ocean to provide safe havens for the full diversity of marine life for future generations.” [1]

Potential Global Ocean Refuges can be nominated online at globaloceanrefuge.org. Each nominee is researched by GLORES staff and evaluated by the GLORES Science Council, a group of MPA and marine science experts. Sites that receive these prestigious GLORES awards and join the network of Global Ocean Refuges will represent a high standard for MPAs and be held up as exemplars. Incentivizing more high quality MPAs through the Global Ocean Refuge System will safeguard the marine ecosystems upon which we depend.

View the 2017 Global Ocean Refuge nominees here and contribute to the ocean conservation movement with your comments!

 

References:

[1] Hameed, S.O. et al. (2017). Incentivizing More Effective Marine Protected Areas with the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES). Front. Mar. Sci., 4(208).

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