The Good News on MPAs
In 2016-2017 we witnessed the creation of some extraordinary Marine Protected Areas around the world. But there have been some disappointments along the way as well. Here is a refresher, with the most recent news on MPAs around the world.
The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument near Hawaii created by President Bush in 2006 was greatly expanded by President Obama in 2016, preserving over 1.5 million square kilometers of ocean. Briefly making it the world’s largest MPA, only to be surpassed by the creation of an even larger sanctuary in the Ross Sea off Antarctic. Read our Blue Ocean post: Marine Protected Areas: Giant Leap for Fish Kind
The World Wide Fund for Nature recently reported on the economic benefits accrued by the creation and proper management of MPAs, finding that they were “effective in reducing poverty and food insecurity and boosting employment” See National Geographic.com for: Securing a Bold, Blue and Prosperous future for Our Ocean. (photo – Eric Madega, WWF Malaysia)
In South Africa: Research and Deep Reefs Discovered
Deep coral reefs off the coast of South Africa have been the focus of a month-long expedition led by Kerry Sink, from the South African National Biodiversity Institute. They hope their research will provide a clearer understanding of the unique ecosystems that exists where the currents off the Atlantic and Indian Oceans collide.
This information can then be applied to the management of the area’s fisheries and eventually lead to creating and expanding marine protected areas. Sink and her associates made important discoveries during their expedition including a cold-water reef with hard and soft corals at a depth of almost 350 meters. In addition the team visited the sites of six proposed MPAs and their research confirmed the need to protect these areas. (photo – Kerry Sink)
South Africa has a strong record on marine conservation and has moved to protect habitats and species found nowhere else on the planet. Read the entire article in PEW Charitable trust.
In the Cook Islands, Exclusion Zone Set
The government of the Cook Islands has set a 50 nautical mile exclusion zone around each of its islands. The move to increase a larger buffer zone has been urged by environmentalists and traditional leaders for some time. The exact rules and how they will effect foreign fishing interests, are yet to be determined. (photo – Flo Syme Buchann)
The Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve Established
In 2015, the U.K. Government announced their intent to create one of the world’s largest fully protected marine reserves, but making it contingent on the ability to effectively monitor the area. Now they can.
Located in the Southern Pacific Ocean, the Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve, at 830,000 square kilometers, it’s almost 3.5 times the size of the U.K. The reserve contains over 1,250 species of marine mammals, fish and seabirds in one of the world’s most pristine ocean environments. However, the remoteness that has protected its marine environment also presents challenges for traditional monitoring.
So, the government turned to Project Eyes on the Seas, a surveillance method that uses multiple data sources (satellites and floating drones) to track the movement of vessels within the boundaries of the Marine Reserve. These waters encompass 99% of the Pitcairn Island’s exclusive economic zone, where all commercial extraction including fishing and ocean floor mining is prohibited. Find out how it works, read the entire article on the PEW Charitable trusts website.
Tracking Fishing Vessels Around the Globe
The VMS or vessel monitoring systems can help us detect, deter and eliminate illegal fishing. The capability of satellites to track fishing vessels has been tested since the 1990’s, however advances in the technology have enabled us to watch vessel activity in most of the world’s major fisheries. Even the transfer of catch from one vessel to another can be detected.
Certain requirements must be in place for these systems to work effectively with national fisheries managements. However, nations are increasingly seeing the benefits of these systems and are opting in to share VMS data. Read the entire article on PEW.
State of The Gulf of Mexico Summit
$20 billion has been committed to restoration efforts in the Gulf of Mexico. The United States, Mexico and Cuba will work together on a cohesive program of research, analysis and conservation activities over the next 15 years.
The Summit will provide an unprecedented opportunity to address the many issues that affect the Gulf’s health and productivity with resources that have in the past not been available. See Google Events.
What is the True Value of the Oceans?
Our update on Marine Protected Areas: Good News asks this question? Exactly how much is the ocean worth? We know that millions of people rely on the sea for their sustenance and employment. But, how do you factor in shipping, trade, tourism and so much more. Two years ago, economists tackled this question and came up with a dollar value of $24 trillion US. The next question is how do we protect this asset.
“Marine resources are being degraded by human activity throughout the world – that comes down to things like pollution, plastics, degradation of coastal mangroves, climate change, etc.” says Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of the Global Change Institute.
Indonesia is a good example of a relationship to the ocean that is both dependent and damaging. Seventy percent of the country’s population lives along its coast and is dependent on the ocean, but Indonesia is also the second largest producer of plastic waste. See the entire article in Aljazeera.
The Not So Good News
Hawaii: Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
In 2016 President Obama expanded the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the northeastern Hawaiian islands. This monument is twice the size of the state of Texas – and is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its amazing biodiversity of corals and over 7000 species of marine life. This entire area is now a no fishing zone and that is the rub.
Now that President Trump has announced that he is rolling back all things Obama, and since Trump’s new Director of the EPA Scott Pruitt is an open foe of environmental regulations, the future of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument may be in question, along with the other marine sanctuaries that Obama set aside. (photo – James Watt, Papahanaumokuakea Marine Park)
Cruise Ship Runs Aground in Raja Ampat MPA
In March the Caledonia Sky cruise ship, ran aground in one of the Crown Jewels of Marine Protected Areas, the Raja Ampat National Marine Park; damaging pristine reefs in what is considered the epicenter of marine biodiversity, the coral triangle. It has now been determined that over 13,000 square meters of coral reef were completely destroyed and an additional 5,600 square meters were partially destroyed. See our entire post: Update: Greater Damage To the Raja Ampat Reef Than Thought!
Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Ireland Defer To Fisheries
Denmark has been condemned for blocking marine conservation, because it is one of four nations that oppose kelp forests protection. The OSPAR Commission has called for kelp forests in the northeastern Atlantic Ocean be put on the List of Threatened and or Declining Species and Habitats.
Iceland, Norway and Ireland joined with Denmark in opposing the conservation measure. Obviously all four countries are placing the interests of their fishing industries above the needs of the marine environment. Read more from Oceana regarding the lack of OSPAR action.
Norway and Iceland are already in trouble for their whaling practices, see our post Minke Whales Hunted
Hope Spot Dimming on Grand Cayman
Hope Spot on the Brink of Irrevocable Change is the title of this recent plea from our Ocean Ally Mission Blue written by Henley Spiers who just returned from Grand Cayman Island. At issue is the on-going debate on the future of the George Town Harbor, home to some of the islands most accessible reefs. Reefs that are threatened by plans to build a cruise ship pier. The Cayman government wants Grand Cayman to accommodate Oasis class, cruise ships, however, that will require dredging a channel through the reefs in the harbor and could possibly harm surrounding reefs. Ironically these reefs are the same reefs that are most used by passengers of cruise ships. Read this entire article on the Mission Blue website. (photo – Spiers)
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See These Related Blue Ocean Posts:
Blue Ocean has been following the controversial issue of the George Town cruise ship pier, see our posts: Cayman approves controversial Mega Cruise Port jeopardizing reefs, stayover tourism and: Troubled waters for Cayman Govt. selling residents on cruiseship pier.
The George town Harbor reefs have already suffered damage from shipping, see our post on reef rescue efforts after the Carnival Cruise Ship collision in 2014: Devastating Damage Caused by Cruise Ship Anchor Mobilizes Cayman Dive Community