The Legacy Navigator: December 2012
- Coral Sea Marine National Park Proclaimed
- Pitcairn: An Underwater Bounty
- International Deep Sea Biology Conference
- Chagos Outreach and Science
- In Case You Missed It…
Coral Sea Marine National Park Proclaimed
On November 16, the Australian government proclaimed the Coral Sea Marine National Park as the second-largest fully protected marine reserve in the world and the largest in the domestic waters of any country. Spanning 502,238 square kilometers (193,915 square miles)—an area the size of Spain—these waters are home to one of the world's last remaining intact tropical ocean ecosystems as well as spectacular marine life such as sharks, whales, tuna, and billfish.
“Today marks a turning point for the protection of Australia's oceans,” said Imogen Zethoven, director of Global Ocean Legacy's Coral Sea campaign. “Australians have always had a special relationship with our oceans. With this proclamation, Australians regain our position as a world leader in marine protection. We have said yes to a better balance between what we take from the oceans and what we conserve for the future.”
Called the “jewel in the crown” by Australia's environment minister, the Coral Sea was part of the government's proclamation to create the world's largest system of marine parks around its coastline.
Global Ocean Legacy's Coral Sea effort established a 15-member coalition of conservation groups and garnered strong Australian and international public support, generating more than half a million submissions and petition signatures, including American actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio, who urged his 6.5 million Twitter followers to call for the Coral Sea's protection.
Pitcairn: An Underwater Bounty
On November 28, the Pew Environment Group, in collaboration with National Geographic and the Pitcairn Island Council, asked the British government to designate a fully protected marine reserve around the Pitcairn Islands, a United Kingdom overseas territory in the southeastern Pacific. This reserve would be the biggest in the world at 834,000 square kilometers (332,000 square miles)— an area twice the size of California—and would protect an almost untouched, though threatened, underwater environment.
At an event at London's Royal Society, speakers— including Joshua Reichert, PEG's managing director; Dr. Enric Sala, National Geographic's explorer-in-residence; and Paul Rose, a popular U.K. author, television presenter, and adventurer—made the case for a marine reserve and introduced the stunning National Geographic film “Pitcairn: The Real Bounty.”
A highlight of the evening was a live video link with the Pitcairn Islanders, who had gathered in their town hall to watch the proceedings from the other side of the world and voice their support for declaring a marine reserve in their waters. Children, who had drawn pictures of fish, told the watching crowd why they loved their home and its underwater treasures.
During the event, the U.K. Foreign Office issued a statement on behalf of Mark Simmonds MP, the minister for the overseas territories, saying that the minister “looked forward to working with the Pew Environment Group and other stakeholders, to explore and develop options for the future management of the marine environment around Pitcairn.” This opens the door for what we hope will be a fruitful discussion of the benefits from such a declaration, followed by a speedy pronouncement.
Pew has been discussing the implications of a large marine reserve with the islanders since early 2011, and Global Ocean Legacy team members Heather Bradner and Elisabeth Whitebread have spent significant time on the island. In March and April 2012, National Geographic came on board as a partner and undertook an extensive underwater exploration of the four islands in the archipelago. A television special about Pitcairn and its waters, featuring scientific findings and footage gathered on the expedition, will air globally in March 2013.
International Deep Sea Biology Conference
Global Ocean Legacy was a sponsor of the 13th annual International Deep Sea Biology Conference last month in Wellington, New Zealand.
The event brought together the world's leading deep-sea biologists to exchange information and present new research. The conference also gave Global Ocean Legacy an opportunity to share with the science community our efforts to protect the ocean, including the many deep-sea features of our sites. These sites contain some of the most specular ocean features left on the planet, including hydrothermal vents, cold seeps, cold-water corals, and 659 seamounts, or undersea mountains.
Global Ocean Legacy manager Robert Mazurek presented information about how seamounts provide important habitats for predators, fish, and invertebrates and said these areas are in trouble in many parts of the world. “For over 30 years, fish populations on or near seamounts have faced overexploitation, depletion, and collapse, with bottom trawl fishing the reason for much of this decline,” he said.
Mazurek explained, however, that seamounts and other deep-sea features within the project's sites are unspoiled and can host important concentrations of ocean predators, including tuna, billfish, sharks, cetaceans, and pinnipeds. “These sites give scientists the opportunity to study fully protected deep-sea areas in order to establish a baseline for how the deep sea functions in a natural state,” he said. “From a science perspective, understanding protected areas is invaluable to reversing the destruction in those that have been damaged.”
In addition, the conference provided Global Ocean Legacy with an opportunity to meet with scientists and build understanding for developing large marine reserves.
Filmmaker James Cameron delivered a plenary talk about his Deepsea Challenge submersible, which descended to the bottom of the Mariana Trench—the world's deepest point. In 2009, Global Ocean Legacy worked with the U.S. government to help establish the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument in the south Pacific, ensuring opportunities for deep-sea exploration for generations of scientists to come.
Chagos Outreach and Science
The Chagos Conservation Trust hosted its second annual conference, “Chagos Marine Reserve—Building on Success,” on November 27.
The largest fully protected marine reserve in the world is rapidly growing into a source of keen scientific interest, and this year's research expedition to the Chagos archipelago obtained excellent findings.
More than 100 people were in attendance as speakers presented their research findings and showed incredible underwater images of the rich biodiversity in the region. From sea turtle tagging and shark monitoring to island restoration and the measurements of pollution in the region, experts outlined a bright future for the Chagos Marine Reserve.
One of the most well received talks outlined the joint project of the Zoological Society of London and the Chagos Conservation Trust providing environmental training for U.K.-based and overseas Chagossian communities. During the summer of 2012, classroom teaching was combined with applied learning at partner institutions, including bird-watching, scuba diving lessons, and visits to the London Zoo, and culminated in the November graduation of 12 students, many of whom have expressed interest in environmental science careers. One of the graduates will join an expedition to the Chagos in 2013.
In Case You Missed It…
- International media featured Global Ocean Legacy's November Pitcairn event with National Geographic in London. Highlights include The Guardian's “Pitcairn Islands' Underwater Treasures Revealed—In Pictures” and CNN's “Protecting Pitcairn's Marine Bounty.”
- An op-ed by former U.K. foreign secretary David Miliband noted the British government's marine conservation leadership with the designation of the Chagos Marine Reserve in 2010 and the opportunity it now has to do the same with Pitcairn.
- Global Ocean Legacy's marine conservation efforts, particularly in Australia and Bermuda, were spotlighted in an article by Greenwire, an environmental online news site.
- National Geographic's Ocean Views blog featured a Q&A with Global Ocean Legacy director Jay Nelson about the many benefits of marine reserves.
- In Bermuda, the Royal Gazette's “Island still has a way to go to tackle environmental concerns” and The Bermudian highlighted Global Ocean Legacy's Bermuda Blue Halo project as a key environmental issue that has captured Bermudians' attention.
- TV New Zealand highlighted Global Ocean Legacy's effort to protect the Kermadec marine region following Australia's Coral Sea declaration.