06/06/2011 - Our first national park was named not after a mountain or forest but for a mighty river: Yellowstone. For centuries the world's waters have connected us. Explorers, traders, scientists and fishermen have traveled our oceans and rivers in search of new resources and a greater understanding of the world. This Wednesday, as we mark World Oceans Day, we must intensify our efforts to better understand, manage and conserve our waters and marine habitats if they are to remain a vibrant source of life for future generations.
Great progress has been made in protecting our environment over the past several decades, but too little of that progress addresses 70% of the world's surface—our oceans. Less than one-half of 1% of the world's oceans are protected in ways that will ensure they stay wild. Too often overharvesting depletes what should be a lasting bounty of fish. In some parts of the oceans today up to 90% of large fish are gone from natural ecosystems.
America is not alone in its efforts to preserve marine treasures. Australia has expanded its protection of parts of the Great Barrier Reef and the United Kingdom announced the designation of the Chagos Islands Marine Reserve in 2010. Dedicated conservation organizations, such as the Pew Environment Group, are sounding the call to action. Their efforts have supported the designation of more than half the world's protected marine waters.
Read the full opinion editorial A New Wave of National Parks on The Wall Street Journal's Web site.