Friday, April 9, 2010

Hope for the oceans from the Galapagos

Mission Blue concluded today in the Galapagos with a wonderful array of commitments to support ocean conservation. Millions of dollars have been pledged for efforts to sow the seas with protected areas – hope spots – in fulfilment of oceanographer Sylvia Earle’s wish. Among many great ideas, these funds will help protect the Arctic as the ice retreats, support efforts to create the world’s largest marine protected area in the Sargasso Sea, campaign to eliminate harmful subsidies that fuel overfishing, and spread the word to children about the wonders of the seas, and their urgent need for protection.

I last came to the Galapagos Islands ten years ago to look at the design of the new zonation scheme for the marine park. Would enough be protected? Would it work? The design was good, although some habitats like offshore waters remain under-represented. But it turned out that implementation was the tough part. For a time, fishers in the Galapagos declared war on the Marine Park. They even held the staff hostage and threatened to kill ‘Lonesome George’, the last survivor of his species of giant tortoise.

I am glad to say that things are much better now. The conflict has subsided and from what I have seen underwater, the marine reserves are well protected and full of big fish. Mission Blue will help to cement this success. Participants will donate a million dollars to complete a world class surveillance and enforcement program for the Galapagos Marine Park. What a way to finish this voyage.

Photo: Charlie Zielinski, Marine Photobank

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