Thursday, April 8, 2010

More than 1%

Presentations given at Mission Blue by speakers of such repute as Jeremy Jackson, Daniel Pauly and Enric Sala show that the condition of the oceans is getting worse rather than better in many places. But there has also been good news. Enric highlighted the extraordinary Kingman Reef from the Line Islands in the Pacific, which has no land and has never been fished. There the weight of predatory fish outweighs that of herbivores and others by 5.7 to 1. He showed images of a reef so packed with sharks, jacks, groupers and snappers that it took my breath away. This is truly a ‘hope spot’ as Sylvia Earle calls such places.

Another hope spot much talked about here has been the UK Government’s recent decision to create the world’s largest marine protected area – and largest no-take reserve by far – bang in the middle of the Indian Ocean. At the heart of this reserve are the reefs and islands of the Chagos, most of them uninhabited. This announcement creates another hope spot for the planet. A place that through its sustained future health and vitality, could help to buffer other places in the Indian Ocean from the stresses imposed by growing tide of humanity and climate change. The announcement takes the area of the oceans protected above 1% for the first time in history (which also highlights that we have a lot more work to do!).

The UK Government’s decision is welcome. In a bold move, they chose the strongest protection option. In truth, it would have been hard to justify the other options, whereby the protected area would be paid for on the back of a tuna fishery that has, until now, brought harm to the open ocean wildlife of the Chagos.

Here in the Galapagos, Mission Blue had a rare treat. From the inflatable boats we got a close up view of a male and female killer whale attacking a turtle. Their black fins scythed through the curling face of a lifting breaker as they struck. Against the backdrop of Isabella Island’s dark volcanic flank, there can be few grander sights in the world.

Photo: Rod Mast, Marine Photobank

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