Sunday, December 15th, 2019

International conservationists see hope for Western Med

Published on December 10, 2015 by   ·   No Comments

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Amongst all the doom and gloom about climate change there is a glimmer of hope, the ecologists at Mission Blue have just declared the Balearic Islands their first Mediterranean “Hope Spot”.

Mission Blue started as a floating symposium when 100 influential scientists and activists met aboard a yacht in the Galapagos to explore the challenges plaguing the oceans. This meeting of like minds became a powerful force and, from this initial cruise, eight distinct ocean initiatives were born aided by $15 million in commitments.

One of these ongoing initiatives was Mission Blue, which has 2009 TED Prize winner Sylvia Earle at the head.  Mission Blue aims to raise awareness of the urgent need to create Marine Protected Areas that they call “Hope Spots”.  Eventually they anticipate that they will be able to safeguard 20% of the ocean by 2020.

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The Mission Blue symposiums have been hosted and filmed by TED.  If you’ve ever been on the World Wide Web then you’ll have heard of TED.  It is a non-profit organisation devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short talks.  It began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, but today covers almost all topics.

As well as the TED Prize, Sylvia Earle is the recipient of more than 100 national and international honours and awards including being named Time Magazine’s first Hero for the Planet, a Living Legend by the Library of Congress, 2014 UNEP Champion of the Earth, the Royal Geographic Society 2011 Patron’s Medal and the National Geographic 2013 Hubbard Medal and, slightly incongruously, Glamour Magazine’s 2014 Woman of the Year.

Sylvia Earle says, “The Ocean is in trouble and therefore so are we.  Marine Protected Areas are places in the ocean that merit special protection because of their wildlife and important underwater habitats.  They provide hope for the ocean, hope for us.  Each Hope Spot can give the ocean respite from human impacts, and a chance to recover and to flourish.”

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Fast forward five years and the second ocean symposium, Mission Blue II, has just taken place.  This year the great and the good of marine science met aboard the 340 foot National Geographic Lindblad Expeditions Orion in the Pacific Ocean.  While the TED-hosted symposium was underway, they travelled along the Pacific Equator from Papua New Guinea to the Solomon Islands to brainstorm ways to protect the oceans.

The Mediterranean Sea had Brad Robertson fighting its corner.  Robertson is the president of Asociación Ondine, a local Mallorcan NGO.  He attended the symposium with the intention of bringing the Balearic Islands to Sylvia Earle’s attention, and he certainly succeeded.

In the Balearics there are valuable Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows, accounting for more than 46,000 hectares, and the ones between Ibiza and Formentera were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 so this is not the first time the area’s ecological importance has been noted.  However the region needed a bit of a push and it seems that Asociación Ondine has provided it.  Brad invited the Mission Blue team to come to the Med and take a look for themselves and the rest is history.  They came, they saw, and they immediately declared the islands a “Hope Spot”

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Brad Robertson explains, “With seven declared marine reserves, the Balearic Islands are Spain’s autonomous region with the most marine protected areas, reaching 49,000 hectares in total – 18% of inland waters.  However, even more protection would help sustain local fish populations into the future.  The Mediterranean is a historical sea that has been, unfortunately, largely overlooked by marine conservation groups over the years and now is the time to acknowledge that this extremely important body of water must be celebrated, appreciated and loved.”

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