On October 22, 2013, Marine Conservation Institute announced the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES), a comprehensive science-based strategy for advancing marine protected areas worldwide.
Oceans are essential to human survival and prosperity and yet human activities are pushing many critical marine species toward extinction. Marine protected areas are generally recognized as the best way to protect the diversity and abundance of the ocean's ecosystems, yet less than 2% of the ocean's area is now protected. GLORES (pronounced glôr-ees) will develop and manage objective criteria that incentivize and accelerate the creation of strongly protected marine areas worldwide.
In May, we released SeaStates 2013, the first-ever ranking of how well US states protect their coastal waters. Only 3 states and territories – Hawaii, California and the US Virgin Islands – strongly protect more than 5% of their marine waters in no-take reserves, 9 states protect roughly 1% or less, and 15 states do not yet strongly protect any of their marine waters.
With New Zealand’s shellfish industry we held the first-ever ocean acidification workshop, “Future proofing New Zealand’s shellfish aquaculture: monitoring and adaptation to ocean acidification.” This workshop builds on the very successful meeting we held in Washington’s Puget Sound region that brought together researchers and shellfish farmers to assess the risk of acidification to marine life and options for future adaptation.
Our marine scientists published a report on deep coral reef habitats for the Great Barrier Reef world heritage area in Australia. Results suggest that protecting deeper coral reefs serves as insurance against the widespread destruction of shallow reefs and their fish populations.
In July, we joined our fellow conservation organizations in Panama to launch an effort to establish protections for the Central American Dome. This highly productive region of the eastern tropical Pacific is home to abundant marine life including critically endangered leatherback sea turtles and blue whales.
Marine Conservation Institute played a lead role in advocating for the designation of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in the central tropical Pacific Ocean in 2009, and in 2013 we successfully secured fishing regulations in the Monument. These regulations are the legal basis for the US Coast Guard to protect the Monument’s vibrant coral reefs and surrounding waters from illegal fishing.
In October we announced a new strategic priority – the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES) - at the 3rd International Marine Protected Areas Congress. This is a long-term, science-based, collaborative and international effort designed to catalyze strong protection for all kinds of marine ecosystems in at least 20% of every ocean region and safeguard all marine species from extinction.
Using high-resolution habitat modeling developed by our team of scientists and our colleagues, we identified deep sea coral habitats along the west coast of the USA and are advocating to the Pacific Fishery Management Council for creating new Essential Fish Habitat conservation zones to protect the corals before they are destroyed by destructive fishing techniques.
In 1991, an abandoned fishing vessel wrecked on the near pristine coral reefs of Palmyra Atoll (now part of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument). After several years of work by our staff, we succeeded in securing funding for the US Fish and Wildlife Service to remove this wreck and restore these coral reefs. Work is now underway to eliminate this hazard to life on the reef.
MPAtlas.org is an online digital atlas of marine protected areas that tracks progress in protecting our oceans worldwide. In 2013 we secured additional support for this project and will be expanding and updating content to improve this site.
We renewed our 3-year partnership with Holland America Line and Seabourn to ensure that only sustainably caught seafood is served to onboard guests. Starting in 2014 we will be educating onboard guests about the need to protect marine areas.