As we look to 2013 and a healthier future for our oceans, I’d like to take a moment to inform you about some of the progress the Marine Conservation Institute has made during the past year — in the United States and across the seas. Not only do we work to protect specific places, but we also provide scientific and policy expertise to make a positive difference to marine life. I welcome and encourage your visits to marine-conservation.org to learn more about our programs. Thank you for reading … and remember — your support helps make programs like these possible.
Saving Hawaii’s Monk Seals
The Hawaiian monk seal is the only marine mammal found solely in the United States. Yet monk seals are being lost at alarming rates, and fewer than 1,100 now survive in the Hawaiian Islands. Marine debris, overfishing leading to food shortages, and entanglement in fishermen’s nets are the main human causes of fatalities for these unique creatures.
Marine Conservation Institute is helping the monk seal by
• reaching out to communities and fishermen in Hawai’i about the ecological and cultural significance of monk seals, and the steps they can take to prevent their extinction, and
• supporting a strong, well-funded monk seal recovery program in the main Hawaiian islands and Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
Safeguarding National Marine Sanctuaries
National Marine Sanctuaries off the West Coast are home to a tremendous array of marine life, including deep sea corals, fishes, seabirds and marine mammals which rely on healthy habitats to thrive. Yet Sanctuaries from California to Washington are open to bottom trawling — a fishing technique that gouges the sea floor, leaving deep sea coral habitats in ruin.
To protect these areas, Marine Conservation Institute is
• working closely with regulators to improve habitat protections in the Sanctuaries — to benefit marine life and fishermen who rely on the ocean,
• providing predictive habitat maps to pinpoint corals that provide shelter and nurseries for fishes, and
• improving public awareness about deep sea corals and the threats facing them.
Defending National Monuments in the Pacific Islands
America’s Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument is a vast ocean haven for wildlife. These tropical atolls provide crucial stop-over areas and feeding grounds for migrating fishes, sea turtles, seabirds and mammals, as well as countless resident species including large populations of reef sharks. Despite federal protection, this and other Pacific marine monuments lack enforcement against illegal fishing and are at risk of shipwrecks, pollution, and marine debris.
To preserve these national treasures, Marine Conservation Institute is supporting strong management and enforcement actions aimed at
• stopping illegal fishing in the monuments,
• improving surveillance of shipping and maritime activities, and
• restoring coral reefs by removing shipwrecks and reducing damage from marine debris.
Launching the Global MPAtlas
In a world where fisheries and marine biodiversity are declining, marine protected areas are an essential tool to reverse the oceans’ downward trajectory. The growth of MPAs around the world is a huge opportunity for conservation, but competing standards and levels of protection can drive confusion. Marine Conservation Institute has created a global atlas of marine protected areas, MPAtlas.org, to
• provide needed information and tools to the MPA community to advance marine conservation on a global scale,
• serve MPA managers and scientists seeking up-to-date facts and analysis about marine protection, and
• facilitate advocacy and future MPA opportunities for valuable marine ecosystems.
Improving Conservation in the Sargasso Sea
The Sargasso Sea near Bermuda is one of nature’s unique treasures. It is the world’s only sea not bound by land. Instead, the Sargasso Sea is defined by ocean currents and the Sargassum algae that give it its name. The Sargasso Sea provides habitat and breeding grounds for endangered eels, sea turtles and whales. But without protection, the Sargasso is succumbing to threats such as overfishing and garbage that makes its way into its spiraling currents.
Marine Conservation Institute is helping by
• putting science to work to understand this ecosystem and its biodiversity,
• working with the Sargasso Sea Alliance to identify and respond to threats, and
• advocating for protected area status for the Sargasso Sea as a precedent for other high seas areas.