National parks transformed conservation. Now we need to do the same for the ocean

Coral Reefs 2018

Protecting coral reefs (UN Environment, 2018)

This article is brought to you thanks to the strategic cooperation of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Douglas McCauley, Assistant Professor, Department Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, University of California Santa Barbara


Parks on land host some of the world’s most famous conservation successes. Consider Yellowstone National Park, which was the world’s first national park. Yellowstone created a refuge for the American bison. Killed by the millions in the 19th century, bison were on the verge of extinction. The protected bison population inside Yellowstone slowly grew from several dozen to several thousand.

Today, herds of bison once again roam the park, alongside grey wolves, elk and grizzly bears, much as they once did during prehistoric times. This success story attracts more than four million visitors – equivalent to the population of Los Angeles – every year, generating close to $500 million for the region’s local economy.

The global community recently committed to replicating the success of these parks – underwater. Whales, sharks and manatees the size of cars take the place of bison, wolves and bears in these ocean parks. Just like their cousins on land, these ocean parks attract millions of visitors and generate substantial revenue. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, one of the oldest ocean parks, has an estimated asset value of $42 billion, which is approaching the market value of companies such as BMW.

Douglas McCauley, Assistant Professor, Department Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, University of California Santa Barbara

In addition to tourists marvelling at marine life, ocean parks provide numerous other benefits. They operate like savings accounts conserving the principal protected inside the parks – in this case big, old, fecund fish instead of dollars. This safeguarded living investment grows, eventually yielding interest to local stakeholders in the form of juvenile fish that spill over beyond the boundaries of these parks into local fisheries. This spillover provides nutritious food and more jobs to local economies. Recognizing the value of ocean parks, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations both set a global goal of conserving at least 10% of our oceans by 2020.

How close are we to achieving this goal?

The answer depends slightly on how you do the numbers. The United Nations Environment Programme (the official record-keeper for our progress on this ocean park goal) suggests we might not be far off, with approximately 7.5% of the oceans now protected. Other groups that adopt a strict definition for what constitutes an ocean park, such as the Atlas of Marine Protection, suggest we have a longer journey ahead, with only 2% of the oceans properly protected.

Progress towards setting up ocean parks has been highly variable. True champions for ocean park establishment have emerged in both more and less wealthy parts of the world. Chile, the US, the UK and Kiribati, for example, have already well exceeded the 10% target, and this progress includes many strongly protected ocean parks.

Image: Dr. Elliott Hazen, NOAA’s Sanctuaries Collection

Unfortunately, a number of countries that are well-positioned to take a leadership role in ocean conservation have yet to step forward. Canada, Norway and Namibia, despite being celebrated by some scientists as being among the top 10 best countries in global conservation leadership, are very far from meeting the 2020 10% target, with only 0.9%, 0.8% and 1.7% of their national ocean waters protected, respectively. We share here a report of progress made to date by all non-landlocked nations in setting up ocean parks. Overall, only about a fifth of countries have officially surpassed the 10% target for ocean parks.

Marine Conservation Institute (2018). MPAtlas. Seattle, WA. http://www.mpatlas.org

The Convention on Biological Diversity meets in Egypt in November. They will reflect on the progress that has yet to be made for marine parks between now and 2020. They will also think about charting a course forward after 2020. Researchers at universities including Harvard have suggested that we will need to protect as much as half the planet if we genuinely hope to sustain healthy ecosystems and societies.

Achieving the 10% target for ocean parks by 2020 may be just within reach. There would be much to gain from success – more biodiversity, more food and more wealth. Given these clear benefits, we must redouble our ambitious efforts to create a global network of well-managed undersea Yellowstones.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

UN investigates systematic sexual violence across South Sudan

European Youth Forum welcomes strong stance on human rights in State of the Union

European Commission recommends common EU approach to the security of 5G networks

From beer to blenders – 5 creative ways people are being persuaded to get their COVID-19 vaccination

Estonia built one of the world’s most advanced digital societies. During COVID-19, that became a lifeline

“Health and environment first of all”, EU says with forced optimism after 7th round of TTIP talks

Why collaboration is key to global reforestation efforts

Draghi tells the EU Parliament his relaxed policies are here to stay

US-EU trade negotiations: pointless tariffs against real economic growth

Much more than a ‘lifeline’ for millions of households, remittances can spur global growth, says UN agency

Can ECB’s €60 billion a month save Eurozone?

5 futuristic ways to fight cyber attacks

GSMA Outlines New Developments For MWC19 Shanghai

Statement by the Brexit Steering Group on UK government White paper

This wall of shoes is for the women killed by domestic violence

Parliament toughens its position on banking union

EU leaders prepare timetable and structure for EU budget negotiations

There is huge talent in the world’s refugee camps. We must realize this overlooked potential

Royal Navy to unveil future surveillance and reconnaissance requirements next February in Rome

Understanding the challenges surrounding COVID-19 vaccine campaign

UN film festival encourages young people to promote peace, dialogue and empathy

EU/African, Caribbean and Pacific partnership: MEPs list key aims for renewal

5 ways the world is rallying around Australia as bushfires rage

This is how good governance can make sure technology works for everyone

European Youth Event 2020: giving a voice to young people to influence EU policy

4 reasons why women should lead the G7 agenda in 2018

Mixed news about the Eurozone economy

World faces ‘climate apartheid’ risk, 120 more million in poverty: UN expert

How technology can help us achieve universal healthcare

Yes, ESG is complicated. Together, we can simplify it

If this is Globalization 4.0, what were the other three?

This Norwegian cruise line plans to power its ships with rotting fish

The 3 traps when it comes to blockchain and business – and how to avoid them

Handwashing is not just for coronavirus – how good hygiene could help reduce antibiotic use

Sanity in times of COVID-19

“Move fast, build to last: Europe’s new generation” – op-ed by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

Statement by Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič on the explosion in Beirut, Lebanon

Commission takes further action to ensure professionals can fully benefit from the Single Market

The rise of techno-nationalism – and the paradox at its core

Winter 2019 Economic Forecast: growth moderates amid global uncertainties

LUX Audience Award 2021 goes to Collective

China has made a shocking food production discovery – electro culture

How to make trade single windows more efficient with blockchain

Can privatisation be the panacea for the lack of growth in Europe?

Commission disburses €14 billion under SURE to nine Member States

This 3D-printed steak could help us reduce meat consumption

We generate 125,000 jumbo jets worth of e-waste every year. Here’s how we can tackle the problem

The UK’s River Thames has come back to life – with a seal population to prove it

New skills agenda for Europe needs real investment

Releasing trapped value is key to success in the digital world

This is why mental health should be a political priority

3 leaders on creating a pipeline for female talent in business

Can big events really go plastic-free? A water capsule made from seaweed may be the answer

How can we make enough vaccine for 2 billion people?

Impact of high debt levels on least developed countries ‘cannot be overstated’, says UN

State aid: Commission approves €650 million Polish support to LOT in context of coronavirus outbreak

State aid: Commission expands Temporary Framework to further support micro, small and start-up companies and incentivise private investments

Basel III rules relaxed: Banks got it all but become more prone to crisis

World’s 1.8 billion youth must ‘have a say in the future of the planet’

Yemen war: UN chief urges good faith as ‘milestone’ talks get underway in Sweden

More Stings?

Comments

  1. There is a very great documentary on Netflix about how urgent it is to take measures – the marine biologist Sylvia Earle is campaigning to create sanctuaries that she calls hope spots. It is really eye oppening and it’s a good introduction – it’s called mission blue.

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s