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 Milestone

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

Declaring commitment to ‘peace and stability’ for Libya, top UN envoy steps down as stress takes its toll

World Health Organisation and medical students: is there any room for improvement?

Euro-Mediterranean Assembly fixes its permanent seat in Rome

Subsidiarity and Proportionality: Task Force presents recommendations on a new way of working to President Juncker

Facts, not fear, will stop COVID-19 – so how should we talk about it?

GSMA Announces Latest Event Updates for 2018 “Mobile World Congress Americas, in Partnership with CTIA”

How Africa’s entrepreneurs are changing the direction of globalization

Rohingya cannot become ‘forgotten victims,’ says UN chief urging world to step up support

How we can survive the great COVID lockdown: IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath

Is Eurozone heading for disinflation?

EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa: new actions of almost €150 million to tackle human smuggling, protect vulnerable people and stabilise communities in North Africa

The AI doctor won’t see you now

One migrant child reported dead or missing every day, UN calls for more protection

Why medicine is relevant to the battle against climate change

UN chief praises Malaysia’s death penalty repeal as ‘major step forward’

EU leaders prepare timetable and structure for EU budget negotiations

Guterres condemns killing of Bangladeshi peacekeeper in South Sudan, during armed attack on UN convoy

How secure is blockchain?

Track the spread of coronavirus around the world

Things are bad and getting worse for South Africa. Or are they?

Forward Agenda: What can we expect from 2019?

We need a reskilling revolution. Here’s how to make it happen

Syria: UN-backed watchdog says chemical weapon ‘likely used’ in February attack

4 lessons on human cooperation from the fight against Ebola

Natural gas: Parliament extends EU rules to pipelines from non-EU countries

Deutsche Bank: the next financial crisis is here and the lenders need €150 billion from taxpayers

Low productivity jobs continue to drive employment growth

European Citizens’ Initiative: A game of much publicity and one big lie

We finally have a life-saving vaccine for Ebola

First-ever UN report on disability and development, illustrates inclusion gaps

What does artificial intelligence do in medicine?

Practicing healthcare through a global lens

It ain’t over until Google says it’s over

EU citizens want more competences for the EU to deal with crises like COVID-19

Mergers: Commission opens in-depth investigation into proposed acquisition of DSME by HHIH

Revealed: danger and squalor for cleaners who remove human waste by hand

Scores killed in ‘barbaric’ attack on Mali village, UN chief urges restraint, calls for ‘dialogue’ to resolve tensions

We know ethics should inform AI. But which ethics?

Green light for VAT overhaul to simplify system and cut fraud

Joint UN, OSCE engagement can address crisis in Ukraine, other ‘dark spots of conflict’ in Europe

Governments, businesses ‘walk the talk’ for investment in sustainable development: UN forum

Syria: Civilians caught in crossfire, UN refugee chief urges Jordan to open its border

Commission launches new edition of the Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor 2019

UN, African Union make significant joint commitment to global health

Will the French let Macron destroy their party political system?

‘Complacency is still strong’ over stopping genocide, says top UN adviser

Climate Change: a challenge yet to be tackled in medical schools

UPDATED: Guterres condemns armed attack against UN peacekeepers in Mali

MEPs debate EEAS report on disinformation activities related to COVID-19

These are the 4 most likely scenarios for the future of energy

Investment Plan for Europe: European Investment Bank to provide BioNTech with up to €100 million in debt financing for COVID-19 vaccine development and manufacturing

Serious concerns over Sahel, require ‘urgent action’: Senior UN Africa official

This project is turning abandoned fishing gear into volleyball nets

Eurozone retail sales fall shows recession

Citing public anger and youth activism, OECD Secretary-General urges governments to heed calls for climate action

How to provide health education and thus create better health systems

France asks help from Germany but it will not be for free

Sustainable Development Goals: making the world a better place

Partnerships with civil society and youth ‘essential’ for a future that leaves no one behind: General Assembly President

UN team aids Samoa response to deadly measles epidemic

More Stings?

Advertising

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