Ocean Action Hub

Resource title

How to Use the Ocean Without Using it Up - National Geographic Blogs

22 Feb 2017 - The most important lesson I’ve learned is that ocean conservation is not about fish. It’s about people.

22 Feb 2017 - When I was five, my parents took me from Brooklyn, NY to Key West, Florida. They taught me to swim, and showed me my first a coral reef. I feel completely in love with the ocean and decided to become a marine biologist. Then, over the next two decades, I went from that wonder, to concern, to practical ocean conservation solutions.

I’ve worked in non-profits, philanthropy, government. I’ve had the opportunity to see this problem from many angles. And the most important lesson I’ve learned is that ocean conservation is not about fish. It’s about people. And it’s people who keep me devoted to my mission: figuring out how we can use the ocean, without using it up.

The economies and cultures of coastal communities all over the world are at risk, because they’re tied to the health of the ocean. And the ocean is really unhealthy right now. This year 93% of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef was hit by bleaching because climate change made the water too warm for corals. Overfishing is so extreme that since 1950 we’ve killed around 90% of the world’s tunas and sharks. And we’re on track to have more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

Science → Policy → People

How do we fix this? I used to think that if we just had more scientific research, that science would be used to make the best policy decisions. But that’s not how it actually works. For example, as part of my Ph.D. research I designed a fish trap with escape slots in the corners that would allow juvenile fish and unmarketable species to escape.

This more sustainable fish trap design is now required by law in several countries. But this low-tech and low-cost solution would never have gained traction if I hadn’t also proved that using it would not hurt fishermen’s incomes. Because the biggest factor in policy change is political will, and fishermen are voters. To build political will we need to understand where citizens are coming from.

So my research shifted to sociology, and I interviewed over 400 fishermen and SCUBA instructors. A 15-year-old fisherman explained the dramatic depletion of the ocean by saying: “Previous generations used to show the size of fish they caught vertically. Now we show fish size horizontally.” The large groupers, snappers, cod, and other large predatory fish that were once abundant are gone in many places, hurting livelihoods and destabilizing ecosystems.

The majority of people I interviewed were eager to see sustainable management put into place, and at a comprehensive scale. They were thinking about the entire social-economic-ecological system — about the impacts of cruise ships, pollution, climate change, noise, tourism, etc. So I took a step back, to see the big picture.

Ocean Zoning as a Policy Solution

I now think a key policy solution is to zone the ocean, so we have a solid plan for what happens where. Just like zoning on land, ocean zoning can allocate places fishing, shipping, SCUBA diving, alternative energy, aquaculture, and conservation.

When I was Executive Director of the Waitt Institute, I had an incredible opportunity to work with the government and community of Barbuda, a small Caribbean island. We supported them in designing and implementing ocean zoning.

In an effort to be truly inclusive, this sometimes meant gently interrupting dominos games to get input from fishermen who wouldn’t come to community meetings. All these conversations enabled me to identify consensus, which built the political will needed to put in place a groundbreaking plan that would both serve their current needs and conserve ocean resources for future generations.

After 18 months of work and community feedback, the government signed new laws that included setting aside one-third of their waters as protected (the areas in blue). This was the first successful island-wide ocean zoning effort in the Caribbean.

We went on to launch this program, the Blue Halo Initiative, on the islands of Curaçao and Montserrat. Comprehensive, science-based, community-driven ocean zoning works, and we need much more of it.

CONTINUE READING: http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2017/02/22/how-to-use-the-ocean-without-using-it-up/​

Resource title

The Ocean Challenges Before Us Require All Hands on Deck

25 January 2017 - For decades, marine conservation has lagged behind efforts to protect our terrestrial treasures like the Grand Canyon.

Clearly, the balance is shifting, as world leaders increasingly recognize the economic and ecological value of the ocean. Last year saw President Obama quadruple the size of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Northwest Hawaii, a place inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list since 2010 for both its cultural and natural global importance. This expansion made Papahānaumokuākea the largest protected area on the planet. Just two months later, leaders from 24 countries and the European Union came together to protect the Ross Sea in Antarctica, the world’s largest marine reserve.

Last year also saw some important advances in the decades-long effort to protect the High Seas—the deep ocean that lies beyond national boundaries and covers half the planet. UNESCO laid out for the first time a path forward for World Heritage protection of the High Seas, and identified five sites of potential outstanding universal value. At the same time, the UN General Assembly has been working on a new instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to promote conservation and sustainable use in the High Seas.

Even as we are breaking new ground in the conservation of exceptional places, we must also step up management efforts. The creation of new protected areas often generates major headlines, but that is only the beginning of the generations-long process to steward special places. The 1972 World Heritage Convention recognizes that effective conservation requires collective action. Our model of ongoing oversight and support has logged some important successes. For example, Aldabra Atoll has brought its green turtles back from the brink of extinction. Today, the site hosts one of the world’s biggest populations. Half a world away in Glacier Bay, a competitive bidding system for cruise ship park entries has brought air and water pollution to zero while simultaneously generating funds for management and research. Glacier Bay’s successes are now inspiring other parks to forge similar private-public partnerships. There are many such stories across the world’s marine protected areas, where good management is rebuilding sustainable fisheries, creating jobs, and supporting thriving communities. World Heritage marine sites are not only important from an ecological point of view, they also bring secure jobs and income to people and local communities all around the world. But having toured and inspected many of the world’s most iconic ocean places over the past six years, it is clear that the work of marine management is growing increasingly daunting.

CONTINUE READING: http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2017/01/25/the-ocean-challenges-before-us-require-all-hands-on-deck/

Resource title

How We Can Keep Plastics Out of Our Ocean (2016) | National Geographic

Plastic pollution poses one of the biggest known threats to the ocean, influencing all ecosystems from beautiful coral reefs to abyssal trenches, eventually accumulating in our own food.

Learn more about how to upend the current system of produce-use-discard, and transition to a system which promotes reuse and repurposing of plastics.