Protection equals regeneration. The ocean needs safe havens where nature can replenish, and fortify itself against climate change, industrial fishing and other threats. Big is beautiful! Networking works!
Large, networked marine reserves are better for ocean biodiversity and climate resilience than isolated islands of protection. It’s time for a 30×30 ocean vision: at least 30% of the ocean should be declared marine reserves by 2030, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, coastal to high seas areas and everywhere in between.
REGENERATING OCEAN LIFE
- About 70% of our Earth’s surface is Ocean, yet despite the declaration in 2016 of the world’s largest marine reserves in the Antarctic and the Pacific, according to MPA Atlas.org, (as of January 2018) only about 3.66% of it is currently protected, with just over 2% of that strongly protected from human development as marine A further 1.7% of the world’s Ocean has been designated as marine protected areas, but not yet implemented, and 1.9% have been proposed and committed to. Countries, through the United Nations have committed to protecting at least 10% of the Ocean by 2020. There is still a lot of work to do.
- Marine reserves are highly protected marine protected areas (MPAs) where no destructive or extractive activities such as fishing or mining, can take place.
- Marine reserves can help reduce and buffer against the impacts of climate change on the Ocean, and they can help to rebuild species abundance and diversity, restoring and restocking marine life. They are the best tool we have to help the Ocean regenerate. For a short summary of marine reserves explained simply check out this great short animation by National Geographic.
- The high seas are the least protected part of the Ocean. Once thought to be barren and devoid of life, it is now known that the high seas are one of the largest reservoirs of biodiversity on Earth. Protecting these areas- the international waters that make up two thirds of the world’s Ocean- must be an important aspect of the marine reserves effort.
- In September 2016, the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii, with the support of 89% of governments and 94% of NGOs, agreed to Motion 53, that urges world leaders to protect 30% of the planet’s oceans by 2030.
- There is an increasing trend globally of national marine protection. In 2017 alone, a number of very large marine reserves were declared in the national waters of Chile, the Cook Islands, Gabon, Mexico and Niue. These designations and marine protection champion countries are really raising the bar on ocean conservation and paving the way to achieving 30% protection by 2030, which science tells us is the minimum level of protection needed for a healthy ocean and planet.
BENEFITS BEYOND BOUNDARIES
Numerous scientific studies have shown that no-take zones have many long- lasting benefits. These include:
- More fish, bigger fish, and more types of fish both within the reserve but also outside due to the “spill-over” effect.
- The recovery of areas that have been damaged and increases in marine life (not just fish) within the area.
- The prevention of coastal erosion and mitigation of the impacts of natural disasters (such as hurricanes) through the protection of coastal habitats such as mangroves and coral reefs.
- The storage of carbon also through the protection of coastal habitats such as mangroves, seagrass beds and salt marshes.
- Reducing poverty, by providing food and employment for some of the billions of people around the world that directly rely on a healthy Ocean for survival.
- High financial returns. Protecting 30% of the ocean has been estimated to cost between US$ 223-228 billion, but it has been estimated that the financial net benefits from the increased ecosystem goods and services (once all costs have been taken into account) range from US$490 billion to US$920 billion by 2050. In the financial world that is a return on investment no-one would turn down!
- A global review of the impacts of marine protected areas on fish found that fish biomass (weight) increased by 446%, it was denser (more fish) by 166%, species size increased by 26% and there were 21% more types of fish.
SIZE REALLY MATTERS!
- Whilst small marine reserves can have local benefits, large-scale marine reserves have been shown to be even more effective, including areas that have already been damaged.
- Large marine reserves are also more cost-effective to implement and manage, and the larger the area, the better the protection from activities outside the boundaries.
- Not only is size important, but establishing a network of strongly protected areas has also been proven to have greater benefits than isolated pockets of protection.
MARINE RESERVES ARE ESSENTIAL IN A CLIMATE-CHANGING WORLD
- A study released in 2017 that evaluated peer reviewed studies on the impact of marine reserves around the world, concluded that highly protected marine reserves can help mitigate against the impacts of climate change.
- Marine reserves can help marine ecosystems and people withstand the effects and adapt to ocean acidification, sea-level rise, increased intensity of storms, shifts in species distribution and decreased productivity and oxygen availability.
- By creating a sanctuary for marine life that protects it from activities – such as fishing and mining- it has a better chance to adapt to the increasingly warmer and more acidic waters.
- Marine reserves promote the uptake and long-term storage of carbon from greenhouse gas emissions, especially by coastal wetlands.
WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN?
- Marine reserves must be declared around the world, from the Arctic to the Antarctic and everywhere in between, covering at least 30% of our Ocean by 2030.
- Governments have committed at the United Nations to protecting at least 10% of Ocean areas by 2020. This should be the first step along the way of putting in place a system covering all areas of the globe and amounting to 30% of the ocean.
- To achieve the goal of fully protecting 30% of the ocean in marine reserves by 2030 (30x’30), we need government action to scale up Ocean protection as well as to achieve the 1.5 degree Paris Climate Agreement target.
- We also need to activate and deploy more impactful and influential voices and unite the Ocean community around this collective call to drive this message of 30% Ocean protection by 2030, so that it becomes the unifying call to regenerate Ocean health that decision makers are compelled to deliver on.
- We need to ensure negotiations for a strong new UN Treaty to protect high seas biodiversity includes a framework for the establishment of marine protected areas and reserves on the high seas. (See Ocean Unite’s high seas talking points for further details).
- Governments need to ensure that Ocean conservation initiatives make up a core part of countries’ climate commitments or “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs). Countries should prioritize incorporation of marine protected areas and marine reserves into their NDCs.