The world now considers 3.6 million square kilometers of ocean as marine protected areas.
Since April 3.6 million square kilometers of ocean, an area larger than India, have been designated as marine protected areas(MPA’s), reported UN Environment (UNEP). For the first time, more than 5% of the world’s oceans are now under protection.
“The establishment of so many new protected areas is tremendous news and should give those fighting tirelessly to conserve the world’s oceans and seas an enormous sense of achievement,” announced Erik Solheim, head of UNEP.
Also, up to 12.7% of the seas are now protected after the creation of mega MPA’s off the coasts of Chile, Palau, Hawaii, the Pitcairn Islands and St. Helena. This exceeds the goal from the Aichi Biodiversity Targets which aimed to protect 10% of the world’s coastal and marine areas by 2020.
Nonetheless Mr. Solheim urged stakeholders to remember the Targets “also call for countries to focus their conservation efforts on the areas of greatest biodiversity. It is not just about the size of the area under protection, but also about where these zones are located and how strong that protection really is.”
Also, as part of the effort of protecting the Antarctic seas, Lewis Pugh, an ocean advocate, a maritime lawyer and a pioneer swimmer, announced his campaign ‘Antarctica 2020.’ It aims to secure the MPA’s in vulnerable areas in Antarctica over the next three years. He is building off on the momentum the Ross Sea victory created, which with three targeted areas would bring up the total protected areas to nearly 7 million square kilometers, an area the size of Australia.
Pugh is currently undertaking a swim in freezing waters in the Bellingshausen Sea in Antarctica to bring global attention to oceanic protection.
Similarly, during the UN Biodiversity Conference in Cancun, Mexico pledged to preserve an additional 650,000 square kilometers of land and sea which is roughly 25% of its territorial waters. Their commitment includes the establishment of a Mexican Caribbean Biosphere Reserve of 57,000 square kilometers.
“Mexico wants to send a clear signal on the urgency to meet the Aichi Targets by taking unprecedented actions to preserve marine and terrestrial ecosystems,” said Rafael Pacchiano, president of the conference. He added that Mexico is on track to achieve the goal of land protected areas after surpassing the Aichi goals for marine protected areas.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and UNEP’s World Conservation Monitoring Center, even if today there are 14,859 MPA’s covering 18.5 million square kilometers of ocean and sea, there is an unequal representation of ecosystems. As 2016 Protected Planet report shows, only one third of the world’s marine ecoregions offer more than 10% of their areas protection.
MPA’s are not only important for conservation, but when managed correctly they can boost the abundance of fish and increase biodiversity which ultimately improves the livelihoods of the three billion people that depend on marine and coastal diversity for living. With this in mind, protecting and improving the protected areas offers a win-win opportunity for the Earth and its people.
LatinAmerican Post | Maria Andrea Marquez