In recent years it’s become clearer than ever we need to act, and soon because later its to late, to save our oceans. They are the heart of our planet a symbol of life and abundance in many cultures.
An organ so vast and deep, we’ve thought dumping trash on and in it for years wouldn’t make a mark. But it has and it continues to happen with every day waste.
Not oblivious to this fact are marine creatures. Fishes, sharks, whales, turtles and all species that reside in our oceans suffer the impact of our actions without being able to complain or do something about it. Oceans function as an ecosystem and when one organism gets hurt, the entire food chain suffers. Of course nature is very resilient and it’ll find the way to adapt and begin to thrive again, but do we want to be here when that happens?
Of course there are some people trying to do something about this, and as more time passes we humans start to get affected by the decline in ocean health: fisheries around the world are operating at its maximum with no sustainable room to expand to, the acidification rate is at its highest levels, making experts think by the turn of the century we could’ve lost more than half of the worlds ocean species. Just in the past year in a tiny bay in Florida there were two massive fish kill events (which happens when entire schools of fishes appear belly up for no apparent reason) since the water was running out of oxygen.
All of the above makes protecting the oceans with law backed actions more and more important. This is when MPA’s come in. Marine Protected Areas (MPA) are not as abundant as you might think. According to research done by Julie Reimer PhD only 6.4% of the global ocean is protected, and only 2.7% of it has strong protection against harmful activities, despite scientists calling for strong protection of at least 30%.
“Last year, several countries joined the Global Ocean Alliance and agreed to protect 30 per cent of the ocean by 2030, a target called 30×30. If we can achieve this, we can halt biodiversity loss, ensure fish and food for all, and maintain a healthy ocean that can cope with climate change” says Reimer.
However this ambitious plan couldn’t become a truth sooner. MPA’s are not created equal and have different levels of protection, from minimally protected to fully protected; yet they can help to maintain healthy ecosystems and sustainable fisheries. They are less able to help with other targets, like reducing pollution or the impacts of acidification. Like Reimer clarifies, MPA regulations end at their boundaries, but our harmful impacts do not. MPAs are one type of tool in a larger toolbox that also includes fisheries management, shipping regulations, climate change policies and more.
Fishing and recreational practices keep evolving and making our oceans busy, so it is just as important we keep MPA’s current and effective and try to make sure they escalate in their level of protection, thus keeping the life cycle, of every creature, going in the healthiest way possible. Because regarding ocean life really, we have no time to waste.