The ocean is not just one uniform expanse of water; there are many diverse and unique places in the ocean that are different than any other place in the world. There are forests where giant kelp grow as tall as redwood trees, deep-sea corals live hundreds of years and seamounts provide foraging hotspots for whales, turtles and fishes.
Many places in US waters rival the beauty and diversity of some of our cherished national parks on land, such as Yellowstone, the Everglades and the Grand Canyon. These parks are held in trust and set aside for the greater good so that their beauty and wonder can be experienced by us, and future generations.
The concept of protecting areas in the sea is relatively new to scientists and policy makers alike, and we are still learning how to best manage these areas to balance human use and maintain healthy ecosystems. Research from protected areas throughout the world, notably the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, has clearly demonstrated that protections put in place decades ago have resulted in thriving marine life and ecosystems.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are one of the simplest and most robust marine management tools that can offer high return on investment for conservation. By removing some uses from a marine environment, certain ecosystems can regain their actual function, populations can be bolstered and habitats protected. Currently, MPAs cover just about 3% of the world’s oceans and less than 2% is strongly protected in marine reserves.
Marine Conservation Institute aligns conservation goals with the most current marine science. Recent scientific findings and the recommendations from the IUCN’s 2014 World Parks Congress and 2016 World Conservation Congress agree that at least 30% of each marine ecoregion should be fully protected by 2030. The Blue Park Awards are designed to help us meet the 30% goal and recover marine life to its former abundance.