Beneath the deceptively uniform sea surface, our oceans are under threat from a host of human activities that are altering the sea’s biodiversity. Human impacts from destructive fishing, habitat damage, pollution, over fishing, coastal development, and global climate change all present daunting problems for the way we manage our ocean. Only by showing people that America’s ocean realm, twice the size of our landmass, has a plethora of unique and extraordinary places can we create new “mental maps” that will lead the public towards a greater understanding of the ocean and create pressure for protecting places in the sea. Hence, Marine Conservation Institute, National Geographic Society, NOAA, and SkyTruth created "From Sea to Shining Sea" — a map that depicts the 3.6 million square miles of US land above sea level, but specifically highlights the 4.4 million square miles of ocean under US jurisdiction.
Just as we protect extraordinary places on land, such Yellowstone Park and Artic National Wildlife Refuge, we need to move towards place based conservation of the unique places in the ocean. American waters contain some of the most extraordinarily diverse ocean ecosystems found in the Ocean. From the Arctic to the tropics, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, America’s ocean realms comprise places where submarine trenches plummet nearly 7 miles deep, underwater mountains called seamounts are home to deep-sea coral forests and atolls abound with fish, seabirds and marine mammals. Many of these special places are difficult or almost impossible to actually visit, but their protection is vital to the health of the entire ocean and to humankind.
The From Sea to Shining Sea map will be distributed by the National Geographic Society to K-12 schools throughout the US and will appear in National Geographic Kids Magazine. MCBI has developed a “From Sea to Shining Sea” interactive web-based map that serves as an interactive educational tool where children and adults can explore special places in US waters in greater detail through photographs, underwater videos, interviews with scientists, etc. In addition to the web-based map, Google Earth users can download a KMZ file of these special places. By using diverse media tools, this project aims to change the way Americans view the US by creating a new mental image of the US comprised of special places in the ocean that are worth conserving.
Marine Conservation Institute is grateful for the support from the Ittleson Foundation, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, and the National Geographic Education Foundation. The EEZ shapefile was provided by General Dynamics Global Maritime Database.