The Ocean Conservancy and Marine Protected Areas
Carol Davis, Green Spring Valley G.C. (MD)
At a joint meeting between the GCA Zone VI clubs of Chevy Chase, Georgetown, and Perennial, attendees heard from Vicki Spruill, CEO of the Ocean Conservancy. Ms. Spruill discussed the oceans’ importance, the work of the Conservancy, and how to address the well being of the ocean. Less than one percent of the ocean is protected and ocean acidification is bleaching coral reefs and harming shellfish. Marine debris has created the huge Pacific Garbage Patch. Ms. Spruill noted that 60 – 80% of the trash started on land. As part of the Conservancy’s work, Ms. Spruill noted the Ocean’s Conservancy’s advocacy for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) or “National Parks for the Sea.”
Our oceans are under siege.
Coastal development, pollution, habitat damage, overfishing, and other human activities threaten the health of our oceans. The approximately 2,000 MPAs in North America give threatened species room to rebound and provide habitat for migrating species. Some fish populations off California are depleted to less than 10 percent of historic levels and many may take decades to recover to healthy, sustainable levels. In some places fisherman are now catching less than half of what they did in 1990, and the fish they do catch are 45 percent smaller. As a tool to help protect ocean ecosystems, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) can help. Currently, protected stretches of these “no-take zones” have been designated between San Diego and San Francisco and the Florida Keys.
Science is clear - MPAs work.
These protected areas allow fish, mammals, and other marine life to breed, feed, and succeed without human interference. Scientific research demonstrates that MPAs can help bring back big fish and restore habitats, especially in the preserves where fishing is prohibited. These protected areas not only harbor more fish, they harbor older and bigger fish than can produce up to 200 times as many offspring as younger ones. These fish can repopulate depleted species that migrate out to places where they can be caught.
Seafood safety and sustainable harvesting of fish also fall within the purview of The Ocean Conservancy. The organization addresses problems with the effluent and pharmaceutical waste disrupting the reproductive health of sea life. They are also tackling the crossbreeding of farmed fish and wild populations leading to genetic mutations.