Twelve percent of the world’s land is under some form of governmental protection, such as reserves and national parks. The ocean makes up seventy percent of the earth’s surface. Of that seventy percent, less than five percent of the ocean is protected in any way.
That’s where Mission Blue comes in.
Mission Blue is an organization created by the oceanographer Sylvia Earle. Their mission is to create Hope Spots around the world, and their goal is to more than double the percentage of protected waters.
Hope Spots are areas of the ocean that are important to its health. These areas are special because they may harbor unique or delicate ecosystems and habitats, such as coral reefs or gulfs. Hope Spots can also be sanctuaries for endangered species or species that are only found in that area. They can also provide services to the ocean that are vital to marine life, such mating grounds and nurseries.
Hope Spots can also be historical to the community, or they may hold spiritual or cultural importance. They can be areas that could potentially help curb the effects of climate change. All in all, they are important areas not only to the ocean and its inhabitants, but to humans as well.
The best part about Hope Spots is that YOU can nominate them. On the Mission Blue website, you can nominate a local area as a Hope Spot.
Let’s say, for example, that I nominate the Chesapeake Bay as a Hope Spot. Using various forms of media, Mission Blue would increase the visibility of the bay and its importance. Mission Blue would help connect me with potential partners for the project and help set up expeditions to prove the bay’s importance to the community. Mission Blue would also help advocate for legal protection of the Chesapeake Bay, which in this case would be advocating to at least Maryland and Virginia state governments.
By allowing people to nominate their own Hope Spots, they essentially help to give people hope and to empower communities. People are more likely to fight to protect something if you give them the power to do so.
But why should we care?
“Health for the oceans means health for us.” –Sylvia Earle
Humans owe so much to the ocean, whether we live on the coast or high up in the mountains, hundreds of miles away. Many of us consume fish, mollusks, seaweed, and crustaceans that are harvested from the ocean. Not to mention what goes into some of the food products for our pets and livestock.
Not only does the ocean provide us with food, but it plays a part in our climates and the weather. The ocean currents of the world affect the climate as they redistribute heat from the equator to the poles.
Then there’s the air we breathe. The algae and phytoplankton in the ocean produce more than half of the world’s oxygen, more even than the Amazon Rainforest!
No matter where you live, the ocean impacts your life on a daily basis. Therefore, we need to care for the ocean like we care for ourselves and you can do that any way you feel comfortable doing.
If you can donate to special organizations like Mission Blue or World Wildlife Fund—fantastic! If you can volunteer at aquariums and other aquatic groups or participate in citizen science such as using the NeMO-net video game to help researchers identify and protect coral, that’s wonderful. If you can find ways to decrease your carbon footprint and/or plastic use, that would be amazing. If all you can do is talk about these things to your friends and family and take these topics to social media, that’s beautiful too!
It’s time to bring back hope one step at a time!
Sources and links:
https://mission-blue.org/hope-spots-faqs/ ⇐more info on Hope Spots
https://mission-blue.org/act-now/ ⇐things you can do to help the ocean. Remember, these are suggestions!