Because of pollution, overfishing, climate change, and development, the ocean is constantly in danger. We can use the ocean’s enormous potential to aid in its self-healing.
It is encouraging to consider the ocean as more than just a victim in a world full of terrible news, but also as a potent friend. Marine-protected areas, which are surprisingly easy to create, are one of the best methods. That involves promoting and growing our national marine sanctuaries here in the US.
National marine sanctuaries serve as a prime example of how the ocean’s fortitude combined with a wealth of scientific knowledge might assist us in retracing our steps toward restoring a thriving ocean planet.
It is not necessary to be a scientist to comprehend the urgency of the issues facing the ocean, our most valuable natural resource, which produces more than 50% of the oxygen we breathe and sustains up to 80% of all life on Earth. These effects are plainly noticeable; they are not subtle patterns on a chart.
The waters off the French coast are filled with marine life, from enormous groupers to magnificent corals, as can be seen in footage from Jacques Cousteau’s original film The Silent World. Those seas today are very different from that bustling world of a few decades ago. From the Great Barrier Reef to the Florida Keys to the coral ridges off the coastlines of Hawaii, shocking ecosystem reductions are visible.
The National Marine Sanctuaries Act, passed by the United States fifty years ago, marked the beginning of a new era in ocean preservation. The effort to protect important ocean habitats was started by Jacques Cousteau, who also helped change people’s perspectives on ocean conservation.
Since then, the initiative has expanded into a network of 15 national marine sanctuaries, two marine national monuments, and other protected areas across the country.
These areas together conserve more than 620,000 square miles of breathtaking ocean and Great Lakes waters, an area roughly the size of Alaska. We now know that when given the time and space to bounce back from harmful human activities, ocean ecosystems can do so at an astounding rate.
The National Marine Sanctuary System in the US helps coastal towns and stimulates regional economies by offering employment possibilities and chances for people to explore, enjoy themselves, and develop enduring bonds with these magnificent locations. Perhaps most significantly, these sanctuaries foster a connection between people and the ocean through stewardship and science education.
We rely on these networks to generate ideas for neighborhood-based solutions that aid in understanding and safeguarding the most breathtaking marine environments, architectural marvels, and cultural seascapes in our country.
By providing protection for coastal ecosystems with high concentrations of “blue carbon” habitats, such as salt marshes, seagrass beds, and mangroves, marine protected areas also play a significant role in fostering climate resilience.
Other advantages might not be as evident. A recent study of the therapeutic potential of marine sponges and corals that yield novel compounds effective in battling prostate and ovarian cancer cell lines is just one example of how the National Marine Sanctuary System offers a wealth of resources for research that can directly impact human health and wellness.
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We can identify opportunities that combine significant medical advancements with marine conservation by connecting this research to some of the largest marine protected areas, such as Papa naumoku kea Marine National Monument.
At its root, the status of the ocean is a human issue, so finding solutions must involve people. Particularly with young people, there is an increasing call for action. Each year, EarthEchoInternational provides tens of thousands of young people with the information and resources they need to comprehend how the ocean affects their communities and what they can do about it.
Youth from EarthEcho is transforming the globe via initiatives like coastal cleanups, habitat restoration, policymaker engagement, and educational campaigns. The foundation for this expanding young movement to take action in communities around the world is provided by national marine sanctuaries and marine protected zones.
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No of our age, geography, race, or economic standing, we are all ultimately linked to the ocean. To make sure that our ocean globe is a vibrant, healthy home for everyone, we all have a part to play.
National marine sanctuaries can assist us in forging that connection with the ocean as we look to the future and can serve as a source of joy, pride, and hope for all. On their 50th anniversary and every day thereafter, they deserve to be loved and honored.
As the co-founder of Earth Echo International, Philippe Cousteau Jr. is continuing the long tradition of ocean research and activism started by his family. He is also an author, lecturer, TV personality with multiple Emmy nominations, and a social entrepreneur.
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Lela DeVine is starting her career as a scientist by connecting key ideas in scientific activism and communication with her environmental background in Hilo, Hawaii. She is a student at Columbia University’s Barnard College, where she is minoring in science, ethics, and policy while majoring in cellular and molecular biology.
National Marine Sanctuaries: Saving Our Ocean to Save Our Future first appeared on EcoWatch.