Here we will explore the ways in which limitation, restriction, and protection apply to our marine environment, and how proper management of our living oceans will help secure global health.
Given that our planet is covered 71% with water, it is imperative that the rules and regulations surrounding human use of the ocean's natural resources support and conserve our blue planet.
However, the reality and history involving human use of our oceans paints a rather negative picture. In the face of a growing global population, technological advancements and industrial developments, the ocean has sustained and survived severe exploitation. Until now.
The marine environment is suffering on a global scale from the incessant pressure of fisheries, coastal development, pollution, and global warming. In short, it is crucial that strict regulations and limitations be implemented to restore and repair the damage we have caused our ocean environment to bare.
Below Eco-Odyssey will aim to provide you with the most current projects, efforts, and developments working to increase proper management of our oceans. Now is the time to try and restore our once bountiful seas, healthy and balanced ecosystems, and safe habitats for the world's marine wildlife.
The Galapagos Islands lie a thousand kilometers from the Ecuadorian coast, hidden away in a mystical part of the ocean, and once capturing the eye of explorer Charles Darwin. Merging cold and warm water currents combine with powerful upwellings helping to create a spectacular marine ecosystem unique to the world.
The are close to 3000 species of marine plants and animals that thrive in the waters surrounding the Galapagos, and life on land is certainly as diverse and rich. Well established regulations of the island's land mass keep the National park protected while the waters of the Galapagos are only now beginning to get adequate governance.
The Galapagos Marine Reserve was officially implemented in 1998 to conserve the marine environment and natural resources of the islands. The National park service became in charge of managing fisheries issues and other marine threats. However, the waters around the Galapagos have attracted an increasing number of fishing fleets, and illegal fishing, overfishing, and poaching are serious problems park officials are trying to manage.
The most recent fishing boom in Galapagos waters has targeted tuna, lobsters, and sea cucumbers in an aggressive manner, while large number of shark species are suffering from continuous hunting mostly to acquire the animal's fins for the lucrative shark fin trade.
Sea Shepherd, Wild Aid, and the Charles Darwin Foundation are part of force helping the staff, volunteers, and locals better govern their precious marine environment. Implementation of a 'Vessel Monitoring System' will assist in the detection of fishing boats inside the Marine Reserve, and aid in the mission to enforce the laws in place.
Illegal activity within protected waters is a huge issue for the Galapagos, and ensuring they can cope with environmental crimes is paramount. Unfortunately, the court system on the island is poorly managed and in actuality, the criminal court has never successfully convicted anyone of a crime against nature.
The Galapagos is the only area of Ecuador with no provincial Court of Justice; quite surprising considering how valuable tourism on the islands is to the entire nation. Without marine wildlife thriving in its natural habitat, there will be no tourism industry to support the Ecuadorian economy. Losing sharks, turtles, and fish to illegal human activities will ensure a loss of marine enthusiasts drawn to the rich biodiversity of the Galapagos.
On July 25th, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society confirmed that a fishing vessel had been captured and detained in the Galapagos following the discovery of 357 massacred sharks aboard. The industrial fishing fleet was illegally poaching sharks, many of which are listed as endangered by the IUCN, inside the GMR and was seized after the 'vessel monitoring system' detected their movements in protected waters.
Sharks in the Galapagos are meant to be safe, but their fins are so profitable that fishermen are desperate to hunt as many sharks as possible, no matter where they are found.
The crew of the Fer Mary 1 were released by Galapagos authorities and allowed to return to Ecuadorian mainland where they will almost certainly escape being reprimanded for the illegal killings of hundreds of endangered sharks. The Judiciary System on the island is simply inadequate and unfit to accurately govern environmental crimes. All prosecutions must be carried out on the mainland, some 982 kilometers away.
The Galapagos islands are now undergoing a review and restructuring of the Judicial System to hopefully include strong representatives capable of governing environmental crimes in favor of their vulnerable marine wildlife and finite resources.
For more on this topic, please link to the Sea Shepherd website here:http://www.seashepherd.org/news-and-media/2011/08/25/lady-justice-has-abandoned-galapagos-1275
Marine Protected Areas are chosen sections of our marine environment where restrictions have been imposed to limit the continued impact of human activity and promote the rejuvenation and restoration of exhausted natural resources.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) offers this definition to explain a Marine Protected Area: 'A clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values'
MPA's are often locations with cultural, historical, and biological significance. They are unique areas of biodiversity that support entire ecosystems and often contribute to the health of surrounding marine environments.
By governing parts of our oceans more closely, we allow depleted marine wildlife to recover from exploitation while ensuring the future of surrounding coastal communities may include sustainable fishing and healthy marine systems.
Marine Protected areas are the equivalent of National Parks on land. Statistics show that about 11% of the planet's land is protected, while a mere 1% of the ocean is safeguarded adequately.
The management of Marine Protected Areas can vary depending on the location. There are some fundamental regulations that will generally apply to all MPA's:
• Limitations on development, including surrounding coastal communities.
• Fishing Restrictions: fishing season, limits on catch, sound and ethical fishing practices.
• Complete ban on disrupting marine life and poaching animals from their natural habitat.
Increasing the number of Marine Protected areas throughout our oceans is vital for the health our planet, and one of the most important steps humans must take to ensure our own survival on earth.
Humans depend on the ocean for many things (e.g. food, transport, oil), yet the major industries, corporations, and governments making environmental decisions need to refresh and update their response to the state of our marine environment. The businesses built around the ocean's produce should be held accountable for making responsible choices to protect the resources they so desperately seek.
With nearly depleted Global fish stocks, implementing MPA's would allow for the recovery of major targeted species and in turn foster a sustainable fishing future.
The esteemed Dr.Sylvia Earle, longtime ocean explorer, inventor, and conservationist, has spoken extensively on the need for more Marine Protected Areas. The Sealliance (Sylvia Earle Alliance), a network lead by Earle, is championing efforts towards a greater global awareness of our ocean's health, thus generating public support for a network of MPA's which she calls "HOPE SPOTS".
Please visit her website for a detailed map of proposed 'Hope Spots" and learn why each locations is so special in contributing to the ocean's survival.
By exposing these areas and leading expeditions to explore and educate the masses, the Sealliance team is hopefully setting a wave of ocean preservation in action!!
Visit the Sylvia Earle Alliance here: http://www.sylviaearlealliance.org/hopespots
Commonly known as the "Unicorn of the Sea", the Narwhal is a fascinating and unique resident of the Arctic waters around Canada and Greenland.
The Narwhal's unique appearance is due to a huge tusk, a second tooth, that grows out of the animal's top jaw. Reaching lengths of 2.5 meters and weighing up to 10 Kilograms, this 'unicorn' has no formal use and has never been seen as a fighting tools in males.
Perfectly adapted for life in the Arctic, Narwhals use echolocation to map our holes in the ice so they can reach the surface for a breath. Staying close to loose pack ice, Narwhals must be very precise in order to find enough breathing holes to survive.
Narwhals are still hunted by the Inuit people of Canada for their tusks and meat, and are especially vulnerable to the impacts of Climate Change on the Arctic environment.