As a child, trips to the beach were a rare treat. Growing up in rural northern Nevada, the beach was eight hours away--a long, long trip for a family with two small children. But those special moments in the sand, scaling seaweed covered rocks to marvel at the colorful starfish and swaying anemones in the tidepools of northern California beaches, left an enduring impression on my childhood. I will always remember and cherish those days at the ocean.
Growing up, many people have memories of playing in the sand, running in the wind and splashing in the waves. But not enough of those people are aware of how threatened our ocean ecosystems actually are -- and even less are aware that we have the tools to save them.
Ocean life is threatened: offshore drilling has polluted ocean waters while overfishing has stripped fish populations of their abundance, pushing stocks to the point of collapse. Oceans are also taking the heat of climate change, forcing migratory species to travel further north in search of cooler, oxygen-rich waters and putting them into conflict with the species already at home near the poles. Future generations may one day visit an ocean that is unrecognizable.
But there is room for hope. We have the tools we need to save our oceans. I recently co-authored a report, New Life for the Ocean: How Marine Protections Keep Our Waters Wild, that dove into one of the best policy tools we have available: marine protected areas. Like national parks on land, marine protected are ocean habitats that have been put off limits to destructive human activities. By removing additional, direct pressure, we give ecosystems a chance to thrive. Our report highlights how well-placed, long-standing ocean sanctuaries can help restore ocean ecosystems, protect endangered species and build resilience to climate change.
Over the next few weeks, James Horrox, a policy analyst with the think tank Frontier Group and the co-author of the report, will publish blogs taking us on a virtual tour of the amazing protected places that provide hope for the future of our oceans.
We’ll learn more about the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and other MPAs off the coast of California. As the United States’ first science-based, statewide MPA network, these protected areas have helped restore degraded marine habitats and led to dramatic increases in once-depleted fish populations.