Why We Need to Protect More of the Ocean

June 15, 2021

Dr. Enric Sala, Explorer-in-Residence, National Geographic Society and Dr. Alan Friedlander, Chief Scientist, National Geographic Pristine Seas

Without the ocean, human life on Earth would be impossible. But increasing overexploitation and global warming are depleting ocean biodiversity and bringing the ocean to a tipping point, beyond which we may never recover. The establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs) is a proven and cost-effective tool to ensure a healthy ocean and prevent catastrophe, yet currently less than 3% of the ocean enjoys strong protection. Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, established in 2006, and today celebrating 15 years of protections, was the first remote large-scale MPA and protects one of the most intact coral reef ecosystems on Earth. This predator-dominated ecosystem harbors unique biodiversity, numerous threatened and endangered species, and serves as a baseline for understanding how natural coral reefs function in the absence of humans. Over the past 15+ years, several dozen large-scale MPAs have been created, protecting some of the world’s last remaining “pristine” ecosystems and contributing significantly to global marine conservation efforts. New research strongly supports the case for protecting at least 30% of the ocean by 2030 (30x30) to preserve ocean biodiversity, enhance food security, and secure ocean carbon stocks to help mitigate climate change. Therefore, there is a critical need to increase the support for ocean conservation so that both people and nature can thrive.

This presentation is part of the Third Thursday By the Bay Presentation Series at Mokupāpapa Discovery Center that is the visitor center for Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hilo, Hawaiʻi. This State of the Monument lecture series is also supported by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation through a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.