Hope For The Future
The ocean is resilient and can bounce back from the stress we are currently putting it through. Inspirational stories of ecosystems rebounding exist around the world from Apo Reef National Park in the Philippines to Shinnecock Bay near New York City.
The Marine Conversation Institute’s ‘Blue Parks’ initiative incentivizes the protection of the world’s ocean by implementing standards to safeguard biodiversity and empower communities. They showcase examples of marine protection in a ‘Blue Parks Network Map’ which boasts 24 MPAs—from the Apo Reef National Park in the Philippines to the Kisite-Mpunguti Marine Park & Reserve in Kenya.
The Apo Reef National Park protects the second-largest contiguous coral reef in the world and provides nesting grounds for several species of endangered sea turtles, as well as refuge for several other critically endangered species such as reef sharks, whales, and dolphins. Due to a local dependency on fishing for livelihoods, the institute partnered with locals to offer a transition to a more sustainable income in ecotourism while protecting the local fisheries. As well as the Blue Park title, the Apo Reef National Park is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Mission Blue, in partnership with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), works with local and international communities to protect ‘Hope Spots’—marine areas identified as critical to the health of the ocean—and support their conversion to marine protected areas. The scientific council, headed by Sylvia Earle, reviews certain scientific and conservation criteria, provides advisory resources, and ignites support to further protection.
The Shinnecock Bay Hope Spot, designated surrounding World Oceans Day 2022, is located 80 miles east of Manhattan on Long Island and has witnessed successful ecological restoration since the monitoring program began in 2012 in collaboration with the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stonybrook University. Shinnecock Bay was a severely degraded waterway, with pervasive algal blooms and plummeting clam, seagrass, and oyster populations. The Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program focused on restoring the water quality by focusing on shellfish population replenishment. As of now, the team have planted 3.5 million clams, 100 acres of new eelgrass, and built 6 oyster reefs. In the past 10 years, Shinnecock Bay has experienced a drastic improvement in water quality and species diversity.
These titles and awards empower local communities and agencies by recognizing the hard work already being done and creating a platform for funding and partnerships.
Hope for the future lies in each one of us and the choices we make every day.