Watching over the Earth’s Blue Heart
Rolex has joined forces with Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue initiative to watch over and safeguard the Earth’s oceans. Since 2009, Mission Blue has been creating a network of Hope Spots around the planet, flourishing icons of marine life in the immensity of the Earth’s Blue Heart.
Despite their vastness, the world’s oceans are in trouble: fish numbers have fallen by up to 90 per cent, their waters are awash with plastic and waste, coral reefs are dying everywhere and ’Dead Zones‘, where the oxygen is too low to support life, are spreading ominously. The oceans comprise 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface, harbour an estimated two million different creatures and are a mainstay of humanity’s future. Yet less than 8 per cent of the ocean is protected, compared to around 15 per cent of the land.
Led by legendary undersea explorer Sylvia Earle, Mission Blue is on a crusade to establish a global network of Marine Protected Areas girdling the planet, one that shields key species and ecosystems, inspires and empowers local activity and ignites worldwide public interest and support for ocean action. Each of these Hope Spots is a special place, scientifically identified as vital to ocean health: some are already protected areas, others still stand in need of formal protection. Under Earle’s leadership, the Mission Blue team has mounted expeditions to pinpoint and study these vital ecosystems, find ways and people to safeguard them into the future.
Hope Spots range from helping to reduce human impact in the Gulf of California, Aegean, Caribbean and Caspian seas, to protecting endangered wildlife in the Galapagos, Andaman and Canary isles, to exploring the deep ocean and its life off Antarctica, Palau and many other unprotected atolls and reefs across the remote oceans of the world.
For close to a century Rolex, too, has supported the exploration of our world, sending its chronometers up the highest mountains and ever deeper into the remotest, darkest regions of the blue realm. Now the era of pure discovery is turning to exploration linked to protection of the Earth’s ecosystems. The company has long been a partner in ocean discovery with Earle and with many other indomitable marine scientists who are among the Laureates of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise.
In 2019, Rolex launched its Perpetual Planet initiative, lending support to outstanding individuals and organizations – such as National Geographic – who work to understand, share and preserve the natural world. The partnership between Mission Blue and Rolex is today one of the pillars of Perpetual Planet. It is a joining of minds, wills, and resources in the name of a better, safer future both for humanity and the Earth we inhabit.
In the Hope Spots, local champions and communities work hand-in-hand with scientists to understand their oceans, establish new or improve existing Marine Protected Areas, and share with the world knowledge of the miraculous life they harbour and how to care for it.
Hope Spots can be large or small – but they all offer hope due to:
• A particular abundance or diversity of marine life, unusual or representative species, habitats and ecosystems
• Notable populations of rare, threatened or endemic species
• Their potential to demonstrate ways to reverse the damage caused by human activity
• The existence of vital natural assets such as major migration corridors or spawning grounds
• Their historical, cultural or spiritual significance to people, locally and globally
• Their economic importance to the community
Mission Blue’s goal is to help protect 30 per cent of the oceans by 2030, which is the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) recommended target for safeguarding ocean health. With the support of Rolex, Mission Blue is seeking to ensure that marine ecosystems in all their wonder and teeming diversity are not lost to future generations.
To achieve this, Mission Blue fuses international cutting-edge science with partnerships with more than 200 local and global conservation organizations and a worldwide outreach effort that brings the wonders of the oceans directly into the homes and lives of ordinary people and schoolchildren.
Since it was founded in 2009, more than 130 Hope Spots have been recognized around the world, with 21 created in 2019 and 12 in 2020. Mission Blue now works directly with communities in 69 countries to restore and protect their unique ocean environments. It communicates its discoveries and campaigns through documentaries, social media, traditional media, undersea webcams and visualization technology, webinars and other modern education and outreach methods. It enables people around the world, many for the first time, to observe, explore and marvel at the wonders of the deep and share in their preservation.
A lifelong-devoted marine explorer herself, Earle has spent over 7,000 hours under the sea, led more than a hundred expeditions, discovered thousands of new water species, been deemed a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress and a “Hero of the Planet” by Time magazine. She explains: “People ask me sometimes, ‘What are the biggest problems facing the ocean?’ Of course, it’s what we are putting into the sea, [and] what we’re taking out of the ocean, but I think the biggest problem is ignorance – people do not know why they should care about the ocean.”
The oceans are the cradle of life on Earth. We owe them our awe, our love and our care.
Sylvia Earle is the focus of a new BBC film Perpetual Planet: Heroes of the Oceans that reveals the mission to restore health to the oceans.