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Perpetual Planet Initiative

SAVING THE OCEANS, ONE HOPE SPOT AT A TIME

Backed by Rolex, the Mission Blue initiative by Sylvia Earle is giving new life to sensitive parts of the marine world.
Published in October 2020Time to read: 2min 16s

For the past few months, while humans stayed indoors, nature was given the chance to restore itself. Now while the effects of this may not last forever, it’s never been more important to protect what we can and inspire others to do the same too. In his first Instagram post, David Attenborough shone some light on the state of the marine ecosystem. “Coral reefs are dying, fish are disappearing from our oceans. The list goes on and on. But we know what to do about it.” For the first time, humans are in a position where we know what dangers lie ahead, and what we can do to prevent it.

As a part of its efforts, Rolex supports Mission Blue, an initiative founded by legendary oceanographer, marine biologist and National Geographic explorer, Dr. Sylvia Earle. Mission Blue recognises Hope Spots around the world, which are ecologically sensitive areas in the ocean that are in need of protection. These include marine protected areas that are in need of greater action or areas that are still not protected but are in need of revival.

In an interview, Earle says, “We used to think the ocean was so big, so resilient that we could not harm it. In a few decades, we have disturbed basic planetary systems; they’re interwoven and we are now realising what their real value is. Many people still don’t understand that protecting the ocean means that we’re protecting ourselves.”

Creating these Hope Spots around the world is just one way the team plans to conserve marine life. Since 2008, Mission Blue expeditions have visited Hope Spots around the world, documenting marine environments and encouraging local stakeholders to protect them. In September 2019, the Mission Blue Expeditions team travelled to the Galápagos Islands to put a spotlight on the human-induced impact on marine life, as well as research on migratory sharks in the Wolf and Darwin Islands, the most remote islands of the archipelago. The team then shared the finding of their expedition with the community and discussed their concerns about threats facing the islands. When it comes to research and conservation, this region is especially significant because of the abundance of marine life found here. There are nearly 3,000 marine species, including dolphins, whales, sea turtles, sea lions, reef fish and over 30 species of shark found here.

The Mission Blue team also conducted an expedition to the Balearic Islands in Spain, a recognised Hope Spot. The mission was to raise awareness about the negative effects of overfishing, illegal anchoring, and plastic pollution in the area. The region is home to an ocean grass known as Posidonia oceanica or Neptune Grass that grows up to four metres in length, creating a dense thicket where a wide variety of marine species find shelter and food. These meadows hold some of the oldest living species on Earth, but due to the effects of global warming, by the end of the 21st Century there could be very little Posidonia left on the ocean floor. This will affect the lives of thousands of species who take shelter here.

Similarly, the Mission Blue team has set up Hope Spots in sensitive marine areas all over the world, from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the Gulf of Mexico.

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