Sylvia Earle and IUCN Invite World Leaders to Celebrate and Extend Ocean Protection

Watch this exclusively on The Underwater

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Monday, 5th October, 2009, Washington DC (IUCN): Today legendary underwater explorer and ocean ambassador Sylvia Earle teamed up with IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas to send individual letters to 100 world leaders inviting them to join Sylvia in her wish to better protect the world’s oceans. Watch exclusive coverage of this event online at The Underwater Channel:

Sylvia Earle is one of three recipients of the coveted 2009 TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Award which grants awardees a ‘wish to change the world’. Sylvia’s one wish is to establish more ‘hope spots’ – Marine Protected Areas – to support ocean life, on which our day-to-day lives depend.

Marine Protected Areas

Marine protected areas can provide higher and more sustained income through tourism and controlled fisheries than continued exploitation. Effectively managed Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and MPA Networks provide an essential tool that aids the protection of marine biodiversity, builds resilience, achieves sustainable fisheries, maintains a vital role in ecosystem-based management and marine spatial planning.

Each of the individually written and signed letters was sent out today, and by April next year it is hoped that new commitments made by leaders will be highlighted and celebrated as part of a TED Ocean event. The seven-day TED conference will take place on a ship in the Galapagos Islands. Speakers, all focused on the oceans, will range from marine scientists and ocean explorers to musicians and artists to environmental activists. All talks will be streamed live to the world for free. The ultimate goal is to have policy makers and citizens alike understand the necessary action steps needed to create more marine protected areas and to engender the conviction to take them.

“Given the critical range of pressures on the seas there has never been a time like this when we have needed to act in such decisive ways and connect ocean issues to the broader public. By taking new actions as individuals, world leaders can achieve both those goals in one go and also leave a personal legacy from which we will all benefit in future years,” Sylvia Earle said.

Pressures on the Seas

The world's oceans cover 70% of our planet, yet less than 1% of our ocean habitat is protected compared to about 12 percent of the land surface. Climate change is exacerbating the human threats to the oceans and is bringing the marine environment closer to peril. Life too within our oceans is seriously under threat with the large predatory fish including sharks and rays being reduced by about 90%. The reduction of human induced stress factors, including over fishing, pollution and unsustainable coastal development, is imperative if the oceans are to continue to provide marine ecosystem services such as shore protection and important food and income resources on which so many depend.

The impetus for these 100 letters has been the actions of various world leaders who have already shown a commitment to champion ocean protection, making significant announcements resulting in a measurable increase in the area of sea protected.

“I am delighted to be directly connecting to these leaders who really can make a difference. In spring next year we will have a major celebration of my ‘wish’ and I very much hope we can show new progress by highlighting globally those leaders who have made the latest commitments, and show everyone what actions they are taking individually for the oceans,” Sylvia Earle added.

In Britain Prime Minister Gordon Brown has published his long awaited Marine Bill, promising better protection for wildlife including a new network of nature reserves at sea. The bill also pledges better management of inshore fisheries and measures to speed up the approvals process for offshore wind farms by about a year. In England, it will open a new right of public access to coastal lands. Environmental groups however say UK seas are "in crisis", and need more protection than the government is offering.

President Obama has designated three new Marine National Monuments. Together these new protected areas boast enormous biodiversity both in terms of species and habitats. He has continued to offer the marine community hope through the Arctic Fishery Management Plan which will protect the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas from all new commercial fishing and through the establishment of an Ocean Task Force developing recommendations to protect and restore oceans, coasts and the Great Lakes.

President Sarkozy also announced that by 2012 France will increase the protection of maritime space from less than 1% to 10%. He went on to promise that marine protected areas will be doubled by 2020 covering 20% of the 11 million square kilometres of sea under the sovereignty of France.

Other countries supporting ocean protection include the UK, South Africa, Australia, and the Coral Triangle Initiative nations (Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands).

Sylvia Earle has been referred to as “a living legend” by the Library of Congress, “her deepness” by the New Yorker and New York Times and “a hero for the planet” by Time magazine. Dr. Earle is an oceanographer, explorer, author, lecturer and an avid and passionate campaigner for marine protection with a deep commitment to marine research through personal exploration.

Co-signing the letters is well-known British biologist and ocean conservationist, and Marine Vice Chair of the World Commission on Protected Areas, Dan Laffoley. “Most nations of the world have already pledged through the Convention on Biological Diversity and the 2002 Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development to use networks of Marine Protected Areas to help safeguard the blue heart of our planet” he said.

Carl Gustaf Lundin, Head of IUCN’s Global Marine Programme added that “The ocean is our life support system and we are seeing more and more evidence of the deteriation of habitats and species as a direct result of our daily activities. But there is cause for hope.”

The ( is a free, global web TV channel dedicated to bringing the mysteries of the deep to the surface and becoming a maverick for change for ocean issues. The Underwater Channel <> has a rostrum of its own

Presenters or Faces of Splash, eight expert divers located at different dive destinations around the world who provide regular, original video dive reports for our viewers and this combines with a wide range of documentaries on underwater subjects. By bringing the experience of diving into people's homes through a dedicated web TV channel, The fulfills a 24/7 need for divers to pursue their passion and tempt "armchair" divers out of their seats and into the water.

IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges.

IUCN works on biodiversity, climate change, energy, human livelihoods and greening the world economy by supporting scientific research, managing field projects all over the world, and bringing governments, NGOs, the UN and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice.

IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization, with more than 1,000 government and NGO members and almost 11,000 volunteer experts in some 160 countries. IUCN’s work is supported by over 1,000 staff in 60 offices and hundreds of partners in public, NGO and private sectors around the world.

The World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) is the world's premier network of protected area expertise. It is administered by IUCN's Programme on Protected Areas and has over 1,400 members, spanning 140 countries.

WCPA works by helping governments and others plan protected areas and integrate them into all sectors; by providing strategic advice to policy makers; by strengthening capacity and investment in protected areas; and by convening the diverse constituency of protected area stakeholders to address challenging issues. For more than 50 years, IUCN and WCPA have been at the forefront of global action on protected areas.

What too many people, whether or not, I would say, connected to the oceans, do not understand is how important the world's oceans are for us as humans. However, with our exploitation, in overfishing and such, and our pollution, with the great garbage vortex being just one of the cases, we are destroying this lifeline of our Planet.

While the oceans are, and I am well aware of that, salty water and not potable water suitable for irrigation and drinking, our very survival, however, depends on the health of the oceans in the same way as it depends on the health of forests and soil.

We need to protect our world's oceans now and stop the exploitation and wholesale destruction of fish stocks and everything else and we must do this now.

Climate Change is but one of the problems and it has put the other problems, many of which may be much more important, in the shade in recent times. We have gotten the perspectives screwed and must rethink our approaches and we must do that pronto.

So, let's do it. Prime Minister, sign the act, and do it now.

© 2009