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The Ocean: Our Planet's Big Blue Heart

The Ocean: Our Planet’s Big Blue Heart

Recently, Brainspace invited Dr. Sylvia Earle of Mission Blue to discuss her passion and the subject of her life’s work: oceans. Dr. Earle is to oceans as Chris Hadfield is to space. She is this planet’s leading ambassador for marine wildlife and what she refers to as Earth’s blue heart. “With knowing comes caring, and with caring there’s hope, ” shares Dr. Earle as she impresses on us that each and every individual has within themselves the power to make a difference. “With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you are connected to the sea. No matter where on Earth you live.”

Mission Blue is inspired to hear from young people, and they believe others are too. Leading up to Earth Day 2017, they’ll be calling on youth worldwide to submit short videos about their love for the ocean. In turn, Mission Blue will share your message to the world. (See for contest details!)

Dr. Earle reassures us that this is a good news story — really the best news of all! If she could be born anytime in history, Dr. Earle emphasizes that she would choose right now. For the first time ever, we have knowledge that enables us to better understand the issues our oceans are facing. It is this new hope that has inspired a global initiative called Hope Spots.

This year Mission Blue is excited to be launching 3 expeditions between the North, Central, and South American migration corridor. The first expedition has been completed with a visit to the Socorro Islands in the Gulf of California Hope Spot. Here specialists were able to tag sharks in what is considered a safe haven for this marine species. Through tagging, scientists are able to gather data with hopes of learning more about sharks’ behaviours and patterns, which can in turn influence leaders and policy makers in making wise choices for long-term protection.

What is a Hope Spot?

A Hope Spot is any special place that is critical to the health of the ocean. It is about recognizing, empowering and supporting individuals and communities around the world in their efforts to protect the ocean.

Approximately 12 percent of the land around the world is now under some form of protection (such as a national park). We defend less than six percent of the ocean. Hope Spots allow us to plan and look beyond current marine protected areas (MPAs). The goal is that Hope Spots will create a wave of support for ocean conservation.

Why are Hope Spots Critical to Ocean Health?

The ocean covers over 70 percent of our planet and provides 70 percent of the oxygen in the atmosphere. It drives weather, stores carbon, and is home to the majority of life on earth. Among Dr. Sylvia Earle’s most famous sayings are: “No water, no life. No blue, no green.” In the 1950s and 60s, we believed oceans were too big to fail, and that their abundance would last forever. In recent decades, our oceans have shown signs of concerning decline, yet there is cause for hope! Organizations around the world, communities, and governments have begun to recognize the importance of our oceans, and together are now working towards a goal of 30% protection by the year 2030. When protected, say from pollution, fishing, and development, we see that these ecosystems can, and do restore themselves! In this way, nature can repair our mistakes.

What does it look like when we reverse the damage that has been done to our oceans?

To see a place that has declined over time for one reason or another bounce back again gives us hope! One shining example is the Gulf of California Hope Spot, which contains the Cabo Pulmo marine reserve in Mexico. Dr. Earle and her team went diving with great whirlpools of jacks (as pictured on page 30), golden groupers and other fish stocks, which have grown under the new protection.

Protected for 20 years, Cabo Pulmo has healed itself and flourished with an estimated 400% increase in marinelife. However, it’s not just the fish that are important. Cabo Pulmo, a once modest fishing community, has become a world-class wildlife destination supporting its local economy through eco-tourism and serving as an inspiration to others of what we can achieve. One thing leads to another, and when you can see this success, it inspires people to say, “I want to do the same as what happened in Cabo Pulmo for my area – they’ve succeeded and maybe we can too!”

Here is great news: Mission Blue has received over 300 Hope Spot nominations from over 75 countries. Guarding our coastal biomes give our planet’s blue heart time to heal.

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