GEOG Prof discusses how and why large ocean sanctuaries need to benefit both sea life and people
There is growing concern that the world’s oceans are in crisis because of climate change, overfishing, pollution and other stresses. One response is creating marine protected areas, or ocean parks, to conserve sea life and key habitats that support it, such as coral reefs.
In 2000, marine protected areas covered just 0.7 percent of the world’s oceans. Today 6.4 percent of the oceans are protected – about 9 million square miles. In 2010, 196 countries set a goal of protecting 10 percent of the world’s oceans by 2020.
Ocean parks that are very large and often remote account for most recent progress toward this goal, but they also are controversial. Some ecologists view them as the most effective way to protect ecosystems, deep-sea and open ocean habitats and large, highly migratory species. Critics say they may divert attention from conservation priorities closer to more densely populated areas, and are hard to monitor and enforce. And social scientists have questioned whether protecting such large zones infringes on indigenous people’s rights.