August 9, 2012
By: Jordan Smith-Newman
In the many environmental studies courses I have been required to take as part of my major, I have learned the huge range of threats to which marine habitats are exposed. From unsustainable and destructive fishing to heavy-footed coral trampling, from runoff of land-based agriculture to the threats of global warming, ocean acidification, and bleaching, numerous factors are placing stress on our oceans.
These same oceans provide us with beauty and are home to thousands of flora and fauna species. They supply millions of people with their primary protein and absorb much of the problematic atmospheric carbon dioxide. Because these resources are so valuable international agencies have recently taken action to protect and preserve such striking ecosystems.
Despite its reputation for not having reached significant outcomes, the 2002 Earth Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg, South Africa has succeeded in calling for the establishment of marine protected areas. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) defines the general function of Marine Protected Areas as a place to help protect resources within the marine environment for the benefit of present and future generations.
One such Marine Protected Area is Big Fisherman’s Cove, right off of the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies on Catalina Island. The land was formally owned by the Wrigley family, the founders of the chewing gum company, with the ultimate goal of preservation. The kelp beds are some of the largest in the world, reason alone to protect the area. The kelp and cove also shelter the California garibaldi, leopard sharks, white sea bass and lobsters, to name a few fish species. Big Fisherman’s Cove falls into the 5% designated Marine Protected Areas of Southern California that are fully protected no-take areas. The commitment and relationship between the Wrigley family and USC has been crucial in keeping the cove pristine.
A similar marine protected area is Ngederrak Reef in the Republic of Palau. The vulnerability of the coral reef ecosystems has led to its recognition as a Special Management Area by the Koror State Government Department of Conservation and Law Enforcement. Unless conducting research with permission and a permit from the State, no one can enter the area because Ngederrak Reef goes beyond a no-take zone and is a no-entry zone. Continual surveying of the reef has been effective for the conservation and preservation of species biodiversity.
While protection of marine ecosystems is imperative, practical and effective means of enforcement have proven to be challenging. There must be continued and additional work by respective governments to further protect both official Marine Protected Areas as well as the general marine habitat.
About the author: Jordan forgot to submit her author bio….