We need our ocean, but it is under tremendous strain. Reading through the 2021 National Ocean Month proclamation, it’s hard to miss just how much we rely on our ocean: “The world’s ocean basins are critical to the success of our Nation and, indeed, to life on Earth. The ocean powers our economy, provides food for billions of people, supplies 50 percent of the world’s oxygen, offers recreational opportunities for us to enjoy, and regulates weather patterns and our global climate system.”
If we want our ocean to keep providing for us, we need to step up now. For decades, the ocean has been absorbing much of the heat caused by global warming, resulting in it being warmer and more acidic than ever before. This is driving marine life to search for cooler waters, helping fuel harmful algal blooms, and destroying important habitats like kelp forests.
World Ocean Day 2021 placed attention on one hopeful solution: protection of at least 30 percent our ocean areas by 2030. Together with its counterpart of protecting at least 30 percent of land and inland waters, this effort is known as “30x30.” Scientists are calling for 30x30 to help provide a healthier climate; help safeguard our air and water quality; protect our food supply, health, our fish and other wildlife; and prevent mass wildlife extinctions.
We don’t have time to waste. The urgency of taking action now was reinforced by a new intergovernmental report last week that makes clear we must tackle the climate and biodiversity crises together if we want to effectively address either; it is essential to prioritize protecting and restoring nature.
In the U.S., President Biden has made an ambitious pledge to adopt 30x30—to secure meaningful and durable conservation of 30 percent of our lands, inland waters, and ocean by 2030. In the ocean, this work must consider the role fully or highly protected marine protected areas (MPAs), as they are the most effective tool we have for preserving ocean ecosystems.
MPAs—the ocean’s equivalent of a Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park—provide safe havens where ocean life can recover and thrive without additional pressures from extractive practices like commercial fishing and oil gas drilling. They are a down payment for our future. Fully and highly protected marine areas are what’s needed to help ecosystems withstand and bounce back from human-induced disturbances and adapt to climate change, simultaneously benefiting communities by supporting tourism and recreation, and the jobs they generate.
And strong marine protected areas are not only needed in the U.S. Earlier this month, the United States, United Kingdom, Chile, Costa Rica, and France announced a new global partnership to advance the role of Marine Protected Areas. As Jane Lubchenco, Deputy Director for Climate and Environment at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy stated, “Marine protected areas—but especially highly protected ones—are an effective nature-based solution for adapting to and mitigating climate change and conserving biodiversity. Nations must act now to protect key ocean habitats and the services the ocean provides to nature and people.”
No matter where we live on this planet, we need a healthy ocean to survive. MPAs are key to restoring our ocean, protecting our climate and biodiversity; in short, to securing our future.
I encourage you to sign the World Ocean Day petition in support of 30x30, and to join us in signaling your support for 30x30 to the administration in the action below.