In 2012, the Cook Islands announced the creation of world's largest single-country marine park - approximately 1.1 million square kilometers (km2) of the southern Cook Islands’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) - a vast swathe of ocean almost twice the size of France. In 2014, the International Union for Conservation of Nature recommended that we need to protect at least 30 percent of the world's oceans to effectively preserve biodiversity and then Mexico created a marine reserve larger than Greece; a ‘safe haven’ – as many say - in Pacific Ocean! Thus, are marine parks the answer to saving ocean wildlife?
On 25 November 2017, Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto officially signed a decree to protect the biodiversity of the region by creating North America's largest marine protected area around the Revillagigedo Islands, prohibiting mining, fishing, and tourism development on or near the islands. The park was praised by the World Wildlife Fund and British investor and philanthropist Richard Branson.
Technically part of the Mexican state of Colima, the Revillagigedo Islands or Revillagigedo Archipelago are a group of four volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean, known for their unique ecosystem. They are located where the cold waters of the California current meet warmer waters from the north equatorial current. In other words, they lie approximately 390 kilometres (240 mi) southwest of Cabo San Lucas, the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula, and 720 to 970 kilometres (450 to 600 mi) west of Manzanillo. In 2016, the islands were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Scientists expect that it will be a sanctuary for hundreds of species of marine life as by banning fishing activities, the park is about to help recover fish populations hit hard by commercial fishing. Specifically, the aforesaid measures will help ensure the conservation of 150,000 square kilometers of ocean teeming with 37 species of sharks and rays, four species of threatened sea turtles, and more than 350 species of fish, 26 of which can only be found in this part of the world.
More than 30 percent of the world's fisheries have been pushed beyond their biological limits and are in need of strict management plans to restore them.
WWF has said
However, preservationists do hope that Mexico's move will create a gold standard for marine conservation. ΙΜΟ has been always supporting sustainable use of the oceans by setting global standards designed to ensure shipping does not adversely impact the environment. As the UN says, careful management of oceans is essential global resource is a key feature of a sustainable future.
Goal 14 of the UN SDG includes the following targets:
- By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution
- By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans
- Minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels
- By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics
- By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information
- By 2020, prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and refrain from introducing new such subsidies, recognizing that appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries should be an integral part of the World Trade Organization fisheries subsidies negotiation
- By 2030, increase the economic benefits to Small Island developing States and least developed countries from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism
- Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular small island developing States and least developed countries
- Provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets
- Enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law as reflected in UNCLOS, which provides the legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources, as recalled in paragraph 158 of The Future We Want
- Chile has already set the world’s largest Marine Protected Area and is also ready to transform the Admiralty Sound (Seno Almirantazgo) into the country's first Multiple Use Marine Coastal Protected Area (AMP-MU) in the province of Tierra del Fuego.
- The government of Belize in the eastern coast of Central America has recently passed legislation banning offshore oil and gas activities in territorial waters, in a bid to protect its barrier reef, currently the largest in the western hemisphere.
- At the EU-hosted Our Ocean conference in Malta, on October 2017, the European Union committed to several tangible actions to foster healthier, cleaner and safer seas, encouraging governments to tackle the growing ocean challenges, from plastic pollution and protecting marine life to the impact of climate change.
- In 2016, the Prime Minister of Canada launched a national Oceans Protection Plan that improves marine safety and responsible shipping, protects Canada’s marine environment, and offers new possibilities for Indigenous and coastal communities.
All in all, Mexico is one of the countries more committed with the wild life and environmental preservation around the world! In an era of climate change and increasing pressure on marine life, effective measures to protect ecosystems must be agreed by more countries in order to implement the standards above. We all have to protect our earth for the next era. Otherwise it will vanish!