Marine Conservation Institute Programs
Marine Protected Areas
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are some of the simplest of marine management tools that can offer some of the highest gains in terms of marine conservation. By removing some uses from a marine environment, certain ecosystems can regain their actual function, populations can be bolstered and habitats protected. Currently, MPAs cover barely more than 1 percent of the world’s oceans. Marine Conservation Institute's ambitious goal is to protect 10% of our ocean by 2020.
The five National Marine Sanctuaries from California to Washington State not only represent some of the nation's most beloved marine ecosystems, but contain a tremendous diversity of sea life: marine mammals, sea birds, and vast arrays of fish species. This sea life relies on key marine habitats for survival, among them, deep sea coral and sponges. But 20-70% of the undersea habitat of each Sanctuary is open to bottom trawling, the most destructive fishing technique, which irreversibly destroys coral and sponge habitat that may have been developing over thousands of years.
We aim to build on our past Sanctuary advocacy on the West Coast by designing a specific protection plan for West Coast corals, and advocating its adoption to the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Pacific Fishery Management Council. We will also use this plan to bolster support across the five West Coast National Marine Sanctuaries for stronger deep sea corals protection through the sanctuary system management process.
The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (OCNMS) is one of the jewels of America's coastal landscapes. Off the shores of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State adjacent to Canadian territorial waters, the Sanctuary includes 3,189 square nautical miles of marine and coastal ecosystems.
The Marine Conservation Institute is in a unique position to advise the Sanctuary on marine conservation and management actions. As a Washington State-headquartered organization, we have strong roots in the region and its marine heritage and a history of mutually supportive relationships in the diverse interests of the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic Coast, including fishermen, Native American tribes, and others. Our staff includes experts on deep sea corals, marine protected areas and ocean acidification. A Marine Conservation Institute staff member has held the Conservation Seat on the Sanctuary Advisory Council almost continually since 2004.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
President's Report: Programs and Successes in 2012
From Lance E. Morgan, Ph.D., President and CEO:
As we look to 2013 and a healthier future for our oceans, I'd like to take a moment to inform you about some of the progress the Marine Conservation Institute has made during the past year -- in the United States and across the seas. Not only do we work to protect specific places, but we also provide scientific and policy expertise to make a positive difference to marine life. I welcome and encourage your visits to marine-conservation.org to learn more about our programs. Thank you for reading … and remember -- your support helps make programs like these possible. Saving Hawaii's Monk Seals The Hawaiian monk seal is the only marine mammal found solely in the United States. Yet monk seals are being lost at alarming rates, and fewer than 1,100 now survive in the Hawaiian Islands. Marine debris, overfishing leading to food shortages, and entanglement in fishermen's nets are the main human causes of fatalities for these unique creatures. Marine Conservation Institute is helping the monk seal by
Safeguarding National Marine Sanctuaries
- reaching out to communities and fishermen in Hawai'i about the ecological and cultural significance of monk seals, and the steps they can take to prevent their extinction, and
- supporting a strong, well-funded monk seal recovery program in the main Hawaiian islands and Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
National Marine Sanctuaries off the West Coast are home to a tremendous array of marine life, including deep sea corals, fishes, seabirds and marine mammals which rely on healthy habitats to thrive. Yet Sanctuaries from California to Washington are open to bottom trawling -- a fishing technique that gouges the sea floor, leaving deep sea coral habitats in ruin. To protect these areas, Marine Conservation Institute is
Defending National Monuments in the Pacific Islands
- working closely with regulators to improve habitat protections in the Sanctuaries -- to benefit marine life and fishermen who rely on the ocean,
- providing predictive habitat maps to pinpoint corals that provide shelter and nurseries for fishes, and
- improving public awareness about deep sea corals and the threats facing them.
America's Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument is a vast ocean haven for wildlife. These tropical atolls provide crucial stop-over areas and feeding grounds for migrating fishes, sea turtles, seabirds and mammals, as well as countless resident species including large populations of reef sharks. Despite federal protection, this and other Pacific marine monuments lack enforcement against illegal fishing and are at risk of shipwrecks, pollution, and marine debris. To preserve these national treasures, Marine Conservation Institute is supporting strong management and enforcement actions aimed at
Launching the Global MPAtlas
- stopping illegal fishing in the monuments,
- improving surveillance of shipping and maritime activities, and
- restoring coral reefs by removing shipwrecks and reducing damage from marine debris.
In a world where fisheries and marine biodiversity are declining, marine protected areas are an essential tool to reverse the oceans' downward trajectory. The growth of MPAs around the world is a huge opportunity for conservation, but competing standards and levels of protection can drive confusion. Marine Conservation Institute has created a global atlas of marine protected areas, MPAtlas.org, to
Improving Conservation in the Sargasso Sea
- provide needed information and tools to the MPA community to advance marine conservation on a global scale,
- serve MPA managers and scientists seeking up-to-date facts and analysis about marine protection, and
- facilitate advocacy and future MPA opportunities for valuable marine ecosystems.
The Sargasso Sea near Bermuda is one of nature's unique treasures. It is the world's only sea not bound by land. Instead, the Sargasso Sea is defined by ocean currents and the Sargassum algae that give it its name. The Sargasso Sea provides habitat and breeding grounds for endangered eels, sea turtles and whales. But without protection, the Sargasso is succumbing to threats such as overfishing and garbage that makes its way into its spiraling currents. Marine Conservation Institute is helping by
- putting science to work to understand this ecosystem and its biodiversity,
- working with the Sargasso Sea Alliance to identify and respond to threats, and
- advocating for protected area status for the Sargasso Sea as a precedent for other high seas areas.