By the year
2020, Greenpeace hopes to increase global marine reserves from the current less
than 1 percent to 20 percent. Most campaigning is being done in the United
States, which is one of the few nations to take major steps to protect the
oceans. Overfishing, climate change, and pollution from the use of fossil fuels
is a very real threat to our oceans. The importance of healing the existing
damage is immense for a myriad of reasons. The ocean supports 97 percent of
functional habitats and sustains more than 700,000 species. Our ocean waterways
provide transportation, jobs, and enjoyment to billions of people, and is also
a very important food source. The oceans are the lifeblood of humanity and we
need them to survive.

Currently,
only 4 percent of the world’s oceans are protected by reserves, which are
a protected marine area that prohibits any activity that removes animals and
plants or alters the habitat. Fishing, dredging, mining, and aquaculture are
not allowed, although boating and scuba diving are sometimes permitted. These reserves
are especially important because their extended growth not only preserves, but
also produces, many resources that move into other areas of the ocean and
contribute to its healing. By continuing to add these protected areas and
regulating the activity inside them we can begin to restore biodiversity and
ecosystems, rather than just stop their destruction.

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In 2002,
2003, and 2006 global targets were adopted to increase the levels of marine
protection. However, at that time we did not have enough accurate data to
create the number of reserves that were needed in order to make a significant
difference. Over 35 countries would need to create marine protected areas the
size of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, and they would have to be created
within the next 2 years. This area is roughly the size of California and is one
of the largest blue parks in the world. In an effort to accomplish this, 200
countries met in 2010 and committed to increasing the amount of protected ocean
area to 10 percent by the year 2020.

Chile and
Niue made a huge contribution to this goal this past October. Niue turned 40
percent of its limited economic zone into a marine park and Chile added two
parks. Together they have created another 290,000 square miles of protected
area, which is about twice the size of Germany. These reserves are supported by
the National Geographic Society’s
Pristine Seas project
which was started in 2008 by Enric Sala.

Greenpeace
is also fighting to protect the oceans by campaigning to create marine reserves
in 20 percent of U.S waters by the year 2020. If they are successful, that will
double the amount that is protected now and go a long way toward restoring
balance to our oceans. The United Nations’ Aichi Targets identified at the 2010
meeting called for more than just creating more protected sites. It also calls
for improvements in the already existing protected areas. This means more “No-take”
areas where it is prohibited to remove any resources at all, including seaweed,
oil, and gas. Out of all the protected areas, only 16 percent are protected as
“No-take” areas, which equals only 0.5 percent of the world’s oceans. If both
the increase of blue parks and the improvement of existing parks is achieved,
then there is a real chance that the Aichi Targets can be attained.

Unfortunately,
House Republicans voted this month to put forth a bill that would fast-track
offshore oil and gas exploration and undermine environmental laws. This would
weaken the acts that support the 2010 targets and accelerate permits for oil
drilling that can kill off our marine life and destroy ecosystems. Hopefully,
the full House will not allow this bill to progress any further and we will continue
to stay on track for the renewal, protection, and expansion of all our blue
parks.