By the year2020, Greenpeace hopes to increase global marine reserves from the current lessthan 1 percent to 20 percent. Most campaigning is being done in the UnitedStates, which is one of the few nations to take major steps to protect theoceans. Overfishing, climate change, and pollution from the use of fossil fuelsis a very real threat to our oceans. The importance of healing the existingdamage is immense for a myriad of reasons. The ocean supports 97 percent offunctional habitats and sustains more than 700,000 species. Our ocean waterwaysprovide transportation, jobs, and enjoyment to billions of people, and is alsoa very important food source.

The oceans are the lifeblood of humanity and weneed them to survive.Currently,only 4 percent of the world’s oceans are protected by reserves, which area protected marine area that prohibits any activity that removes animals andplants or alters the habitat. Fishing, dredging, mining, and aquaculture arenot allowed, although boating and scuba diving are sometimes permitted. These reservesare especially important because their extended growth not only preserves, butalso produces, many resources that move into other areas of the ocean andcontribute to its healing. By continuing to add these protected areas andregulating the activity inside them we can begin to restore biodiversity andecosystems, rather than just stop their destruction. In 2002,2003, and 2006 global targets were adopted to increase the levels of marineprotection. However, at that time we did not have enough accurate data tocreate the number of reserves that were needed in order to make a significantdifference.

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Over 35 countries would need to create marine protected areas thesize of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, and they would have to be createdwithin the next 2 years. This area is roughly the size of California and is oneof the largest blue parks in the world. In an effort to accomplish this, 200countries met in 2010 and committed to increasing the amount of protected oceanarea to 10 percent by the year 2020. Chile andNiue made a huge contribution to this goal this past October. Niue turned 40percent of its limited economic zone into a marine park and Chile added twoparks.

Together they have created another 290,000 square miles of protectedarea, which is about twice the size of Germany. These reserves are supported bythe National Geographic Society’sPristine Seas projectwhich was started in 2008 by Enric Sala. Greenpeaceis also fighting to protect the oceans by campaigning to create marine reservesin 20 percent of U.S waters by the year 2020. If they are successful, that willdouble the amount that is protected now and go a long way toward restoringbalance to our oceans.

The United Nations’ Aichi Targets identified at the 2010meeting called for more than just creating more protected sites. It also callsfor 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 boththe 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-trackoffshore oil and gas exploration and undermine environmental laws. This wouldweaken the acts that support the 2010 targets and accelerate permits for oildrilling 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 continueto stay on track for the renewal, protection, and expansion of all our blueparks.