Imagine that the creatures in these oceans live there as they always did, pure and untouched by human hands, unthreatened by commerce or interference of any kind.
Imagine that this area feeds the worlds other ailing oceans with nutrients and life, to help restore their health and diversity.
Now picture a series of protected areas in these vast oceans, linking and connecting until they cover a surface area the size of Australia.
In October 2016 we celebrated a momentous victory for our oceans and our planet with the creation of the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area in Antarctica.
Protection of this last pristine ocean wilderness couldn't have come at a more crucial time. As the world's biggest protected area on land or sea, the formation of this MPA sets an important precedent for future ocean protection.
But we have entered a new era of uncertainty. Many hard-fought conservation achievements are now under threat. We must not let our efforts in the Antarctic Oceans be undone.
It's time for the next important step in Antarctic Ocean protection.
Over the next three years, we will be working to secure additional MPAs in the vulnerable seas of Antarctica. Together with the recent Ross Sea victory, these additional MPAs, in the seas of East Antarctica, the Weddell Sea and the Bellingshausen Sea, will bring the total marine protected area in Antarctica to nearly 7 million square kilometres – roughly the size of Australia – by the year 2020.
It happens that this will coincide with the 200-year anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica by Russian explorer Admiral Bellingshausen.
Over the following years leading up to 2020, I'll conduct more cold-water swims – not because I enjoy the sensationalism, but because they grab attention. They allow me to show the world how precious these last Antarctic wilderness areas are.
In 1959, at the height of the Cold War, Antarctica was set aside as a place for peace and science.
When the world came together to create the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area in October 2016, we proved that Antarctica continues to be a place for peace and bridge building, a place where we can find common ground.
To extend this protection, all 24 nations plus the EU (the members of CCAMLAR) will need to come together again in agreement. Which is why we are putting together a group of world leaders to support our campaign.
We are also calling for others who understand the importance of this region – the scientists, environmentalists, policymakers and peacemakers, to join us.
The Ross Sea MPA was proposed in 1999. It took 17 years before it was finally made a reality. We don't have another twenty years to protect the world's last true wilderness areas.
It is not only a matter of justice for the species that live there – many of them threatened, but of justice between generations. Protecting these oceans makes them more resilient to climate change, and enables them to help other oceans recover from over-fishing and exploitation. We need these oceans. And for the first time in the history of the world, they now need us.
The High Seas represent 45% of the world, yet they are largely unprotected. Which is why we need to build on the precedent we've set with the Ross Sea MPA, and extend that protection.
Please join our campaign. With your support joining these voices, uniting for the protection of Antarctica, and its symbolic ability to build bridges, foster peace and promote dialogue, I truly believe we will be unstoppable.
To inspire people around the world to protect and preserve our oceans,
and all that live in them, for a peaceful and sustainable future.
The world would be a very different place. I doubt there would be bison left. I doubt we would have many elephant or rhinos.
Our wilds would be stark and barren.
These terrestrial national parks were created about 100 years ago. But the legislators at the time forgot about the world’s oceans. We are now in a situation where our oceans desperately need protecting. They face serious threats. Pollution, climate change, habitat destruction and overfishing have pushed these marine ecosystems to their very limits.
Unless we do something now, we are going to pass important tipping points; some of which may already have been passed.
If we don’t do something big and ambitious, our children will not benefit from the beautiful biodiversity of the world’s oceans.
Lest we forget, we rely entirely on the oceans for our survival. The very air we breathe, the water we drink, the rain that feeds our crops, the fish that are the primary food source of protein for millions, the climate that envelopes all of us … they all depend on a healthy ocean.
Which is where Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) come in.
A Marine Protected Area is a geographically defined area that is regulated and managed to achieve specific conservation objectives.
While land-based National Parks started to be designated in the 1800s, protection of the marine environment has lagged behind, leaving a legacy of under-protection in coastal areas, and even more so on the High Seas.
Approximately 13% of the world’s land lies in a protected area, but less than 3% of the ocean’s surface is protected, and nearly all of that in coastal areas.
Like the ‘National Parks’ on land, ‘Marine Protected Areas’ (MPAs) will take slightly different forms in different countries, and may have differing aims and management systems. These can range from stringent controls in ‘No Take Zones’, which prohibit removal of any wildlife, to ‘Multi-Use areas’, which may permit some extractive industries.
What’s going on in the world’s oceans?
The oceans are designed to be self-regulating: they are watery ecosystems that developed over millions of years to exist in perfect balance. The key threats to the oceans today are a direct result of human activities which pollute, denude and destroy ocean habitats and kill the wildlife they sustain.
Put a child on a boat in the ocean today, and it would be hard for her to imagine what it looked like 100 years ago. Sailors’ tales and old whaling log books tell of seas teaming with life, with a seemingly endless number of fish, whales, turtles and birds.
What we see today is a mere shadow of their former glory.
Population after population of marine species has crashed as humans have over exploited them. Many species, such as the mighty blue whale, the European eel, the common skate and the monk seal are down to a tiny fraction of their former numbers. In some areas, the seabed is a wasteland in comparison to the rich habitats that once existed. The devastating truth is that we don’t even know what we have lost.
But all is not lost.
Despite this momentous destruction of sea-life and habitats, there is still much in the sea to rejoice, enjoy and protect. And we must never underestimate nature’s extraordinary ability to regenerate, given the right circumstances and environment.
What remains is ever more precious as species after species teeter on the brink of extinction. We must act now to protect and restore our marine ecosystems, so that they once again team with abundant wildlife and are able to survive and withstand whatever challenges the future holds.
The IUCN is the world’s largest conservation organisation, and considers protected areas to be the most successful measures that can be implemented for the conservation of biodiversity. Join us in making sure this happens, in the Seven Seas, and beyond.
Where wildlife thrives: MPAs protect marine wildlife and important habitats, allowing them to be as healthy and natural as possible, with their own unique intrinsic value.
Building resistance and resilience: Healthy systems are better able to cope with disease outbreaks, global warming, pollution and storms and other impacts that are on the rise. we can’t always predict or prevent.
Natural wilderness: MPAs allow us to view, enjoy and research wildlife in its most natural state, and to protect species that may have important future uses, such as potential medical cures.
Financial benefits: The increase in wildlife seen in some MPAs can boost local economies, through sustainable tourism, fisheries and harvesting timber from mangroves.
Food security: Fish populations can increase within MPAs and beyond, supporting local fisheries, which are an important source of food for millions of people.
Saving our selves: MPAs can support our oceans and coasts in a range of often over-looked services they provide to us, such as storing carbon, and dampening storms and floods.
Re-seeding the oceans: As fish and their larvae thrive in MPAs, they may spill-out beyond the MPA boundaries and support marine ecosystems in the wider environment.