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Baja to the Bering Sea - A North American Marine Conservation Initiative

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Baja to the Bering Sea - A North American Marine Conservation Initiative

Abstract

The Pacific region off the coast of North America has undergone dramatic changes over the past 50 years. These include: declines in Steller sea lion and sea otter populations in Alaska; decreases in salmon populations in British Columbia and Washington State; increased populations of fish such as pollock in the Bering Sea; changes in food supply for sea birds; and changes in the migration of gray whales. Although the causes of these changes are not fully understood, they are forcing scientists to think about the need to move beyond current approaches that focus on economically important species to marine management. For a number of years, marine protected areas (MPAs) have been advocated by some scientists and conservationists as a tool which can contribute to better management of the marine environment through a holistic ecosystem approach, in contrast to traditional species-by-species management. While some steps have been taken to establish MPAs in the Baja to Bering Sea region, the current system is considered to be inadequate (IUCN 1995) and much work remains to be done. Marine protected areas are only one part of the equation if we are to succeed in ensuring the long term integrity of marine ecosystems. We will need to consider how we use the areas outside marine protected areas, and how we can ensure that critical ecosystem connections are maintained, allowing the core protected areas to truly protect biodiversity. In addressing challenges to marine conservation in the Pacific waters stretching from the Baja Peninsula, Mexico, to the Bering Sea, Alaska, we begin with a review of the physical, oceanographic and biological properties of Pacific waters from the Baja to Bering Sea, and demonstrate the connected ecosystem nature of this region. This is followed by a description of some of the potential focal species which could be used to develop a marine conservation strategy. Human influences and environmental trends in the region along this coast are then discussed, prior to a summary of the existing marine protected area net-works in each country. The paper ends with a discussion of how we can learn from the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, and develop a conservation strategy for the Baja to Bering Sea region. In sum, this paper explores the rapidly developing field of conservation biology and how it can guide a new approach to the conservation of marine life on the Pacific Coast of North America.
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1. Baja to the Bering Sea: a North American marine conservation initiative.................................................... 1
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Document 1 of 1
Baja to the Bering Sea: a North American marine conservation initiative
Author: Jessen, Sabine; Lerch, Natalie
Publication info: Environments 27.3 (1999): 67.
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Abstract (Abstract): Although marine protected areas (MPAs) represent a precautionary approach to human
use and management of the ocean environment, it is important to ensure that fishing effort is not simply
displaced to areas outside the protected areas, or the overall benefits of MPAs may result in areas outside
being even more degraded. In this respect, overall conservation of fish and other species will in many cases,
require reductions in fishing effort as well as substantial marine protected areas. These areas are required for
sedentary organisms (such as abalone and other invertebrates), fishes (such as rockfishes and local herring
stocks) and many other species (Paulty et al. 1998). MPAs will also provide refuges for migratory marine
animals. Corridors connecting MPAs could prove immensely beneficial for the survival of such migratory
animals.
In all three countries along the Pacific Coast of North America, long term conservation strategies are urgently
needed to ensure the survival of the many species that call this area home. The approach is to link a network of
MPAs with other conservation efforts that will ensure the protection of fully functioning marine ecosystems, and
provide for the long-term survival of the full range of marine species. For example, we will work with marine
scientists to explore the potential of the connecting corridors concept in the marine environment. Such corridors
would serve to link individual protected areas, helping to ensure the long-term protection of marine biodiversity.
The emphasis in marine reserve design must be on a representative network of large and connected areas,
larger yet than the terrestrial counterparts. In the sea, currents disperse sediments, nutrients, pollutants and
organisms. Because of the ability of wind and tide generated currents to mix water masses, events originating
outside the boundaries of a MPA may affect populations within it. However, partly for the same reasons, it is
generally true that marine ecosystems have a capacity for restocking and regeneration exceeding that of
terrestrial communities (IUCN 1992). As a consequence, marine habitats are rarely precisely or critically
restricted for conservation purposes. In addition, our knowledge and understanding of marine environments is
far behind that of terrestrial ecosystems. Thus, in creating MPAs, we must use the precautionary approach and
protect large areas of the representative marine ecosystems.
Links: Linking Service
Full text: Bering Sea, Baja California, marine conservation areas
Overview of the Region
Physical Environment
The Pacific Ocean is the largest mass of water in the world and is a primary force influencing life in western
North America. The long, convoluted coastline from Alaska to Mexico is a product of the constant interaction
between land and ocean. While the coastline along Oregon and Washington is relatively even from Puget
Sound to Alaska, land and sea are so interconnected that, for every kilometer the crow flies, there are roughly
thirty kilometers of curving, twisting shoreline (Cannings et al. 1999).
Geology
The basic geological features of this coast began to form about 200 million years ago when the southwest
flowing continent of North America slowly but forcefully met the northward moving floor of the Pacific Ocean.
The prolonged impact continues today. It has caused the heavy sea floor to sink gradually into the planet's hot
interior and rugged mountains to rise steeply along the continent's edge. About 150 million years ago a great
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marine trench began to form that stretches four thousand kilometers from California to Alaska, seaward of the
Continental Shelf. Created by combinations of glaciation, sinking land, silting, and wave action, the Continental
Shelf creates a relatively shallow sea floor that skirts the coast north to south. Although some stretches of the
shelf are flat, most are very rugged, much like the corresponding land areas, modified only by erosion and
deposits of sediment.
Oceanography
Oceanic currents are parts of huge gyres - immense eddies of water driven by prevailing winds and Coriolis
forces. The general current patterns on the North Pacific are shown in Figure 1. Of particular interest is the
Subarctic Boundary located north of the North Pacific currents. North of this boundary, precipitation matches
evaporation. South of the Subarctic Boundary, evaporation removes water from the surface faster than
precipitation can replace it. Since the salts are retained, the surface water becomes more saline. North of the
Boundary, precipitation adds water to the solution, diluting it and lowering the salinity. This abrupt change in
salinity at the Subarctic Boundary creates a barrier to fish movements between the northern and southern
marine domains. For example, tuna prefer the warm waters in the south and salmon the cold, rich waters in the
north (Cannings et al. 1999).
Large-scale upwelling occurs along the Pacific coast of North America each summer, driven by the northwest
winds. These winds create drift currents down the coast. These currents in turn are deflected offshore by the
Coriolis effect caused by the earth's rotation. As the surface water moves away from the coast, cold water from
the bottom rises to replace it. Phosphates, nitrates and other nutrients from the deep ocean are pushed up to
the surface by these upwellings. At the surface, more nutrients are added by runoff from rivers. The result is that
the waters above the continental shelf are so rich in nutrients that they support an abundance of microscopic
green algae, or phytoplankton. On the Pacific Shelf, the diverse topography, rich nutrient supplies and cold
temperatures result in a high diversity of marine life.
Biogeographic Provinces in the Baja to Bering Sea Region
Development of a marine classification framework is the first step in identifying gaps in representation of marine
natural regions in a protected areas system, and in identifying new sites which will contribute to a representative
system of marine protected areas. IUCN (1995) suggests eight biogeographic provinces for the Baja to Bering
Sea Region (Figure 2). From north to south they are: Beringian; Aleutian; West Coast Fjords; Oregonian;
Montereyan; San Diegan; Cortezian; and Mexican. Further ecological classification work is required below the
broad level of marine Province. This has been completed by the British Columbia government for the Pacific
Region of Canada (LUCO 1999). World Wildlife Fund Canada has developed a hierarchical marine
classification framework for Canada which should be applied to the Baja to Bering Sea region.
[Graph Not Transcribed]
The Science: Conservation Biology
Work on developing science and principles for conservation in terrestrial systems could be adapted to the
marine environment. Noss (1997:23) has, for example, developed a number of principles and goals for
maintaining the ecological health or integrity of both terrestrial and marine systems. These include:
[Graph Not Transcribed]
- representing all kinds of ecosystems, across their natural range of variation, in protected areas;
- maintaining viable populations of all native species in natural patterns of abundance and distribution;
- sustaining ecological and evolutionary processes within their natural ranges of variability; and
- building a conservation network that is adaptable to environmental change.
To achieve these goals, ecological structure, diversity, and resilience have to be maintained through strict,
large-scale protection of entire ecosystems (Soule and Terborgh, 1999). Terrestrial conservation biology
indicates that, where crucial processes such as predation are distorted or absent, ecological systems often
collapse with the loss of large numbers of species. Therefore, in order to be effective, biological conservation
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must be planned and implemented at large spatial scales (Soule and Terborgh, 1999). In the marine
environment this seems to be the case as well. Sea otters, as one example, are an indication of this. When sea
otters are removed, sea urchin populations expand rapidly, devouring and destroying the kelp forest (Estes and
Carr, n.d.).
In order to maintain ecological structure, diversity and resilience, a number of important considerations must be
addressed. First, a system of core protected areas representative of the variety of marine habitats in the region
must be established. Second, focal species requirements must be identified and considered. Third, connectivity
among protected areas, based on ecological processes and habitat requirements of focal species, must be
taken into account. Fourth, management regimes are required both inside and outside the core reserves to
ensure long term ecological integrity of the reserves and the broader marine environment.
In contrast to terrestrial environments, closed ecosystems rarely exist in the oceans. Many free-swimming
species have large spatial ranges and water currents carry the genetic material of sedentary or territorial
species over long distances, often hundreds of kilometers (IUCN 1992). Therefore, "the minimum size of an
MPA necessary for viability is likely to be many times larger than the minimum viable size of a terrestrial
reserve" (IUCN 1992:14).
An Ecosystem Representation Approach
Establishing a system of protected areas representative of ecosystems is one step towards conserving
biodiversity and ensuring that we do not allow our inadequate knowledge to delay action (Noss 1995). In order
to be truly representative, the reserve network must represent all habitats, communities, species and other
natural features (Noss 1995). World Wildlife Fund - Canada's Endangered Spaces Campaign was based on this
approach. Protecting a diversity of geologic or physiographic types - "enduring features" - would also preserve a
diversity of biological communities (Recchia and Broadhead 1995:12).
In addition to protecting the various life stages of many marine species - including highly mobile ones such as
fish and whales - protecting representative examples of different marine habitats also compensates for our lack
of knowledge about critical marine species and ecological processes. According to Recchia and Broadhead
(1995) assuming all habitat types are equally worthy of protection means that we do not have to rely on human
judgment as to which habitats and species are most important.
The Need for Connectivity
Connectivity is essential for many species, especially large animals, which cannot maintain viable populations in
small, isolated areas. In the terrestrial realm, ensuring corridors and linkages between protected areas is crucial
to maintaining biological diversity. In the sea, there is a much higher degree of connectivity, which has both
positive and negative implications for marine protected areas. Such areas can serve as sources of larval fish
and invertebrates for surrounding areas of the ocean but they are also vulnerable to downstream effects, for
example from pollution that originates hundreds or even thousands of kilometers away.
Marine Reserve Design and Management Considerations
Some marine conservation biologists are developing the scientific underpinnings for the design of marine
protected area networks. These networks will help protect species against petroleum development, pollution
and other effects of human activity. Much of this work is focused on the need to establish some reserves where
all fishing activity is prohibited. This focus arises from a concern about the rate at which humans are depleting
marine populations and degrading marine ecosystems (Murray et al. in press). Another concern is that we have
a poor appreciation of mechanisms at work in the marine environment. We need to apply the precautionary
principle and protect marine environments despite our incomplete knowledge of them.
Although marine protected areas (MPAs) represent a precautionary approach to human use and management
of the ocean environment, it is important to ensure that fishing effort is not simply displaced to areas outside the
protected areas, or the overall benefits of MPAs may result in areas outside being even more degraded. In this
respect, overall conservation of fish and other species will in many cases, require reductions in fishing effort as
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well as substantial marine protected areas. These areas are required for sedentary organisms (such as abalone
and other invertebrates), fishes (such as rockfishes and local herring stocks) and many other species (Paulty et
al. 1998). MPAs will also provide refuges for migratory marine animals. Corridors connecting MPAs could prove
immensely beneficial for the survival of such migratory animals.
A Focal Species Approach
Considerable work has been done on terrestrial reserve networks (Soule and Terborgh, 1999). A fundamental
concept in this work is the need to consider focal species in the planning and management of protected areas
systems because their requirements for survival represent factors important to maintaining ecologically healthy
conditions overall. Four main types of focal species have been identified:
- keystone species which enrich ecosystem function disproportionate to their numerical abundance;
- umbrella species which cover large areas in their daily or seasonal movements;
- flagship species which are charismatic creatures that have wide appeal and thus draw attention to a
conservation objective; and
- indicator species which are tightly linked to specific biological elements, processes, or qualities, are sensitive
to ecological changes, and are useful in monitoring habitat quality.
In selecting focal species for a regional conservation initiative, a list of threatened, ecologically important,
economically important, and endemic organisms should be compiled for the target area.
[Graph Not Transcribed]
Potential Focal Species of the Baja to Bering Marine Region
The following preliminary list of focal species can be used to illustrate protection needs in the northeast Pacific
Ocean. A map of the range of some of these species can be found in Figure 3.
Gray Whales
The gray whale, an umbrella and flagship species, has long been the icon species of the northeastern Pacific,
with its annual 10,000 kilometer migration from calving lagoons in Baja to its feeding areas in the Bering Sea,
and with its return from the brink of extinction. More than 20,000 gray whales migrate each year between Baja
and the Bering Sea. Beginning in late February, small groups begin moving north along the coast, never more
than a kilometer from land. The last of the group, usually mothers and calves, are seen in April and May.
Beginning in September, the return migration to the lagoons of Baja California begins, ending in December. The
10,000 km trip takes six to eight weeks, and is the longest known migration of any species of mammal (Gordon
and Baldridge, 1991).
Kelp Forests
Various kinds of kelp plants form a framework or forest for the marine community where they grow. In a kelp
forest, the water depth, rocky outcrops, sandy patches and seaweeds of various heights establish the structural
layers. Giant and bull kelp need sunny spots, and create the uppermost layer of the forest. Their canopies
shade the plants below, such as winged kelp and other shrublike kelps. The multiple layers in a kelp forest offer
many different kinds of habitats, promoting a diversity of inhabitants (Connor and Baxter, 1989). Kelp are
keystone and indicator species because they provide habitat for a large number of marine organisms.
Sea Otters
Sea otters are an important keystone predator in kelp ecosystems because they control sea urchin populations.
Unchecked, a horde of hungry urchins will eat everything in reach, leaving barren rocks where a kelp forest
once stood. Sea otters were once abundant across the rim of the North Pacific, from northern Japan to the
Alaska Peninsula, and along the Pacific coast of North America to Baja California. Widespread commercial
hunting that began in the mid-1700s led to the near-extinction of the species (Riedman 1997), and to the
destruction of many areas of extensive kelp beds from Alaska to California (Thorne-Miller 1999). Since the early
1900s, the worldwide sea otter population has gradually increased as otters have re-colonized their former
range. Today, an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 sea otters occupy most of their historical range in Russia and
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Alaska. However, only small groups of transplanted Alaska otters now occur off Washington, British Columbia
and southeast Alaska, and only one native southern sea otter population survives off the central California
coast.
Rockfish
Rockfish are a fascinating group of species which give birth to live young (viviparous) and are some of the
longest-lived of all fishes. The rougheye rockfish, common from the Bering Sea to Oregon, lives at least 140
years, while the shortraker rockfish lives to 120 years, and the yelloweye to 118 years. Generally species of
colder regions live the longest. Rockfish or Sebastes, are a species of great diversity, with about 100 species
worldwide. Most rockfishes, about 71 species, live in the eastern Pacific, from the Bering Sea to the Gulf of
California (Bloeser, 1999). Substantial declines can be seen in the estimates of current total and spawning
biomass levels for black, yellowtail, widow, Pacific Ocean perch, and canary rockfish (Pacific Marine
Conservation Council 1999). Rockfish have several life-history characteristics, including being long-lived,
increasing fecundity with age, and high site fidelity that make them good candidates for responding favorably to
marine refugia (PMCC 1999). Because rockfish are long-lived, they are an indicator species of the fishing
pressures exerted on their habitat.
Sea Lions
Sea lions live along the entire north Pacific coast. California sea lions are distributed from northern Mexico to
British Columbia, while Steller sea lions range from California to Alaska. Steller sea lions are endangered in
Alaska, while California sea lion populations are increasing. The number of Steller sea lions in most areas has
shown a continuous decline, from about 300,000 individuals to less than 100,000 since the 1970s. This
continuing decline led the US National Marine Fisheries Service to list the Steller sea lion as threatened under
the Endangered Species Act in April 1990 (NOAA 1999). While the reasons for this decline remain unsolved,
possible causes include: increased incidence of parasites and disease; predation by killer whales; nutritional
stress through competition with humans and other species for food; and nutritional stress caused by natural
and/or human-induced changes in the abundance, quality and distribution of prey (North Pacific Universities
Marine Mammal Research Consortium, 1998). Sea lions are flagship species because of their charisma and
public appeal. They are also indicator species as they are highly sensitive to human disturbances.
Black Oystercatchers
The Black Oystercatcher is an important member of rocky intertidal communities along the west coast of North
America. It is entirely dependent on marine shorelines for food and nesting. During breeding, Black
Oystercatcher pairs establish well-defined territories where there is abundant intertidal prey, which they tend to
occupy each year. Because predation by Oystercatchers - primarily on mussels and limpets (Andres and Falxa
1995) - strongly influences the abundance and species composition of intertidal plants (Estes and Carr,
unpublished), these birds are an important keystone species. The most significant impacts on populations of
Black Oystercatchers come from human and mammalian disturbances. This sensitivity also makes them a good
indicator species of coastal ecosystem health. Breeding pairs were extirpated on the small islands off the coast
of Baja California by scientific collecting, human disturbance and mammalian predation.
Human Influences and Trends
Human impacts on the ocean environment and its occupants have increased in the last 200 years. Major
changes in the abundance of seals, whales and sea birds are evident in the North Pacific in recent decades. In
Alaska, harbor seals are greatly reduced in number, northern fur seals are depleted, and Steller sea lions have
been declared endangered in parts of their range. Similar declines have been reported in some seabird
breeding colonies. In British Columbia, Steller sea lion numbers appear stable, and harbor seal populations
have increased rapidly. Further south, striking increases are being observed in the range and abundance of
elephant seals and California sea lions (North Pacific Universities Marine Mammal Research Consortium 1998)
In the 18th century, the Steller's sea cow was hunted to extinction in the Aleutian Islands within 27 years of
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being discovered. Closely related to dugong and manatees, the Steller's sea cow had a very small population
and lived exclusively in this region (Pitcher 1998). Because sea cows fed on shallow-water and surface canopy
kelps, their absence undoubtedly had a great effect on kelp forest ecosystems. We can only guess about the
important ecological relationships that probably existed between sea cows, sea otters and kelp forest
communities.
Fur Trade
The sea otter fur trade, which began in 1741 when a Russian expedition discovered sea otters on the
Commander Islands, had monumental historical and biological consequences in the North Pacific. Within 50
years, the Alaskan otter population had been nearly exterminated, leading the Russians to move south to
California. By the early 1900s, sea otters were nearly extinct all along the Pacific Coast. Only 1000-2000 otters
survived throughout their range. When the International Fur Seal Treaty of 1911 established protection for sea
otters, only 13 small otter colonies persisted from the Kamchatka Peninsula south to Mexico. In 1968, the British
Columbia government began a program to reintroduce sea otters. Some were taken from Amchitka Island in the
Aleutian chain, and from Prince William Sound, and released in a remote part of northwestern Vancouver
Island. Currently sea otters are considered threatened.
Whaling
Indigenous people along the Pacific coast started hunting whales about 6000 years ago (Spalding 1998). In the
far north, the Inuit of Alaska and the Canadian Arctic were and still are whale hunters.
The commercial whale hunt along the Pacific coast started with whale sightings by early explorers such as
Captain Cook. The Pacific soon turned into a major destination for whalers (Spalding 1998). Scammon's
Lagoon in Mexico - a critical part of gray whale habitat - was the site of a sea of slaughter as hunters attacked
whales of all sizes, driving gray whales to the brink of extinction (Earle 1995). Humpback whales, along with
Right and Sperm whales, also suffered from overexploitation and showed signs of serious depletion by the mid-
1800's.
The hunting of whales reached its peak in the 1950s and 1960s, when the whaling industry was killing more
than 50,000 whales per year. Whaling still continues at a reduced level. The harvest of whales in the North
Pacific released a substantial amount of biomass to other consumers and reduced predation pressure on
certain species. Some species such as pollock, also stood to benefit from the increase in prey resources. Along
with large changes resulting from the removals of herring, yellow fin sole, and Pacific Ocean perch, the whale
harvest could have contributed to changes such as: the development of a less diverse community and food web
structure; an increased sensitivity of the community to variability in the physical environment; and other changes
of current concern (North Pacific Universities Marine Mammal Research Consortium 1998). Another hypothesis
under consideration is that ecosystem change resulted from variability in patters of weather and climate. In
1985, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) declared a moratorium on commercial whaling, but several
nations decline to accept it. Norway, Japan, Russia and Iceland have all violated the moratorium (Thorne-
Miller1999, Earle 1995).
Fishing
More than 25 percent of the world's fish populations are considered overexploited or depleted, and 40 percent
heavily to fully exploited (Dayton et al. 1999). It is becoming increasingly clear that overexploitation not only
diminishes populations of species and reduces economic return, but also causes genetic changes in the
exploited populations and alters ecological relationships with the species' predators, symbiants, competitors,
and prey (Dayton et al. 1999).
Fishing affects not only the target species, but also exerts massive pressure on other species. According to
Dayton et al. (1994:4) "the destructive impacts of fishing are widespread and so complete that we have few if
any habitats worth fishing that have not already been heavily fished".
The most serious environmental consequences of fishing are from bycatch, trawling, and dredging. Bycatch
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results in the almost complete removal or functional extinction of many air breathing marine species such as
mammals, reptiles and birds as well as many species of elasmobranchs - cartilaginous fishes such as sharks,
rays and skates - and other long lived organisms (Dayton et al., 1999).
Trawls are funnel-shaped nets that are towed behind vessels. Animals are swept into the net and collect at the
end of the funnel. As a result, the catch of non-target species can be very high. Direct trawling effects include
damage and often death of target and non-target species due to contact with the trawl and physical alteration of
the seabed. Frequent trawling of the seabed prevents recovery of the marine habitat, altering and impoverishing
the physical structure of the ecosystem (Norse, 1993).
Dredging is a wide-spread physical alteration to marine ecosystems, resulting in the alteration of the bottom
topography, the destruction of biota and their habitat, and massive sediment resuspension (Norse, 1993).
Dredging also destroys benthic communities by killing juveniles of target species and epibenthic species. It also
alters the substratum such that the community is colonized by opportunistic species capable of living in heavily
disturbed habitats.
Other human influences
The impacts of salmon fish farming have received much public attention recently. The risks of salmon farming
include: pollution and antibiotics entering the marine environment from rearing cages; infectious diseases being
carried over to wild stocks; and colonization of rivers by escaped farm fish including non-native Atlantic species.
These are very real threats not only to the native salmon population, but to other fish, shellfish and marine
mammals.
The marine environment is still being used as a dumpsite for much of our refuse. Many cities only have primary
sewage treatment. Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, is a case in point. Ships of all sizes also dump
refuse into the ocean including sewage, solid wastes and ballast. The dumping of ballast has been blamed for
the introduction of alien species which compete with native species and alter ecosystem structure. Abandoned
fish nets and plastics floating in the ocean have caused many deaths to fish, marine mammals, and seabirds.
With increasing ship traffic and the use of acoustic deterrent devices, noise pollution is becoming a potentially
serious problem. Not much is known about the effects of noise pollution on the communication of marine
mammals. The noise level may interfere with animals' sonar, making it more difficult to find and capture food.
The low frequency background noise caused by boat traffic may also interfere with baleen whales using similar
frequencies for communication. Acoustic deterrent devices use high frequency sounds to keep marine
mammals away from places such as fish farms. These devices disrupt marine mammals' use of their natural
habitat areas.
Oil and gas exploration and development has the potential to cause massive habitat destruction. Oil spills, such
as the infamous Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, threaten marine life. Seabirds, fish, shellfish, and eggs and larvae
of all marine species are extremely vulnerable to oil spills.
Humans have had a profound impact on the oceans. In late 1990, eleven eminent marine biologists met at the
Smithonian Institute in Washington, D.C. to examine the basic dimensions of the marine biodiversity issue.
Their conclusion was that "the entire marine realm - from estuaries to coastal waters to the open ocean and the
deep sea - is at risk" (Norse, 1993). Marine biodiversity is declining, and as a result ecosystem structure and
function are less diverse and more vulnerable to additional pressures. In addition, many of our marine habitats
may not be able to adapt to climate change in years to come.
Conservation Initiatives
Definition and Role of MPAs
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are areas that have long term legal protection. These areas include the seabed,
water column, plants and animals and their habitats. They can range in size from small to large and can provide
for different levels of protection, from harvest refugia areas completely closed to consumptive and possibly other
human uses, to multiple-use areas which allow for human uses compatible with the conservation objectives of
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the area.
In order to ensure that the marine environment receives substantial protection, it is important that human
activities that can cause long term, large scale habitat disruption are prohibited in all MPAs. The following
activities should be precluded in all MPAs: oil, gas and mineral exploration and development; dredging;
dumping; bottom trawling; and salmon and other aquaculture. Additional restrictions on human use in MPAs
should be determined on a case by case basis.
Role of MPAs
Marine protected areas cannot solve all of the problems being facing in the ocean environment, but they are an
important foundation. Evidence that MPAs are effective is surfacing worldwide, and increasingly marine
scientists are calling for their use.
MPAs represent a different way to look at how society interacts with the marine environment. The traditional
focus has been species-by-species management approaches. MPAs force us to look at marine ecosystems, the
role of individual species in these ecosystems, their supporting habitats and how the different processes and
parts are interrelated. In sum, MPAs require a more holistic or systems point of view.
MPAs can protect productive ecosystems such as upwelling areas, kelp forests and estuarine- areas essential
to the life stages of marine flora and fauna. They can help serve as "seedbank" areas for recruitment of
groundfish and shellfish. Finally, they can provide critical sanctuaries to endangered marine species, including
the sea otter and killer whale.
MPAs can protect commercial and recreational marine resources, and by providing for an array of outdoor
recreation and tourism opportunities, they can also contribute social and economic benefits to coastal
communities. Such benefits are critical to ensuring the long term health and future of coastal communities.
MPAs can provide for baseline scientific research and help to generate increased public awareness about
marine ecosystems and threats to them. They serve as an important insurance policy against the unforeseen
impacts of future management errors or environmental changes, such as global climate change.
Local community support for marine protected areas is critical. This support is necessary for the attitude shift to
occur that will enable us to avoid destroying the ocean. Education and raising awareness are essential
components of MPA planning and management. So too is scientific and management information exchange
between areas. MPAs can give local people a sense of stewardship and control over their own futures; this in
turn fosters responsible attitudes towards the seas and coasts (Agardy 1997).
Existing Marine Protected Areas
The existing system of marine protected areas in the Baja to Bering Sea region is inadequate for a number of
reasons. The system has many gaps and weaknesses. Most of the MPAs are quite small and represent very
discrete coastal and nearshore biogeographic features. Many have only limited ability to protect threatened
resources. Some are not adequately managed or supported by local communities. Finally, preliminary study of
MPAs in the region indicates that they do not function as a network.
Canada, Mexico, and the United States have all engaged in initiatives to protect certain parts of their marine
heritage. However, many MPAs are small and established for recreational purposes, such as boat harbours.
Such protected areas do little to preserve marine ecosystems. A map of existing MPAs can be found in volume
4 of the 1995 IUCN report "A Global Representative System of Marine Protected Areas".
Canada
Canada has five federal legislative instruments to establish MPAs:
- Canada Oceans Act, Fisheries and Oceans Canada;
- Canada Wildlife Act, Canadian Wildlife Service;
- Migratory Bird Conservation Act, Canadian Wildlife Service;
- National Parks Act, Parks Canada; and
- the proposed Marine Conservation Areas Act, Parks Canada.
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No legally designated Marine Protected Areas have yet been created under the Oceans Act. Fisheries and
Oceans Canada has five pilot MPAs intended to test aspects of the framework for establishing and managing
MPAs (CEC, 1999 draft). Pilot sites have no legal protection, nor are there any timelines or action plans set out
by the government to protect these sites. The federal government hopes to have a representative network of
MPAs in place on the Pacific coast by 2010.
Most MPAs in British Columbia fall under the jurisdiction of British Columbia Parks in the provincial Ministry of
Environment, Lands and Parks. About 1,600 square kilometers (618 square miles), or less than 1 percent of
British Columbia's marine waters have some degree of protection, mostly concentrated in the coastal nearshore
region. This 1,600 square kilometers (618 square miles) is comprised of:
- 1 national park reserve (Pacific Rim), 21,390 hectares (52,883 acres);
- 5 migratory bird sanctuaries and 1 national wildlife area totaling 2,310 hectares (5,706 acres);
- 79 provincial parks and recreation areas with a marine component, totaling 124,323 hectares (307 078 acres),
34 of which are over 200 hectares (494 acres), 30 of these include some fishing closures; and
- 15 provincial ecological reserves with a marine component, totaling 46,651 hectares (115,228 acres), 6 of
these are over 200 hectares (494 acres) and 5 with some fishing closures.
In addition, a Canada-British Columbia-Haida agreement is under discussion to create a national marine
conservation area, at Gwaii Haanas and Queen Charlottes. This would add 340,000 hectares (839,800 acres)
to the MPA system once it is designated (Jessen and Symington, pers. com. 1999).
On the Pacific Coast of Canada, the federal and provincial governments are working together to develop a
coordinated Marine Protected Areas Strategy for establishing a network of MPAs by the year 2010. The strategy
also promotes shared decision-making with indigenous peoples, the public and other stakeholders. To date
however, detailed management plans and comprehensive fishery closures are lacking for the marine
component of existing MPAs. In addition, neither the federal nor provincial government have adopted even
minimum protection standards for all marine protected areas and the contribution of these sites to marine
biodiversity conservation is limited (Jessen and Symington, pers. com. 1999).
Mexico
According to the Mexican Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (Comision Nacional para el
Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad) (CONABIO, 1998), Mexico has 43 natural protected areas with marine
and/or coastal components. Of these 43, only 12 have areas larger than 100,000 hectares (247,000 acres), and
14 have areas smaller than 100 hectares (247 acres). The total protected area with marine components in the
Baja region - the Mexican north Pacific, the Baja California costs, the Gulf of California, and the Sea of Cortes -
is slightly above 2 million hectares (4,940,000 acres). According to the Mexican National Institute of Ecology
(Instituto Nacional de Ecologia), however, there are only 31 MPAs in the Mexican territory, totaling 7,863,591
hectares (19,423,070 acres) (including both land and water) (CEC 1999 draft).
CONABIO states that there is a discrepancy between both terrestrial and marine protected areas on paper and
in practice. Most areas do not have a management plan and even those that do are generally not managed
properly (CONABIO, 1998). The report further emphasizes that careful marine classification of Mexico's marine
protected areas and their conservation status is needed.
The United States (including Alaska)
The key federal government resource agency with a mandate for ocean-related matters in the United States is
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Marine Protected Areas in the United States fall
under the categories of:
- National Marine Sanctuary Program administered by the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management
(OCRM);
- National Estuarine Research Reserve System under OCRM, National Ocean Service (NOS) and NOAA;
- National Estuary Program administered by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA);
29 January 2014 Page 9 of 16 ProQuest
- National Wildlife Refuge System administered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service;
- National Park, National Recreation Area and National Seashore system by the National Park Service; and
- Essential Fish Habitat Project administered by the National Marine Fisheries Service.
National Marine Sanctuary Program
The National Marine Sanctuary Program provides for the protection of areas within US waters of special
national significance. Administered by the NOAA, five sanctuaries are located along the Pacific Coast: Olympic
Coast; Cordell Bank; Gulf of the Farallones; Monterey Bay; and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuaries.
Combined, these marine sanctuaries cover an area of 31,180 square kilometers (12,039 square miles).
Concern has been expressed that national marine sanctuaries provide very limited protection of the marine
environment. Dayton et al. (1999) suggest that the sanctuary system must begin by including zones that are
closed to all fishing. A process to identify such zones has recently begun for the Channel Islands National Park
that would result in 10,118 hectares (25,000 acres) or 20 percent of the area being declared no-take reserves.
National Estuarine Research Reserves
NOAA also operates a system of National Estuarine Research Reserves, the newest of which is currently in the
designation process in Kachemak Bay to the southeastern entrance to Cook Inlet. NOAA also operates an
estuarine reserve in the Tijuana estuary, adjacent to the Mexican border, the Tijuana River National Estuarine
Research Reserve.
State MPA Programs
California has a total of 104 marine protected areas under twelve different types of designations including 4 of
the national marine sanctuaries noted above, and 2 biosphere reserves. State designations account for 91 sites.
These MPAs range in size from 2.4 hectares (6 acres) to the 404,700 hectare (million acre) Central California
Coast Biosphere Reserve. Most are located inshore and adjacent to the coastline. Recreational fishing is
permitted in 93 MPAs and commercial fishing in 94. Nine MPAs do not provide for any fish harvest. They
encompass about 2,428 hectares (6,000 acres) and about 32 kilometers (20 miles) of California coastline. In
assessing the current system of MPAs in California, McArdle (1997) notes that there is a problem of overlapping
boundaries and designations and that many do not have clearly defined management goals or plans. Lack of
financial resources is also a severe impediment to ongoing management and research. Finally, the jurisdictional
division of responsibilities between federal and state agencies, especially related to fishing, has impeded the
management of living marine resources according to management plans.
The California Resources Agency established a Marine Managed Area Task Force to review the current system
of MPAs and to recommend ways to enhance fish stocks and determine a possible role for no-take reserves
(Polakovic 1999). In a draft report, the Resources Agency of California concludes that through a mix of
legislative and administrative actions, California's array of state marine managed areas can be re-designed as a
system to protect ocean and coastal resources more effectively (Resources Agency of California, 1999).
In Washington the state institutions with a role in MPAs are the Departments of Natural Resources, Fish and
Wildlife and Ecology, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, and the University of
Washington's Friday Harbor Laboratories. Washington has 137 MPAs which have recently been catalogued and
described in a series of reports (Murray 1998, Robinson 1999). Of this total, 102 are in Puget Sound. Protection
and enforcement of these sites has been limited, and most are multiple-use oriented with little to no regulation
of extractive activities. Three are considered to be "no-take" zones, all of which are located in Puget Sound
(Robinson 1999).
Oregon has few MPAs along its 241 kilometers (150 miles) shore. Eleven kilometers (7 miles) of coastline are
designated as marine gardens, and 17.7 kilometres (11 miles) as research reserves. These sites fall under the
Oregon Territorial Sea Plan which provides a framework for state agencies to regulate consumptive and non-
consumptive uses. The sites consist of protected shore-line areas with some protection stretching into the
nearshore intertidal area. Generally there are no restrictions on fishing within either designation (CEC 1999).
29 January 2014 Page 10 of 16 ProQuest
As of 1995, Alaska had 7 refuges, 17 critical habitat areas and 3 sanctuaries (Kelleher et al. 1995). The Alaska
State Legislature has classified these special areas as essential to the protection of fish and wildlife habitat. The
areas are managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and are usually managed for multiple uses
but controlled to prevent habitat changes harmful to the flora and fauna or their habitat.
The Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve encompasses 1,121,019 hectares (2,770,000 acres) of marine
waters along the Alaskan Panhandle. A cooperative management plan has been implemented for the regulation
of commercial fisheries within the park (CEC 1999).
New Approaches to Conservation
Since the early 1990s, the principles of conservation biology have been applied to several conservation
initiatives. The most notable of these is the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y). Such initiatives
are rooted in conservation biology and aim to realize a series of core protected areas, connected by wildlife
corridors and surrounded by buffer zones.
To date such initiatives have been wholly terrestrial, but can in principle be applied to marine environments. The
experience gained through the Y2Y initiative will be valuable in setting up a similar project for the Baja to Bering
Sea marine region.
The Y2Y Model
The Yellowstone to Yukon initiative is a joint Canada-US network of over 140 organizations, institutions, and
foundations, plus individual scientists, conservationists, economists, and environmental advocates. They have
recognized both the necessity and the advantages of coordinating their efforts transnationally, on a scale that
mirrors the area they seek to conserve. The Baja to Bering Sea Initiative will be based on the Y2Y experience.
Y2Y belongs to the new global family of far-sighted, broad-based biodiversity strategies that have arisen in
response to the insights, interpretations and lessons of conservation biology. The mission is to build and
maintain a life-sustaining system of core protected reserves and connecting wildlife movement corridors, both of
which will be further insulated from the impacts of industrial development by transition or buffer zones. Existing
national, state and provincial parks and wilderness areas anchor the system, while the creation of new
protected areas and the conservation and restoration of critical segments of ecosystems will provide the cores,
corridors and transition zones needed to complete it.
The Y2Y guiding principles are as follows (Y2Y Conservation Initiative n.d.):
- Y2Y is a network whose governance is democratic, consensual, and participatory. Cooperators acknowledge
and value the work of all individuals and all organizations seeking to conserve wildlife and wildlands across the
Y2Y region, and they encourage any and all of like minds and ambition to help evolve their program and
implement their vision.
- Y2Y seeks to enable, inspire and energize all individuals and organizations engaged in bringing the principles
and practices of conservation biology to localities within the Y2Y region.
- In conjunction with its support for wildlands and wildlife, Y2Y supports, promotes and encourages the
development of sustainable communities and all human activities compatible with the principles of conservation
biology within the Y2Y area. Of particular note, Y2Y supports the work of aboriginal communities to safeguard
their traditional territories and to ensure the survival of their traditional cultures.
- Y2Y encompasses conservation initiatives that transcend traditional boundaries and borders. Regardless of
political boundaries Y2Y seeks to protect the web of life across public lands - national, state, and provincial
parks and wilderness areas - and private lands protected through voluntary conservation programs.
- Y2Y will generate innovative products and tools designed to serve the conservation needs of its network
cooperators and the needs of the region. Y2Y participants are working with an Environmental and Cultural
Resource Atlas to identify environmental threats and conservation opportunities within the Y2Y sphere.
- Y2Y will initiate and promote events and activities that further the principles of doing together what we cannot
do alone.
29 January 2014 Page 11 of 16 ProQuest
- Y2Y participants organized a US-Canada Forum in which eminent scientists, conservationists, and cultural
interpreters addressed regional issues. Workshops were designed to offer activists the opportunity to develop
the competencies, establish the contacts, and co-invent the strategies needed to realize the Y2Y vision.
- Y2Y will raise funds solely to support those activities and projects individual groups would not or could not do
by themselves.
The B2B proposal
The Baja to Bering Sea initiative (B2B) is a cooperative, tri-national initiative launched by the British Columbia
Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. The aim is to establish a network of marine protected
areas based on the principles of conservation biology. The ultimate goal is to maintain and restore biodiversity
along the 20,000 kilometer reach from Baja California, Mexico to the Bering Sea, Alaska, one of the temperate
world's most productive and diverse marine environments. Like Y2Y, B2B aims to link activism and science to
generate measurable results. It will provide a forum for learning from collective experiences, and the opportunity
to establish protected areas that extend across national boundaries.
In all three countries along the Pacific Coast of North America, long term conservation strategies are urgently
needed to ensure the survival of the many species that call this area home. The approach is to link a network of
MPAs with other conservation efforts that will ensure the protection of fully functioning marine ecosystems, and
provide for the long-term survival of the full range of marine species. For example, we will work with marine
scientists to explore the potential of the connecting corridors concept in the marine environment. Such corridors
would serve to link individual protected areas, helping to ensure the long-term protection of marine biodiversity.
There are common issues and linkages in the marine environment along the Pacific Coast of North America,
and the need exists to foster greater cooperation across national borders to better protect this environment. This
has led us to initiate the development of a network of individuals and organizations to collaborate on a B2B
campaign. Organizations are working in each country on important marine conservation projects. A larger,
cooperative network will build on the strength of these existing initiatives and explore new conservation
opportunities for the Pacific Coast as a whole.
Conclusion
Humans have significantly altered the highly interconnected north Pacific marine environment in the past 100
years. Marine biological diversity is threatened at the genetic, species, and ecosystem levels as a result of
human exploitation. However, precisely because of the interconnectedness provided by the water medium, the
marine environment will likely have the capacity to regenerate if given the chance. Some MPAs currently exist,
but the system is inadequate if only because many protected areas are of insufficient size and are not managed
adequately to achieve conservation objectives.
The emphasis in marine reserve design must be on a representative network of large and connected areas,
larger yet than the terrestrial counterparts. In the sea, currents disperse sediments, nutrients, pollutants and
organisms. Because of the ability of wind and tide generated currents to mix water masses, events originating
outside the boundaries of a MPA may affect populations within it. However, partly for the same reasons, it is
generally true that marine ecosystems have a capacity for restocking and regeneration exceeding that of
terrestrial communities (IUCN 1992). As a consequence, marine habitats are rarely precisely or critically
restricted for conservation purposes. In addition, our knowledge and understanding of marine environments is
far behind that of terrestrial ecosystems. Thus, in creating MPAs, we must use the precautionary approach and
protect large areas of the representative marine ecosystems.
The B2B initiative uses the principles of conservation biology to protect the marine environment. This initiative
offers a new approach and new hope for the marine biodiversity. The cooperation of non-governmental
organizations, government departments, indigenous peoples, institutions, scientists, communities, and
individuals to protect the Baja to Bering Sea region will likely create public awareness, and the political will
necessary for action to ensue. Such a community may succeed in developing and implementing a
29 January 2014 Page 12 of 16 ProQuest
comprehensive plan of complementary actions to ensure that future generations - of humans and wild-life - will
enjoy the biological riches that define the Baja to Bering region.
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Miller, B., R. Reading, J. Strittholt, C. Carroll, R. Noss, M. Soule, O. Sanchez, J. Terborgh, D. Brightsmith, T.
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Author Biographies
Sabine Jessen is the Executive Director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society- British Columbia
Chapter and the British Columbia Marine Protected Areas Coordinator of the Endangered Spaces Campaign,
World Wildlife Fund-Canada. Sabine Jessen can be reached at sjessen @ cpawsbc.org. Natalie Lerch is with
the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society- British Columbia Chapter. She can be reached at b2b @
cpawsbc.org.
29 January 2014 Page 14 of 16 ProQuest
Subject: Marine conservation;
Location: Pacific Ocean
Classification: 9172: Canada
Publication title: Environments
Volume: 27
Issue: 3
Pages: 67
Number of pages: 0
Publication year: 1999
Publication date: 1999
Year: 1999
Publisher: Wilfrid Laurier University, Geography and Environmental Studies
Place of publication: Waterloo
Country of publication: Canada
Publication subject: Housing And Urban Planning, Environmental Studies
ISSN: 07116780
Source type: Scholarly Journals
Language of publication: English
Document type: PERIODICAL
Document feature: Maps; References
ProQuest document ID: 207673237
Document URL: http://search.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/docview/207673237?accountid=13800
Copyright: Copyright University of Waterloo. Faculty of Environmental Studies 1999
Last updated: 2010-06-07
Database: CBCA Complete,CBCA Reference & Current Events
29 January 2014 Page 15 of 16 ProQuest
Bibliography
Citation style: APA 6th - American Psychological Association, 6th Edition
Jessen, S., & Lerch, N. (1999). Baja to the bering sea: A north american marine conservation initiative.
Environments, 27(3), 67. Retrieved from
http://search.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/docview/207673237?accountid=13800
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29 January 2014 Page 16 of 16 ProQuest
... Conservation Biology also uses a holistic approach and is the primary tool used in the Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y) Initiative (Jessen and Lerch, 2000). ...
... The Y2Y Initiative proposes a system of wildlife corridors linking core protected reserves with buffer zones acting to further protect the system from industrial and urban development (Y2Y Conservation Initiative, n.d.). These wildlife corridors and buffer zones can be crucial in maintaining biodiversity (Jessen and Lerch, 2000) however, while conservation biology is an essential scientific tool for determining areas, species and entire ecosystems in need of protection, community involvement is also essential in implementing protection strategies. ...
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Marine protected areas (MPAs) provide place-based management of marine ecosystems through various degrees and types of protective actions. Habitats such as coral reefs are especially susceptible to degradation resulting from climate change, as evidenced by mass bleaching events over the past two decades. Marine ecosystems are being altered by direct effects of climate change including ocean warming, ocean acidification, rising sea level, changing circulation patterns, increasing severity of storms, and changing freshwater influxes. As impacts of climate change strengthen they may exacerbate effects of existing stressors and require new or modified management approaches; MPA networks are generally accepted as an improvement over individual MPAs to address multiple threats to the marine environment. While MPA networks are considered a potentially effective management approach for conserving marine biodiversity, they should be established in conjunction with other management strategies, such as fisheries regulations and reductions of nutrients and other forms of land-based pollution. Information about interactions between climate change and more ''traditional'' stressors is limited. MPA managers are faced with high levels of uncertainty about likely outcomes of management actions because climate change impacts have strong interactions with existing stressors, such as land-based sources of pollution, overfishing and destructive fishing practices, invasive species, and diseases. Management options include ameliorating existing stressors, protecting potentially resilient areas, developing networks of MPAs, and integrating climate change into MPA planning, management, and evaluation.
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Reviewed by John Alton Duff Sylvia Ealle's Sea Change: A Mes-sage of the Oceans serves as a clarion call to take a closer look at the life blood of planet earth, the oceans. The thought-ful mixture of wonder and concern out-lines Earle's years of study and thousands of hours working, playing, and living be-neath the ocean's surface. Earle inter-sperses tales of discovery and enlighten-ment with easy to read discussions of biology, engineering, law, and policy, to weave a tale advocating better steward-ship of our ocean resources. A biologist by formal training and explorer by nat-ural curiosity, Earle reminds us of what we learned in elementary school, that water covers most of the planet. Dr. Earle begins by giving the reader a sense of geological time over which the earth has taken shape and the oceans have formed. She points out that post-Columbus man has occupied this planet for a mere 4 s in the geological year rep-resenting the earth's 4.6 billion-year his-tory. She notes modern oceanography, from its origin in the 1870s with the ex-pedition of the HMS Challenger, covers <1 s on that time scale. Having humbled human knowledge of the seas on a temporal scale, Earle as-suages our species ego by touting the great advancements that have enabled hu-mans to descend, albeit briefly, to the deepest part of the oceans. She revels in the fact that she grew up in an era that saw Cousteau and Gagnan develop John Alton Duff is an attorney and graduate of the Law and Marine Aflkdrs Program at the Univer-mty of Washington. He is Research Counsel to the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Legal Program and lhe Editor of WATER LOG, a legal periodical cov-ering ocean and coastal legal issues. He can be reached at jduff@olemiss.edu SCUBA equipment. Divers, unfettered from bulky diving helmets and air hose shackles, could now significantly increase access to, "'where most of the living ac-tion on Earth is concentrated: underwa-ter." She relishes the milestone achieved when U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh and Swiss engineer Jacques Picard de-scended in the bathysphere Trieste to a depth of 35,800 feet in the Marianas Trench. The visit to the deepest point in the ocean in 1960 out-paced the ascent of Mt. Everest in many ways. The author recounts her own fascina-tion and relationship with the sea from her days as a child on the coasts of New Jersey and Florida to her study of marine flora in the Gulf of Mexico as a graduate student. In self-deprecating style, Earle outlines the series of circumstances that led from her participation in an otherwise all male oceanographic expedition in 1964 to an underwater living experiment in 1970 "manned" by an all-women re-search team. As her curiosity grew and technologi-cal development allowed, Earle began venturing into those depths and activities that had not yet hosted human activities. She participated in early observations of humpback whales off the coast of Hawaii. In 1979 she made a record dive to 1,250 feet in an untethered specially designed diving suit. Each adventure strengthened her conviction that the ocean as a living system merited addi-tional research to increase human under-standing. Earle's sense of wonder and desire to further scientific observation led her to cofound Deep Ocean Engineering, Inc. The private company designs and manu-factures deep sea remotely operated vehi-cles (ROVs) and manned submersibles.
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Global Marine Biological Diversity presents the most up-to-date information and view on the challenge of conserving the living sea and how that challenge can be met.
Marine Protected Areas and Ocean Conservation
  • T S Agardy
Agardy, T. S. 1997. Marine Protected Areas and Ocean Conservation. San Diego: Academic Press Inc.