Let’s Talk About Marine Protected Areas

According to the latest data from MPAtlas only 2.12% of the world’s oceans are currently protected. This surface accounts for 11.333 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and the latest significant addition was announced by the British government earlier this year: the area around Pitcairn Islands, which happens to be the largest marine reserve in the world.

In 1988 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), at its 17th General Assembly, adopted the following definition of MPAs:

“Any area of intertidal or subtidal terrain, together with its overlying water and associated flora, fauna, historical and cultural features, which has been reserved by law or other effective means to protect part or all of the enclosed environment.”

Currently there are seven types of compliant MPAs including: Strict nature reserve, Wilderness area, National park (marine park), Natural monuments or features, Habitat/species management area, Protected seascape and Sustainable use of resources.

More marine reserves are needed

More marine reserves are needed

For years scientists have repeatedly shown that the establishment of MPAs results in the recovery of biodiversity and fish biomass, the protection from natural disasters and the reduction in poverty.

In 2009, a scientific paper by Lester et al. has shown evidence that the implementation of no-take marine reserves can counterattack the negative effects of overfishing, resulting in the rehabilitation of biomass and species richness.

Coral reefs and mangroves are natural barriers against natural disasters, including the force of waves. Mangroves protect the coast from erosion and they capture carbon from the atmosphere. The implementation of MPAs in coastal areas is essential both for the marine ecosystems and the 3.5 billion people who inhabit them.

Coral reef

A healthy coral reef next to a mangrove forest

Recently it has been discovered that mangroves in Hurricane Hole in St. John are harboring at least 30 species of corals. The corals have sought the protection of the mangrove habitat in order to escape elevated temperatures and an increasing ocean acidification. Due to massive coral bleaching events around the world, more species may flee the unshaded shallow waters and hide under mangrove forests where they can thrive. The US Geological Survey (USGS) reported that:

 “Boulder brain corals, for example, were found in abundance under the mangroves and were healthy, while many of those in unshaded areas a short distance away were bleaching.”

Boulder brain coral (Colpophyllia natans)

MPAs can greatly boost the economy and it has been shown in a recent analysis commissioned by WWF that increased protection of critical habitats would result in net benefits of between US $490 billion and US $920 billion over the period of 2015-2050.

Despite the massive amount of data that serves as evidence for the benefits of creating more marine protected areas around the globe, there are numerous misconceptions regarding MPAs, including the false assumption that all marine protected areas are no-take or no-fishing zones, when in reality most MPAs are deemed as multiple use conservation areas that allow fishing, diving, boating and swimming. A great deal of criticism comes from tribal communities that live in coastal areas and fully depend on the exploration of marine life and material resources.

Currently there’s an international effort to preserve larger areas of the planetary ocean but I feel these actions are not enough because of the accelerated downfall of marine life and the poisoning of water due to industries, such as oil extraction in many parts of the world. The global economy heavily relies on the oceans and therefore governments should understand better the importance of preserving the marine ecosystems and not take them for granted as if their produce is infinite. Despite our past mistakes, the world keeps forgetting that in the end what we reap is what we sow.

Why humans run the world

ideas.ted.com

History professor Yuval Noah Harari — author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind — explains why humans have dominated Earth. The reason is not what you might expect.

70,000 years ago humans were insignificant animals. The most important thing to know about prehistoric humans is that they were unimportant. Their impact on the world was very small, less than that of jellyfish, woodpeckers or bumblebees.

Today, however, humans control this planet. How did we reach from there to here? What was our secret of success, that turned us from insignificant apes minding their own business in a corner of Africa, into the rulers of the world?

We often look for the difference between us and other animals on the individual level. We want to believe that there is something special about the human body or human brain that makes each individual human vastly superior to a dog, or a pig, or…

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The Bliss of Not Knowing

For a long while I have been constantly updating myself with news of social or political nature such as the war in Syria, the Charlie Hebdo attack, the desperate situation of the migrants in the Mediterranean and of those in refugee camps, the Scottish independence referendum or the presidential elections in Romania. I have always believed that knowing is where the true power comes from but how can someone resist not being shaken to the core by the ravages such knowledge leaves behind?

Exactly one year ago I have written about people tending to ignore “unpleasant” news no matter how real and current they may be. Not many can control their emotions when faced with the harsh reality of our world and I’m not sure I can either. Of course, I’m still convinced today as I was back then that even if I cannot always physically help those who need it, the least I can do is learn about their pain but for my own sake I have to reduce the intake of information until I learn how to harness the feelings various situations invoke in me.

My daily ritual for quite a long time was wake up and drink a steaming cappuccino while reading the news on my laptop. Slowly I realized that this routine not only managed to agitate me first thing in the morning, but it replaced other more productive habits such as writing or reading a book (the latter is my evening ritual).

I enjoy discussing the latest news with my parents or my friends because I feel we all are responsible to be aware of the world we live in but I never asked myself whether there’s a limit to how much news a person can deal with. I often feel so guilty for not learning earlier about certain events and I certainly am uncomfortable now that I decided to reduce the amount of news I read on a daily basis. Does not knowing right away equal with not caring?

I have noticed those around me who don’t know a thing about the world outside their sphere of existence and I realized they’re so happy. I’m not sure I would like to be in their shoes because being aware of the terrible societies we live in makes me less naive, but it makes me wonder what is easier: to live happily ignorant or sadly aware?