UH oceanographer among Pew Marine Conservation Fellows that call for international action on marine protected areas

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Craig R. Smith, Ph.D.
Professor of Oceanography
Posted: Jun 6, 2005

NEW YORK — Thirty-eight of the world's foremost ocean experts issued a joint statement today urging "the nations of the world to fulfill their commitment to the future of the oceans" through active support of Marine Protected Areas. University of Hawaii Oceanographer Craig Smith, who was named a fellow of the Pew Marine Conservation Program in 2004, was among those who signed the statement.

Dr. Ellen Pikitch, Executive Director of the Pew Institute for Ocean Science, announced the statement at the sixth meeting of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea. She said that the statement calls for local involvement in planning, managing, and implementing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs); linking MPAs into networks; evaluating those networks; and taking global action to restore and maintain marine populations, habitats, and fisheries.

"Establishing a network of representative, fully protected marine reserves is an essential component of the ten recommendations the Task Force has made to set us on the path to environmental sustainability," said Pikitch, a member of the UN‘s Millennium Task on Environmental Sustainability and a professor at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

"The future of the world's oceans—and ultimately of ourselves—depends on our taking immediate steps to protect them. The Pew Fellows have outlined a set of priority actions that will help put the oceans on that path to sustainability. Leaders of every nation should view this as an urgent wake-up call, and take action now," she added.

Experts from all areas of marine science and policy agree that the world's oceans are in crisis, as study after respected study shows extreme depletion of fish and marine life. However, powerful scientific evidence continues to accumulate that MPAs can do much to protect ocean life and habitats. Issued by 38 Pew Fellows in Marine Conservation, some of the most important voices in ocean conservation today, the statement says, "MPAs are among the most powerful and reliable tools available for marine conservation, whether along the coast or in the open ocean. They help maintain populations and protect habitats, while revealing…how areas outside their borders are changing. MPAs serve as elements of a larger, integrated strategy of ocean management.

Smith‘s conservation efforts focus on the vast and poorly understood deep sea, where high diversity, fragile habitats, and slow recovery rates allow human activities to be especially damaging. He is using his Pew Marine Conservation Fellowship to design marine protected areas in the Pacific Ocean, with the goal of conserving the delicate and diverse ecosystems of seamounts and abyssal plains in the face of fishing and future mining. The deep seas of the Pacific harbor ecosystems of extraordinary biodiversity and fragility, in the form of seamounts (underwater mountains) and the relatively flat seafloor expanses known as abyssal plains. These communities typically are easily disrupted by—and very slow to recover from—physical disturbances. Yet deep seafloor ecosystems are being increasingly impacted by human activities such as bottom fishing, waste disposal, and seafloor mining. To preserve biodiversity in these delicate and important ecosystems, Smith says, "It is imperative to create a system of MPAs that will be based on sound science, off limits to fishing and mining, and well integrated into the international legal framework."

In addition to Pikitch and Smith, the 89 Pew Fellows in Marine Conservation include Elliott Norse, Director of the Marine Conservation Biology Institute near Seattle; Kristina Gjerde, High Seas Policy Advisor to the Global Marine Program of IUCN—World Conservation Union; and Alan White, Director of the Coastal Resource Management Project in the Philippines. The signatories to the MPA Statement are world-renowned scientists, educators, policy experts, writers, and lawyers, working in every ocean around the globe—from Nova Scotia to Patagonia, northern Europe to Tasmania. They have planned and implemented MPAs in locations as far-flung as California, the Philippines, Kenya, Indonesia, Chile, Argentina, and the high seas beyond the jurisdiction of any individual nation.

The Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation is an initiative of the Pew Institute for Ocean Science, which strives to undertake, sponsor, and promote world-class scientific activity aimed at protecting the world's oceans and the species that inhabit them. Funding for the Pew Institute is provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts and other organizations and individuals seeking to preserve and protect the world's oceans.

For more information about the MPA statement, visit www.pewoceanscience.org.

About the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology
The School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) was established by the Board of Regents of the University of Hawaii in 1988. SOEST brings together in a single focused ocean, earth sciences and technology group, some of the nation‘s highest quality academic departments, research institutes, federal cooperative programs, and support facilities to meet challenges in the ocean and earth sciences. Scientists at SOEST are supported by both state and federal funds as they endeavor to understand the subtle and complex interrelations of the seas, the atmosphere, and the earth. For more information, visit www.soest.hawaii.edu.

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