American Oceanographer and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle has identified numerous “Hope Spots” around the world that are special places critical to the health of the ocean. While some of the Hope Spots are already protected, others have not been as lucky – yet. Sylvia Earle and the Sea Alliance are committed to protecting all of the Hope Spots around the world. The spots are varied in geographic location and physical characteristics, but they are all equally important to the health of the ocean, and therefore the health of humans. Here are just five of the many beautiful, interesting, and important Hope Spots on planet Earth:
Vibrant coral reefs, remote islands, towering underwater mountains and deep-sea canyons can be found in the Coral Sea, located off the northeastern coast of Australia. It is home to whales, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks, rays, and seabirds. It is one of the last places on Earth where big fish can still be found in healthy numbers. The World War II Battle of the Coral Sea in 1942 left the Coral Sea littered with shipwrecks. The Coral Sea is currently less than 1% fully protected.
Chile’s marine territory is composed of 6,400 kilometers of coastline and a multitude of offshore islands. The southern fjords provide habitats for whales, dolphins, seals, and other marine mammals. A beautiful display of coral, including several species unique to the area, can be found below the surface. The Chilean fjords and slands are experiencing several threats, including industrialization and overfishing along Chile’s coast, bottom trawlers near the Juan Fernandez Islands, and invasive species throughout the region.
Located on the central western shore of Africa – right in the nook where it looks like South America should fit – is the Gulf of Guinea. The beaches along the Gabon coast have become a crucial breeding ground for the leatherback turtle, a threatened species. The waters of the Gulf also play host to the West African manatee, humpback whale, and dolphins. The first marine national park of west-central Africa was created by the Gabon government in 2002, protecting a portion of the Gulf. Threats to the region’s wildlife include egg poaching, the construction of new oil wells, overfishing, and bottom trawling.
The Ross Sea, a deep bay just off the coast of Antarctica, is distinct from other marine areas because it is one of the most ecologically intact, least-polluted, near-shore ecosystems. Its current state is very close to that which it has enjoyed for millennia, providing a peak into the past for researchers. A portion of the Sea is covered by the permanent Ross Ice Shelf, which is roughly the size of France. The Ross Sea is home to 32% of the adelie and 26% of the emperor penguin populations worldwide. The biggest threat to the Ross Sea is global warming.
Located along the Continental Shelf of the Gulf of Mexico, this marine Hope Spot boasts a variety of soft corals, subtropical and tropical invertebrates, and more than 90 species of fish. Recreational and commercial fishing, commercial trawling, and long-lining threaten the habitat and fish populations. Parts of the area are protected by the Flower Garden Banks Marine Sanctuary, but there is still a large portion of the Gulf that lies outside that jurisdiction.
If you are interested in learning more about the Sea Alliance and Sylvia Earle’s work, visit her website and find out what you can do to help!
Countdown to Geography Awareness Week: 9 days! Visit the Geography Awareness Week website for resources and materials that can help you celebrate GA Week! Here is one of many resources available on the website:
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