Marine Reserves Now
We’ve caused enough damage to our oceans. It’s time to let them recover.
Marine protected areas—especially fully protected reserves—are vital to restoring the health of our oceans. They help preserve biodiversity and put endangered species on the road to recovery. Despite this, less than 2 percent of our oceans are strongly protected. We’re campaigning for 40 percent of our oceans to be protected by marine reserves.
© Greenpeace / Paul Hilton
The best way to truly defend our oceans is to protect significant portions of them from exploitation. Networks of protected areas can provide safe refuges for migrating marine species and protected zones for vulnerable habitats that support many species and a complex food web.
We’re working towards establishing marine reserves in —double what the country has right now—and 40 percent of our oceans globally.
These reserves will preserve biodiversity, help endangered species rebound, and give marine life a fighting chance to survive the rapid changes we are causing to the planet.
Marine reserves can also help replenish fish populations decimated by overfishing, meaning a more sustainable food supply for all of us in the long run. Reserves, as the name suggests, serve as insurance policies against the destructive impacts of fishing and other human activities in the ocean.
Step One: Protect the Bering Sea
The waters of the Bering Sea, nestled between Alaska and Russia, are home to one of the world’s richest marine environments. They’re also the source of more than half the seafood caught in the U.S.
Every year, more than 4 billion pounds of fish are pulled from the Bering Sea. This means less food for the marine life in the area and fundamental changes to the environment, a vital ecosystem that indigenous communities depend on for survival. At the same time, destructive fishing practices, like trawling, brings destructive fishing gear in contact with the seafloor threatening vulnerable habitat in the Bering Sea.
Indigenous activists, seafood companies, government officials and environmental groups all agree: it’s time to protect valuable habitat in the Bering Sea.
We’re working to create protections for the Bering Sea canyons and Green Belt. This unique area in the Bering Sea is where nearly all of the high value coral and sponge habitat is found, yet none of it has been protected. For numerous fish and marine species, coral and sponge habitat provides foraging, spawning and nursery areas, as well as refuges from predators or strong currents.
The Zhemchug and Pribliof canyons are the largest underwater canyons in the world, known as the “Grand Canyons of the Sea.” Protections here will let species and habitats recover and the people who live closest can reclaim the rights to the resources they depend on.
Making Marine Reserves a Reality
Already, we’re making progress. In September 2014, the President Obama set aside almost 500,000 square miles in the Pacific Ocean to create the world’s largest fully protected reserve.
Fishery managers for the mid-Atlantic coast just took monumental action to protect deep-sea corals and sponges—and the deep-sea canyons where they thrive—from bottom-contact fishing gear in more than 38,000 square miles. Soon, Alaska’s fishery managers will decide if the Bering Sea canyons and Green Belt should be similarly protected to preserve its fragile coral and sponge habitat.
Join the hundreds of thousands of people, together with environmental organizations, tribal groups and many of our nation’s largest supermarket chains, to call for the change we need.
After years of talks and tireless campaigning by many people around the world, we’ve finally seen a major global milestone. In January 2015, the U.N. reached a breakthrough agreement to begin negotiations on an international treaty to protect marine biodiversity on the high seas—the 64 percent of the ocean where illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing is rampant. Now we must work to maintain the momentum and ensure the strongest possible protections for the high seas.
There is much more to be done to make marine reserves in 40 percent of the oceans a reality. More than ever, though, we are making progress on the water and have more marine reserves in our sights.