Marine Protection

A healthy ocean is vital to sustaining human life, as it absorbs carbon dioxide and produces the air that we breathe. It is also a source of food, and more than 3 billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods. Yet the ocean is under threat from human activity, including overfishing, mining and pollution.

In 2010, the United Nations has adopted a target of protecting 10% of the ocean by 2020[1], and in 2016, prompted by increasing concern, the IUCN World Congress called for the full protection of at least 30% of the world’s ocean by 2030[2].

A key measure in protecting the ocean from exploitation and the impact of human activity is to create and enforce Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) – where human activity is carefully controlled.

Fully protected reserves are those where destructive activities, such as dynamiting, and the extraction of resources from the ocean, such as fishing or mining the ocean bed, are not permitted.  A significant body of research has shown that these fully-protected reserves can increase the ocean’s resilience to the threats of climate change, ocean acidification and pollution. The IUCN defines an MPA as a clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated, and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.  MPAs can fall into several different categories on a continuum from fully protected areas with no take, through to multiple use areas.  Guidance published in 2018 states that any environmentally damaging industrial activities and infrastructural developments, with the associated ecological impacts and effects, are not compatible with MPAs’

Large and properly enforced MPAs can have the following ecological benefits:

  1. Long-lasting and often rapid increases in the abundance, diversity, and productivity of marine life;
  2. Decreased mortality of marine life and decreased habitat destruction;
  3. Reduced probability of extinction for resident marine species;
  4. Replenishment, and increased size and abundance of exploited species in areas adjacent to reserves;
  5. Increased resilience to climate change

In addition, creating networks of reserves can help buffer against unpredictable or erratic environmental changes, providing significantly more protection than a single reserve.

This is why the Bertarelli Foundation is working with governmental bodies, NGOs and local communities to create some of the world’s largest marine reserves, in some of the most threatened and ecologically significant parts of the ocean.

In total, the Bertarelli Foundation has helped to create more than 2,190,000 km2 of marine protected areas since 2008.  These areas range in size from 1,317km2 to 834,334 km2, in locations as varied as the British Indian Ocean Territory and Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean.

Yet with only 3.7% of the ocean fully protected today,  we recognise that there is still much more to be done.  In collaboration with the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Bertarelli Foundation is currently working to increase the number of fully protected MPAs in the sea from nine to 15 by 2022.

We are committed to helping to protect the ocean for the benefit of generations to come.

British Indian Ocean Territory

The British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) includes the Chagos Archipelago of 58 tiny islands and is located in the central Indian Ocean between East Africa, the southern tip of India and Indonesia to the east. The territory is globally important because of its size, its location and its near-pristine condition. It contains the largest coral atoll on earth, over 60,000km2 of shallow limestone reef, and it provides a vital sanctuary for heavily fished pelagic species, such as tuna, sharks, marlin and sailfish.

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Pitcairn Islands

The Pitcairn Islands are a group of four remote islands – Pitcairn, Ducie, Oeno, and Henderson – in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Though the islands are themselves small, the territory has one of the largest Exclusive Economic Zones in the world, within which lie some of the most important oceanic ecosystems.

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Easter Island

Easter Island, or Rapa Nui as it known by the island’s indigenous people, is located in the south eastern Pacific Ocean and is the south easternmost point of the Polynesian Triangle.  Whilst many know of the island because of its iconic stone statues, its marine environment has 142 unique species and features such as hydro-thermal vents and sea-mounts which are important both at a local and global level.

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Turneffe Atoll, Belize

Working in partnership with the Belizean Government and conservation NGOs, the Bertarelli Foundation has helped the Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association ensure the long-term management and viability of the reserve, which is the country’s largest and covers a total area of more than 1,300km2. The atoll provides a nursery and feeding habitat for at least thirty species and the wider area, with its deep water passages, provides an important habitat for open sea species such as marlin, sailfish, kingfish and shark. With the creation of this reserve, more than a fifth of Belize’s territorial waters are under some form of protection.

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French Polynesia

The waters around French Polynesia, a French overseas territory in the South Pacific Ocean, make up the world’s largest contiguous exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

At 5 million km2, the territory’s waters span an area as large as the landmass of the European Union.

These vast and healthy waters are home to 21 species of sharks and an exceptional coral reef system that supports 176 coral and 1,024 fish species.

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New Caledonia

New Caledonia, a French overseas territory in the South Pacific Ocean, is among the few healthy marine environments remaining on the planet. The waters of the territory’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) span 1.3 million km2, within which lies one of the world’s largest lagoons.

These waters are home to pristine ecosystems and an incredible array of marine life, including more than 1,700 species of fish, and iconic and threatened species such as humpback whales, dugongs, large sharks, sea turtles, manta rays, Napoleon wrasse, sea snakes and seabirds. Some 700,000 pairs of seabirds nest on remote islands as part of an estimated 2.5 million birds found across the territory. All these species depend on healthy habitats for feeding, nesting, reproducing, and migrating.

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Revillagigedo Archipelago

The Revillagigedo Archipelago sits off of Mexico’s Pacific coast, about 800 km west of Manzanillo and 400 km south of Cabo San Lucas. With its rich ecological and geological landscape, the volcanic island chain was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2016.

The four uninhabited islands—Socorro, Clarión, San Benedicto, and Roca Partida—are the peaks of volcanoes created more than 3.5 million years ago. They are part of a larger formation of seamounts, or underwater mountains, that help create upwellings of nutrients from the deep sea that support a vast array of marine life.

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South Sandwich Islands

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are situated more than 1,700 km from the southern tip of South America in a remote expanse of the South Atlantic Ocean. While mostly uninhabited by humans, the area hosts what could be the single largest concentration of marine species in the world. In the past, the wildlife of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands was seriously depleted by over-exploitation, mostly in the form of whaling. The Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project is exploring the feasibility of enhancing marine protections in the waters around South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

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Sea of Cortez

The nutrient-rich waters of the Pacific Ocean off Baja California and the Sea of Cortez in Mexico attract marine life and people to their incredible biodiversity.

The Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy has joined local partner Beta Diversidad (LINK) to work with local communities, fishermen’s groups, non-governmental organisations, and scientists to call for the creation of a marine protected area (MPA) spanning the Sea of Cortez and into the Pacific.

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[1] Aichi Biodiversity Target 11: By 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes.

[2] The IUCN World Conservation Congress, convened in Honolulu in September 2016, saw a resolution adopted by a large majority of IUCN State, Government and NGO members, calling for the full protection of at least 30% of the world’s ocean.