Women Working for Oceans (W2O) members joined our partners from the New England Aquarium in Washington DC this past week at the annual Capitol Hill Ocean Week (Chow) hosted by National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to learn about current ocean policy issues and visit with legislators.
Yes, we were reminded, size matters when it comes to protecting our blue planet. Our marine protected areas (MPAs) and ocean National Monuments provide habitat, act as nurseries and become underwater sea laboratories that enhance adaptability and resilience for our changing ocean. The bigger the protected area the better! These special places are the “yoga retreats” of the ocean; calm and nurturing, providing a pristine respite from stressors like ocean noise, entanglement, fishing, pollution, ship traffic, and other human-induced pressure that affect the health and wellbeing of all ocean animals. As ocean laboratories, Monuments and MPAs help scientist understand how climate change affects the rest of the planet, providing critical data on how species can thrive if left alone in an environment untouched by humans.
At Chow, Jane Lubchenco, former head of NOAA commented, “The oceans were once thought of as too big to fail. Now there is fear they are too big to fix. The ocean is central to our livelihood, so I say they are too big to ignore.” On a panel hosted by the Center for American Progress, Ms. Lubchenco along with NEAq President and CEO Vikki Spruill, and Kalani Quiocho, Native Hawaiian program specialist for the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument stressed the importance of including climate change in the ocean dialogue.
Studies show that the ocean (including its wetlands, estuaries, seagrasses and other marine environments) helps remove carbon from the atmosphere through carbon sequestration. The conversation about protecting our ocean goes hand in hand with protecting our entire planet from climate change. The designation of more marine National Monuments (like the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts right on our doorstep here in New England,) and other marine protected areas is critical for defending the ocean that gives us our food, security and even the air we breathe. The ocean is too big to ignore.
Happy World Ocean Day!