Over the next five years, National Geographic Pristine Seas will target 20 of the most pristine places in the ocean for protection. The goal is to inspire country leaders to protect these places in large no-take marine reserves.
National Geographic Pristine Seas will use scientific and economic data, and the media produced during expeditions, to engage country leaders as conservationists of the oceans under their governance. The primary incentives for these leaders to create large marine reserves include: high global biodiversity and ecosystem services values provided by pristine areas; critical role marine reserves serve as replenishment sources for local fisheries (the 'natural investment account' principle); potential growth of tourism sector and associated economic opportunities of tourism; and thought leadership in ocean conservation.
Through the National Geographic Pristine Seas' network and high-level advisory board, global leaders work with country leaders in target nations to consider large-scale marine ecosystem conservation. National Geographic Pristine Seas has developed a set of materials and decision-making tools for senior government policy makers and stakeholders.
After securing commitments from country leaders to protect their oceans, National Geographic Pristine Seas works with government agencies to determine the specifics of the protected area, ensuring that it makes sense from an ecological and a management perspective. The major issues the policy makers consider and addressed by National Geographic Pristine Seas' analyses are: developing a business model for the reserve, including costs of creation and management of the reserve (including opportunity costs); calculating benefits evidence of the reserve versus opening the area to large-scale fishing (environmental, social, and economic); and monitoring and enforcement of established area, including remote monitoring and enforcement at port.
National Geographic Pristine Seas use a combination of platforms to communicate the value of pristine sites through media and scientific reports to decision makers (primarily government agencies). Connection with decision makers (priority strategic audience) will occur through compelling documentaries that are premiered in VIP events in the targeted country. The reports produced for government agencies are visually rich brochures and include executive summaries of National Geographic Pristine Seas' reports and published peer-reviewed scientific papers and provide justification for ocean conservation. Information is also communicated through news stories in local media.
A key component of this commitment is the scientific research used to measure the ecosystem health of the target areas. National Geographic Pristine Seas will conduct a series of expeditions with a team of top researchers to carry out a full analysis in each site to measure ecosystem function variables such as level of biodiversity and abundance of marine life. An economic analysis will be conducted to calculate the current revenue that these areas produce (mostly from fishing), as well as estimate the economic value if the areas were protected and alternative economic uses were realized (e.g., ecotourism). The ecosystem services these areas provide if protected over the long-term will be calculated.
National Geographic Pristine Seas will also help raise the profile of local conservation organizations locally, which can help ensure the long-term enforcement of the reserves over time.
In the next five years, National Geographic Pristine Seas will target four new pristine areas per year. At every one of these areas, National Geographic Pristine Seas will replicate its proven model.
Areas are identified through studies based on global databases on fishing effort, human population density, coastal development, shipping, and other human stressors. The areas targeted by National Geographic Pristine Seas are within the 10% less impacted to date. Other criteria include socioeconomic factors, such as the conservation history of the country that owns each potential target area, and the likelihood that the current government would protect and manage a large marine reserve there.
Once areas are identified, National Geographic Pristine Seas conducts expeditions and scientific research to assess the health of these ecosystems, lasting between three to six weeks. During these expeditions, National Geographic Pristine Seas captures never-before-seen images of pristine marine environments for outreach, including National Geographic feature articles and documentary films, social media sites, and strategic external media pieces.
The organization will conduct economic research to assess the costs and benefits of protection. These analyses can take several months, depending on the data available and complexity of the country's governance.
Then the organization will engage with political leaders to inspire them to act to preserve these last pristine places in their waters. It can take several months to several years to formalize the reserve. 'Formalization' occurs when the government passes the law/decree designating an area a marine reserve.
1) Expeditions to pristine areas: three to six weeks each
2) Scientific reports on the ecosystem health of these areas - completed six months after expedition
3) Documentary films: editing finished six to nine months after expedition
4) VIP event in country to reach out to political leaders six to nine months after expedition
5) Media: National Geographic and other publications depends on media
6) Economic analysis on the costs and benefits of protection, date of release dependent on appropriate political window
7) Peer-reviewed papers published in scientific journals, published typically about a year after expedition
For nearly all of human history, Earth's oceans seemed vast and inexhaustible. But because of global overfishing, pollution, and climate change, today, undeniable evidence of species extinction, fisheries collapse, coral reef degradation, harmful algal blooms, and marine dead zones is seen. These changes to the ocean will have catastrophic consequences for the planet and all of its populations.
Despite the devastating consequences of population and climate change on the earth's oceans, only two percent of the ocean is 'protected', and only one percent is in no-take marine reserves, which have proven the most effective tool for restoring marine life and the services it provides. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity has a target of 10 percent of the ocean protected by 2020, but, due to the global footprint of fishing and the impacts of climate change, many expect that less than 10 percent of the ocean is still in a pristine state.
Pristine places in the ocean are remote, untouched, and uninhabited. The few remaining pristine ocean ecosystems are the only examples of the natural ocean. Ecological baselines of pristine areas show the structure and functioning of intact ecosystems and provide fundamental insights for conservation and restoration. Pristine ocean areas remain virtually untouched because of their remoteness, but long-distance fishing fleets are quickly encroaching upon them. It is imperative to protect these last beacons of ocean wilderness before their richness disappears. These places can give information on biodiversity that has been lost, and more importantly, inspire humans to determine the future of the oceans.
Pristine Seas is seeking financial partners at the investment level of $1 million/year for a minimum of three years and for governments that are willing to protect large areas in their exclusive economic zones.
Pristine Seas and partners offer countries a scientific and economic assessment of their pristine ocean areas, compelling media to showcase their marine natural heritage to a global audience, and assistance with development of management plans and sustainable business models.