The Bahamas Marine Protected Area Joins Six Other Global Ocean Refuge Award Winners at 2018 Our Ocean Conference
[Bali, Indonesia]. Today at the 2018 Our Ocean Conference, where representatives from nations around the world and hundreds of marine conservationists are gathered, Marine Conservation Institute announced that the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park in The Bahamas earned a Platinum Global Ocean Refuge Award. Joining a prestigious group of ten marine protected areas (MPAs) that comprise the Global Ocean Refuge System means that Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park meets the highest science-based standards for biodiversity protection and best practices for management and enforcement. This strongly protected blue park makes an outstanding contribution to saving marine life for future generations.
Marine Conservation Institute awards Global Ocean Refuge status to MPAs like the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park for actively protecting the world’s most valuable and biodiverse ocean habitats, sustaining marine biodiversity and increasing populations of marine life. The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park joins a growing network of Global Ocean Refuges that will contribute to reaching strong protection for 30% of the ocean’s most critical places by 2030. The Institute’s objective for the award is to bring special recognition to nations, decision makers and site managers who effectively protect their marine ecosystems and to incentivize better ocean protection worldwide.
The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park (ECLSP) serves as an ecological refuge to numerous plant, coral and animal species due to its relatively undisturbed coral reef, mangrove, and seagrass bed ecosystems. In an archipelago of many islands and surrounding reefs, this MPA stands out for strong protection and careful management. The ECLSP is one of 32 National Parks managed by the Bahamas National Trust a non-governmental organization created by an Act of Parliament with the statutory mandate of managing the national parks.
Eric Carey, Executive Director, The Bahamas National Trust, said, “The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park (ECLSP) highlights the ability of a well-managed marine park to not only preserve the beauty of an area, but also to provide critical protection for marine life to maintain the delicate balance, and health of coral reefs and other marine ecosystems. It also shows how no marine protected area is an island, and how outside factors, whether they be increasing sea temperatures or unsustainable fishing, can affect the ability of the park to safeguard the species and habitats within it. The Bahamas is currently addressing these issues by expanding its system of MPAs to build a network of MPAs that will replenish each other and surrounding areas, sustainably protect marine ecosystems and key species within them, while allowing human access and uses that are compatible with the goals of sustainability. The ECLSP was the springboard that created the awareness of how important it is to protect and conserve our marine environment. The Bahamas National Trust is honored to be recognized by the Global Ocean Refuge System. There is no greater honor than to be recognized by the scientific community and peer management agencies.”
Janet Johnson, President, The Bahamas National Trust, said “The Bahamas National Trust is honored to accept this Platinum Global Refuge Award. To have marine scientists from around the world recognize and recommend the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park for the award is overwhelming, but also rewarding. The original members and advisors of the Exuma Expedition in 1958, who recommended the protection of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, the first land and sea park in the world, were visionaries. They envisioned a park in which the land and sea were held interdependently with man, as an integral part of the natural system, reaping a resource harvest, enjoying natural aesthetic values, but never destroying resources beyond their ability to replenish themselves. Their vision led to a park that would influence the course of inshore, marine conservation throughout The Bahamas and around the world. This award recognizes that vision and helps to ensure that the ECLSP, through the implementation of science-based management standards, conserves unique island ecosystems, functions as a marine fishery reserve and assures that the beauty of the area will be enjoyed and experienced by future generations in perpetuity.”
Today’s Global Ocean Refuge announcements recognize six other MPAs around the world that share many of the same characteristics of Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. These awards bring the total number of Global Ocean Refuge award winners to ten. The award celebrates excellence in marine conservation just as the Oscars™ do for movies or Olympic medals do for sports.
“We are extremely proud of our ten Global Ocean Refuges and their management teams. In 2018, we are adding seven new blue parks to the Global Ocean Refuge System, covering an additional 3,243.6 square kilometers (1252.4 square miles) of ocean. Each one has a strong management team, a clear plan to conserve biodiversity, and effective monitoring and enforcement efforts in place. Each Global Ocean Refuge supports healthy oceans, contributes to its local economy, and brings us closer to the global goal of protecting 30% of the ocean by 2030,” says Sarah Hameed, Director and Senior Scientist of Marine Conservation Institute.
“To understand the importance of these new blue parks in the Global Ocean Refuge System, it is critical to understand that many of today’s MPAs do not protect ocean ecosystems very well: they have loose or no rules and weak or nonexistent management,” said Lance Morgan, President of Marine Conservation Institute. Morgan continued, “Sometimes called ‘paper parks’, they appear in lists of MPAs and are officially counted as MPAs but lack substance. Joining the Global Ocean Refuge System requires achieving a science-based standard that we know protects the oceans for generations to come. By recognizing, valuing, and visiting these blue parks, we encourage more countries to meet this critical standard going forward.”
Today’s winners join a prestigious list of Global Ocean Refuges including Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary, and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. These outstanding MPAs help secure lasting protection; and their recognition is inspiring other MPAs to apply for Global Ocean Refuge status. Nominations for 2019 awardees begin in January. Visit the Global Ocean Refuge System website to learn how your MPA can be evaluated for a Global Ocean Refuge award: https://globaloceanrefuge.org/refuges/criteria/
About the Global Ocean Refuge System Awards
Marine Conservation Institute launched the Global Ocean Refuge System to safeguard marine wildlife, secure critical habitats, and protect ocean health for future generations. In 2017, the first three Platinum-level Global Ocean Refuges were awarded: Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, Malpelo Fauna, and Flora Sanctuary, and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. Another seven Global Ocean Refuge Awards are being announced at the 2018 Our Ocean Conference.
About Marine Conservation Institute
Marine Conservation Institute is a team of highly-experienced marine scientists and environmental policy advocates dedicated to saving ocean life for us and future generations. The organization’s goal is to help create an urgently-needed worldwide system of strongly protected areas—the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES)—as a strategic way to ensure the future diversity and abundance of marine life. To enhance marine protection efforts around the globe, Marine Conservation Institute also built the world’s most comprehensive online marine protected area database, the Atlas of Marine Protection