Our Ocean 2015

Nazca-Desventuradas marine park, Cabo de Hornos
Nazca-Desventuradas marine park, Cabo de Hornos
Conference in Valparaiso, Chile

By: R. Mark Davis, President

On October 5 & 6 Sailors for the Sea’s board chair, David Rockefeller, Jr. and I attended the ‘Our Ocean’ conference in Valparaiso, Chile. Over 500 government leaders, researchers and ocean conservation advocates gathered for two days to make and support commitments to protect marine biodiversity.

The concept of this Our Ocean conference follows an initiative set in motion by U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry. In June of 2014, Secretary Kerry organized the first high level conference in Washington D.C. that brought together politicians, scientists, world leaders, businesspeople, environmentalists, and philanthropists from more than 90 countries that promised to strengthen the protection and conservation of the sea.

On that occasion, Chile committed to the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement, to create and implement a new policy to fight illegal fishing, and to organize the second version of the Our Ocean conference.

The first conference was a great success, propelling forward partnerships and initiatives to conserve the ocean valued at more than $800 million dollars and launching new agreements for the protection of more than 3 million square kilometers of the sea.

At this years conference Chile led the way when President Michelle Bachelet announced the establishment of the Nazca-Desventuradas marine park—which will cover a surface area of more than 297,000 square kilometers (about the size of Arizona) surrounding the San Ambrosio and San Felix islands—and a commitment to create a second marine protected area encompassing over 600,000 square kilometers (about the size of Texas) around Easter Island.

The new marine park is a fully protected no-take zone where no fishing and other extractive activities will be allowed. With the formation of Nazca-Desventuradas, Chile has now protected 12% of its marine surface area, an increase from 4.4 percent, creating the largest marine park in the Americas.

“The new Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park is a gift from Chile to the world,” said Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and head of the Society’s Pristine Seas project. “It contains pristine underwater environments like nothing else in the ocean, including deep underwater mountains with species new to science, abundant giant lobster and a relict population of the once-thought-extinct Juan Fernández fur seal.”

Overfishing, pollution, climate change and mass species extinction are all fundamentally altering the ocean’s complex ecosystems. A few areas of the ocean remain relatively unaltered by humans. These pristine places are key to the health of the global ocean ecosystem. The hope is that additional governments around the world will create protected areas in order to conserve and restore the richness of marine life and habitat.

David Rockefeller, Jr. spoke as part of the Ocean Champion’s panel at the conference where he shared remarks about how boaters are becoming a navy of blue voices to protect the ocean through Sailors for the Sea’s efforts.