The ocean serves as the pulse of our planet’s life. It regulates climate, generates more than 50 percent of the oxygen we breathe, stores the carbon dioxide that we produce in excess, and sustains a large part (80 percent) of the planet’s biodiversity. It may sound big, but it also rings true: Without blue, there is no green – without oceans, there is no life.
Unfortunately, the sea is under threat; and so we’re losing our planet’s blue heart. For many years we turned our back to the ocean, and now the consequences are becoming more and more visible. Environmental studies released by the UN estimate that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. In addition to this, 70 percent of fisheries are at risk and about 90 percent of the biggest fishes have disappeared.
Argentina’s jurisdictional waters cover 36 percent of the country’s territory. However, less than three percent is included in marine protected areas. The existing marine reserves are all coastal but just one (Namuncurá – Burdwood Marine Protected Area, established in 2013) protects deep waters. As one of the signing countries of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the nation should be able to count among its protected regions 10 percent of its waters by 2020, thus ensuring an earnest step in the right direction to protect not just what we can see – but also what remains hidden in the ocean’s depths.
Why does the Argentine sea have such a rich biodiversity, and why is this so important?
Due to its wide continental shelf, it is one of the most productive ocean areas on the planet, with a particularly diverse ecosystem that’s rich in unique species. Every year, marine animals from all over the world visit the Argentine coasts in search of food and a safe refuge to have their young. For example, 75 percent of the population of the Albatros Ceja Negra, a type of bird, and 3 of the 7 species of marine turtles in the world depend on the Argentine sea.
After many years of research and assessment, scientists and NGOs identified the relevant areas for the conservation of biodiversity in the Argentine Sea. Today, it’s biggest threats are those that also endanger all of the marine surfaces in the world: over-fishing, illegal and incidental fishing, and pollution. Specific to the Argentine sea, more than 60 species are counted today to be under threat of extinction.
They way to avoid this of happening is creating awareness and pushing for protection. With this in mind, the Sin Azul No Hay Verde movement was created, and it strives to promote the creation of the first National Marine Parks in Argentina. Same as on land, these parks will serve as a fundamental and effective legal tool for conservation, creating awareness among all Argentines on how important it’s to have a firm commitment in regards to protecting the Argentine waters. It’s easier to convince someone to cherish what they can see and visit, but it’s important for everyone to understand and actively participate even when that’s not the case.
The marine protected areas benefit the adaptability to climate change by protecting the habitats and species responsible for storing carbon dioxide in the sea. They protect biodiversity; they are a refuge for oceanic ecosystems and allow marine resources to recover. They also protect cultural and archaeological sites; restore commercial fish stocks, and stimulate scientific research.
During 2017, Sin Azul No Hay Verde worked on the bill that establishes the creation of two new marine protected areas: the “Yaganes” Marine National Park, Strict National Marine Reserve and National Marine Reserve (69,000 square km) and the ampliation of the “Namuncurá – Burdwood Bank II” Strict National Marine Reserve and National Marine Reserve (29,000 square km). Both marine parks will be located on the Southern Patagonian sea, aiming to be a step on the right direction towards protection and conservation, as well as the first of many more.
These new marine parks will have rare, fragile and slow recovery species, such as cold water corals. The Namuncurá Marine Reserve in particular is located 200 km away from the the Malvinas Islands, an area of great ecological importance in the whole region. It has relevance as a foraging area for seabirds species that are endangered at both a national and global scale. Adding to this, and applicable to both future parks, there are many species of marine mammals (including threatened species) that feed or migrate through these areas, effectively determining them as a dire need that is long overdue.
The bill has gone into congress and it is expected to be passed this 2018. For more information about the Sin Azul No Hay Verde movement, check the links below.