Tuesday, June 08, 2010

2010 World Oceans Day

Today is World Oceans Day, but I don't feel like celebrating. I feel like mourning.

Sure, there have been some ocean victories in the last year. A few months ago the British government created the Chagos Protected Area, the largest marine reserve in the world. It protects many tropical habitats and species, and does so on a scale much larger than any protected area to proceed it, but it seems like the only shining example in what has been an otherwise dismal year for the world's oceans.

The Gulf of Mexico seems headed for annihilation. As I was flipping through the TV channels Sunday morning I chanced upon Admiral Thad Allen of the United States Coast Guard telling Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer that the Deep Horizon well is expected to continue gushing oil "well into the fall." If my math and my calendar reading skills are correct, that means we're not even to the halfway point yet. BP has created an environmental disaster on par with the Dust Bowl of the Dirty Thirties. Deep Horizon isn't Barack Obama's Katrina; Deep Horizon is Barack Obama's 9/11.

Also, when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora met back in March, they voted not to protect several critically endangered species, including blue fin tuna, polar bears, Nile crocodiles, 8 species of sharks and several species of red and pink corals. They reasoned that protecting endangered species would be too much of an economic strain on fishing nations, which is a short-sighted view of things; extinction will certainly put more of an economic strain on fisherman than regulations.

Back in Saipan things are dour, too. The US Fish & Wildlife Service still hasn't moved forward with plans for the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument. There have been no public meetings, no draft regulations, no educational programs, no increased enforcement, nothing, nada, zilch, zero, zip. And after I spent hours drawing up testimony and traveled to Washington, DC with Agnes McPhetres to build support for a Mariana Trench Eco-Discovery Center, Representative Gregorio Sablan withdrew H.R. 3511 for fear that the Republicans would criticize him. Make that reason #52348798 to vote for a Democrat in the upcoming election. The Mariana Trench Marine National Monument as it stands is nothing more than a paper park, some meaningless lines on a map. Only the Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument and Pew Environment Group, with their programs and their work with national and international media, have helped to fulfill the promises of the monument. The federal government is not delivering on their side of the deal.

As if all this wasn't bad enough, Al Gore, probably the most famous and prominent environmentalist alive, is getting a divorce.

As I type this about 32% of the Gulf of Mexico is closed to fishing, an area about the size of Minnesota or Nebraska. The way I try to comprehend this is by relating it to my own experiences. I spent much of the last several years promoting the creation of marine protected areas. My biggest success was the 12,000 square mile marine protected area (MPA) contained within the Islands Unit of the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument.

gulf of mexico fishing closureThe BP oil disaster has created a marine catastrophe area (MCA) nearly 7x as large as the Islands Unit. I can remember sitting on the rim of the Maug crater last year and thinking that I had helped protect everything that the light touched; the Islands Unit extended literally as far as the eye could see in all directions. It sickens me to think that BP may have destroyed that much ocean seven times over.

Happy World Oceans Day. I hope 2011 gives us more reason to celebrate.


Brian said...

Great points, I live in central florida and we must protect our coastline and that must extend to other states in order to protect the Gulf.It will take decades to fully recover from BP's mess.

I have been to Saipan, Rota and tinian a few times to teach and they are some of the most beautiful places I have been. I would relocate there if I could. Friendly people, great food, and fantastic diving.

Saipan Writer said...

Great post, Angelo. And so very sad, too.

And yes, we will work and look forward to "next" year.