SST attends a Hope Spot workshop hosted by Dr Sylvia Earle and Mission Blue

Legendary oceanographer Dr Sylvia Earle and the league of scientists working under the Mission Blue banner are uniting a global coalition to inspire an upwelling of access, awareness and support for a worldwide network of ecologically significant areas, aptly named “Hope Spots”. The mission: to contribute to the global goal of protecting 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030.

The establishment of these Hope Spots, which are unique marine areas scientifically identified as critical to the health of the ocean, is one of the principal ways in which Mission Blue plans to meet this ambitious target.

In partnership with SST, Mission Blue launched six such Hope Spots in South Africa back in 2014, which  are close to where people live. Because they are community-based, everyone who lives there is encouraged to make a positive difference in their own environment – much like SST’s Operation Clean Spot.

Recently, SST and various marine conservation organisations attended a workshop hosted by Dr Earle and Mission Blue in Plettenberg Bay. The workshop presented an opportunity for local conservationists to share their work, inspire each other and ignite new collaborations – in an effort to protect and support our Hope Spots.

Dr Earle refers to the role of these unique places that are critical to the health of the ocean as similar to that of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries on land. They are home to significant natural processes, and notable for their abundance and diversity of species, and for their rare, threatened, unusual or representative species.

It is anticipated that collectively all of these Hope Spots will create a global wave of community support for ocean conservation that leaders and policymakers can’t ignore.

With additional nominations considered each year, there are currently 158 Hope Spots worldwide. Some of these may already be fully protected marine areas and in need of continuous support and management, while others may be unprotected, requiring formal protection or even rehabilitation. The mere nomination process for a Hope Spot can also help galvanise the support of local communities, ocean champions and governments to put legal protections in place.

Hope Spots can be as immense as the coral triangle in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Sea or as iconic as the Galapagos Islands, or relatively unknown, like California’s underwater volcanoes (also called seamounts).

For Earle, each unique Hope Spot is critical to our Earth’s blue heart.

“Every place, even the small places, makes a difference,” she says. “But we need to scale up. We need to get big. Take care of the ocean as if your life depends on it, because it does.”

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