Analysis of Marine Protected Areas Shows That Texas Can Do Better in Protecting Oceans and Marine Wildlife
AUSTIN - Texas ties for last place in working to protect state ocean waters, according to a report released today by Environment Texas, the Marine Conservation Institute and Mission Blue. The SeaStates report is the first national ranking of coastal states’ efforts to protect their ocean waters with ‘no-take’ Marine Protected Areas, the best tool to help oceans thrive.
“Despite the stunning views off South Padre Island and rare glimpses of dolphins and sea turtles that so many of us love, Texas is tied for last place for ocean protection,” said Luke Metzger, Director for Environment Texas. “None of our coastal waters are currently protected by no-take marine protected areas.”
Free from fishing, oil drilling, and other extractive uses, no-take MPAs allow areas to thrive and recover their former abundance and health. As our oceans and coastal areas face the threats of overfishing and water pollution, MPAs deliver important benefits, like preserving the biodiversity and increasing the numbers of fish and wildlife.
“Our oceans are in deep trouble. We need to act now to increase protections,” Metzger continued
Overfishing, habitat damage and pollution threaten the diversity and productivity of our oceans leading to the rapid loss of marine wildlife including over 40 percent of fisheries which have crashed or are overfished. Dozens of studies show that no-take MPAs provide important protection not offered by other less strict MPAs, and often provide an overflow of marine life to waters outside their boundaries.
“The good news is that it’s not too late to save our oceans - marine life is resilient,” said Metzger. “To safeguard and restore habitat for our marine wildlife we must fully protect more of our ocean as no-take marine protection areas”.
Environment Texas recommends that the state consider designating the coastal waters off the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve as our first no-take Marine Protection Area. Then embark on an open process of identifying other areas worthy of full protection in our state waters.
“Whether you love our oceans for their beauty, for fish and marine mammals like whales, or for generating half of the oxygen we breathe, you should want them to be strongly protected. But the SeaStates report shows that very few places are getting the protection they need,” said Dr. Lance Morgan, President of the Marine Conservation Institute. “The majority of coastal states are doing a very poor job of safeguarding their ocean. It’s time for them to preserve their waters with no-take marine protected areas. Marine animals, from seabirds and whales to rockfish, groupers and deep sea corals, need refuges where governments do everything possible to protect them from destruction and pollution.”
The SeaStates report found that 15 coastal states including Texas have zero no-take areas. Five states have less than 1% of their ocean designated as no-take areas. Hawaii is ranked first for ocean protection, with 22.9% no-take area, while California comes in second with 8.7%.
The SeaStates report was compiled by the science team at Marine Conservation Institute using MPAtlas.org - the world’s best information source on marine protected areas.
Environment Texas is a state-based, citizen-funded advocacy organization working towards a cleaner, greener, healthier future.
The Marine Conservation Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to securing protection for the oceans’ most important places. Founded by marine ecologist, Dr. Elliott Norse, in 1996, we see the big picture and use the latest tools in collaboration with scientists, government officials, businesses and conservation organizations to recover healthy, living oceans around the world for us and future generations. See www.marine-conservation.org
Mission Blue is a global initiative formed in response to Sylvia Earle’s 2009 TED Prize wish. Dr. Earle urged people “to use all means at your disposal — films, expeditions, the web, new submarines — to create a campaign to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas; Hope Spots large enough to save and restore the blue heart of the planet.” Currently, the Mission Blue community includes 60+ respected ocean conservation groups and likeminded organizations. See www.mission-blue.org