Pew Trust explains the Global Ocean Legacy Project

Matt Rand, Director, Pew Foundation, reports 16th June 2015: The ocean plays an essential role in sustaining life on our planet. It covers nearly three-fourths of the globe and is home to nearly half of the world’s known species—and many more yet to be discovered. The ocean provides sustenance for billions of people and myriad wildlife.

But human activities increasingly threaten its health. For example:

  • About 1 in 5 fish caught in the wild is taken illegally or in unreported fisheries.
  • 90 percent of the world’s fish stocks are overfished or fully fished.[1]
  • Experts say populations of large predatory fish such as tunas and sharks have declined about 90 percent over the past 60 years.[2]
  • Acidification, caused by absorption of carbon dioxide, is changing the chemistry of the ocean, placing sea life at risk. Its waters absorb about a quarter of CO2 emissions created from human activity. The rise in these emissions has increased ocean acidity by about 26 percent since the industrial revolution.

Research shows that large, fully protected marine reserves are vital to rebuilding species abundance and diversity and protecting the overall health of the marine environment [3], but less than 2 percent of the ocean is fully protected, compared with about 15 percent of land.

When Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872, it not only ensured protection for one of the United States’ most spectacular landscapes, it was the beginning of a new way of thinking about protecting the environment.

More recently this approach has been applied to oceans, accompanying a growing recognition of their essential role in sustaining life on the planet. The Pew Charitable Trusts and a group of partners launched the Global Ocean Legacy project in 2006 to begin working to establish the world’s first generation of great marine parks. Our goal is to help create marine reserves that are at least 200,000 square kilometers (75,000 square miles) in size; within the reserves, fishing and other extractive activities would be prohibited.

Pew Trust explains the

The Global Ocean Legacy team is working to establish marine reserves in:

  • Easter Island, a territory of Chile in the south-eastern Pacific.
  • French Polynesia, a French overseas territory in the South Pacific.
  • The Kermadecs, a group of islands that are part of New Zealand and are situated near that country’s North Island.
  • New Caledonia, a French overseas territory in the south-western Pacific.
  • Palau, an island nation in the western Pacific.
  • South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, a U.K. overseas territory in the southern Atlantic.
  • Tristan da Cunha, a U.K. overseas territory in the southern Atlantic.

“Marine conservationists at the 2014 World Parks Congress stated that if marine reserves are to have a meaningful impact, at least 30 percent of the ocean needs to be protected, with fishing and seabed mining banned or restricted.”

Monitoring and enforcement of marine reserves can be challenging in remote parts of the world, where many of the remaining near-pristine ocean areas are found.

To help meet this challenge, Pew has partnered with Satellite Applications Catapult, a U.K. government initiative, to launch Project Eyes on the Seas and the Virtual Watch Room. This pioneering system enables government officials and other analysts to identify and monitor unlawful activities at sea, particularly illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, also known as pirate fishing. The technology merges satellite tracking and imagery data with other sources of information, such as fishing vessel and oceanographic data, to help monitor waters around the globe.

The governments of Palau and Chile have said they intend to use the technology once the Palau National Marine Sanctuary and a fully protected marine park around Easter Island are declared.

Global Ocean Legacy is a partnership of philanthropic leaders who share a vision: to protect the world’s ocean for future generations by creating 15 great parks in the sea — all at least 200,000 square kilometers (75,000 square miles) by 2022. Global Ocean Legacy partners include: Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Lyda Hill Foundation, Oak Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Robertson Foundation, The Tiffany & Co. Foundation, and the Waitt Foundation.

Together, we are establishing the world’s first generation of great marine parks by securing the designation of large, fully protected reserves. To date, our efforts have helped to double the amount of safeguarded ocean habitat worldwide.

Source: Pew Foundation, 16th June 2015. For the full details, see



  1. United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, “The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, 2014,”
  2. Ransom A. Myers and Boris Worm, “Rapid Worldwide Depletion of Predatory Fish Communities,” Nature 423 (2003): 280–83.
  3. Sarah E. Lester et al., “Biological Effects Within No-Take Marine Reserves: A Global Synthesis,” Marine Ecology Progress Series 384 (2009): 33–46, doi:10.3354/meps08029; Benjamin S. Halpern, “The Impact of Marine Reserves: Do Reserves Work and Does Reserve Size Matter?” Ecological Applications 13 (2003): 117–37,[0117:TIOMRD]2.0.CO;2.

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