Saturday was World Oceans Day, a day to celebrate the many ways the oceans benefit our lives. These benefits are most obvious to residents of our coastal states, who can regularly enjoy beach outings, fresh seafood, marine life sightings, and an economy that is greatly boosted by tourism. In fact, of the lower 48 states, 35% of the Gross Domestic Product comes from coastal counties alone!
But a new study issued by the Marine Conservation Institute and Mission Blue entitled "SeaStates: How Well Does Your State Protect Your Coastal Waters?" (PDF) shows while states are greatly benefitting from the bounty of their ocean waters, they are also failing to ensure their protection.
The study measured the percentage of marine protected areas and no-take marine reserves that exist off the coast of each U.S. state and territory in order to rank states and territories from highest to lowest in terms of their level of protection. Coming out on top were Hawaii and California, fully protecting 22% and 8% of their waters, respectfully. Disappointingly, 15 coastal states (out of 23), including New York, Alaska, and Rhode Island, have zero no-take marine reserves, and very few, if any, marine protected areas.
"Protecting life that keeps our oceans working is a life insurance policy for them and us. Used…with other tools for saving marine life, strongly protected areas are the most effective way to conserve species in our rapidly changing world" states the report. The report also suggests "urging our leaders to create more no-take marine reserves" as one way to help. Other suggestions include being mindful to only consume sustainably caught seafood, and voting for people who have the best interests of our oceans at heart.
Whatever reason you have for loving the oceans, we can all agree that they deserve more protection and care, especially in those states where it is severely lacking. World Oceans Day is a great day to celebrate everything the oceans provide for us (Oxygen! Beauty! Food!), but more action needs to be taken. An immeasurable amount of sea life depends on us to provide refuge, and it is time for coastal states to step up and safeguard everything their precious waters give them.