23 Mar 2017
Midori Paxton, Head of Ecosystems and Biodiversity
Expanding marine protected areas is imperative for biodiversity and ecosystem health. It is also essential for social welfare and the economy. Photo: Shutterstock/divedog
Bunaken National Marine Park, Sulawesi, Indonesia in 2011.
The sea was a bit too choppy for my liking. But there was a volcano erupting inland. The sea looked like a safer option! I took the plunge and jumped off the boat with my snorkel and fins.
Around me was a new world. So serene, so many layers. Wonderfully coloured fish clustered around corals, sea turtles flapped by, and there was a darkness beneath a canyon wall that told of depths beyond the reach of sunlight. Down there, I knew, were coelacanths. Once believed to have gone extinct 66 million years ago, these fish have in fact out-lived the dinosaurs.
If aliens arrived from outer space, they wouldn’t call our planet Earth. They would call it planet Sea. Seventy-one percent of our planet’s surface is covered in water. The depths are profound. Just imagine having the whole Himalayan or Andean mountain range upside down beneath the ocean face. That is just a taster.
The oceans sustain creatures we haven’t even discovered, but they also keep terrestrial life going. More than 3 billion people depend on them as their primary source of protein. Shipping lanes keep commerce thriving and the water regulates the temperature and atmosphere. …