Protecting the Yosemites of the Sea

Just like national parks on land, there are special places in the ocean that deserve permanent protection.

Our oceans are threatened by pollution, overfishing, rapidly increasing ship traffic, ocean acidification and climate change.

Coastal and underwater parks help address these threats. They allow depleted fish to recover. They give marine mammals a respite from harmful ocean noise. They protect coral reefs from drilling and pollution.

These protected sanctuaries provide adventure, relaxation, and recreation for us to enjoy.

  • When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with great wide sounds.
    Rainer Maria Rilke, German Poet
  • Living wild species are like a library of books still unread. Our heedless destruction of them is akin to burning that library without ever having read its books.
    John Dingell, U.S. Politician
  • To safeguard Alaskan wildlife and marine ecosystems, we advocate three protective areas that limit ship traffic around three islands in the Bering Sea. The U.S. Coast Guard incorporates our suggestions and is expected to announce final protection recommendations at the end of 2017.
  • We collaborate with Ocean Conservancy to secure international protection for waters off the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, totaling over 160,000 square miles. These new laws keep ships farther away from wildlife and improve safety in a heavily trafficked corridor between Asia and North America that is vulnerable to catastrophic accidents that could result in oil spills.
  • Residents of St. George Island in the Bering Sea depend heavily on fishing for their economic livelihoods. Because large-scale commercial fishing has damaged habitat near the island, we support indigenous and local residents who are pushing for a marine sanctuary to protect fish stocks and reinvigorate local fishing businesses.
  • Less than 1% of the deep-sea habitats off the coast of California are protected. We advocate for a network of marine protected areas to safeguard 500-year-old corals, seabirds, endangered sperm whales and sea turtles from oil and gas development, deep-sea mining and damaging fishing practices.
  • Just like on land, there are many different names used to describe ocean parks. Their names differ because they offer different levels of protection. In the Unites States, the vast majority of marine protected areas allows fishing, boating, surfing, diving and other recreational activities.
  • Bering Sea
  • Aleutian Islands
  • St. George
  • California
  • What's in a Name?
Humanity is driving an unprecedented extinction of sealife. (Photo: NOAA)
Coastal waters are the most productive areas in the ocean—and the most threatened. Many also act as carbon sinks that help rein in climate change, like these mangroves. (Photo: NOAA)

Protecting High-Value Marine Ecosystems

Overfishing is pushing more marine life closer to extinction. Most at risk: the ocean’s largest creatures like whales, seals and southern bluefin tuna.

The effects of their rapid decline are already cascading through the oceans, upsetting delicately balanced food chains and damaging coral reefs.

As the global population grows, the pressure to fish will only increase. As will ship traffic transporting goods in an increasingly globalized world.

Our Strategy

We are part of a larger global effort to protect high-value marine areas to save species from extinction, boost global resilience to climate change and support neighboring fisheries.

To be successful, we believe that indigenous and coastal communities must have a voice in identifying solutions that safeguard local food supplies, cultural traditions and sustainable livelihoods.

Our Impact

We advocate protective designations of high-value marine areas to minimize or eliminate commercial ship traffic, oil and gas development, deep-sea mining, oil drilling and damaging fishing practices.

We push for routing measures that keep ships away from sensitive habitat and wildlife concentrations.

And we promote safety rules that prevent catastrophic oil spills and accidental collisions with wildlife. They also minimize noise harassment that disrupts wildlife breeding, feeding and migratory patterns.

  • St. George is one of the Pribilof Islands, once known as the Northern Fur Seal Islands. They consist of four volcanic islands off the coast of mainland Alaska.
  • Marine experts are advocating to designate 30% of the world's marine habitat as marine protected areas by 2030 to save the ocean from catastrophic loss of marine life.
  • Mangrove forests and sea grass beds in coastal waters help keep our planet cool because they store carbon dioxide.
  • If the oceans died, we would lose 50% of the air we breathe, 17% of our animal protein and 700 million fishing industry jobs.