November 11, 2015

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Mission Blue and Asociación Ondine Partner to Protect Balearic Islands


Dr. Sylvia Earle exploring a seagrass bed in the marine protected area of the small island of El Toro off the coast of Mallorca. Photo © Kip Evans for Mission Blue.

Dr. Sylvia Earle exploring a seagrass bed in the marine protected area of the small island of El Toro off the coast of Mallorca. Photo © Kip Evans for Mission Blue.

Dr. Sylvia Earle, Founder and Chairman of the Sylvia Earle Alliance (S.E.A.) and Mission Blue, has named the Balearic Islands a Hope Spot—a special place worth safeguarding as a marine protected area for its importance to the health of the Mediterranean Sea.

The announcement came during Dr. Earle and the Mission Blue team’s visit to Mallorca from November 10-12 in collaboration with Asociación Ondine and with the support of Stefan and Irina Hearst. Dr. Earle gave a lecture outlining the main aspects of her Mission Blue Hope Spots initiative at the Hotel St. Regis Mardavall upon announcing the new Hope Spot. She said:

This is the first part of the Mediterranean that has been designated as a Hope Spot, so why not use this as a springboard—as evidence of what caring can yield—an idea worth spreading. It’s a concept that pays dividends. It’s a step in the direction of expanded protection that is sanctioned by rules and regulations or government action of some sort, but we don’t have to wait for that to make a difference. When people care, good things happen and that is what’s happening here with the work of so many people. Some areas are officially designated but we must grow that concept and share the benefits of protecting the assets of the Balearic Islands and the ocean at large and understanding how they connect back to people in every walk of life. We want to celebrate by putting the spotlight on the people’s work here in the Balearics. It can be a source of hope and inspiration for others to do the same thing. That would be my hope and wish here, for people to share the good news about what they feel has been a good thing that has happened because they have taken action.

“My hope is that we stop treating the ocean like something that you are not part of,” said Stefan Hearst, a founding supporter of Asociación Ondine and its partnership with Mission Blue. He continued, “Inform yourself, and understand how important it is as a sustainable system for one’s own health. It would be tragic if we killed the ocean and thus killed ourselves in the process. We must be smarter. I know we can; we have gone to space and cured illnesses. We can do this! The ocean is waiting to be discovered by one and all.”

Mission Blue is an initiative of Dr. Earle that aims to generate public support for a global network of marine protected areas to safeguard 20% of ocean by 2020.

The Mission Blue team and partners held a press conference in Mallorca to announce the new Hope Spot. From left: Gigi Brisson, Carl Gustaf Lundin, Dr. Sylvia Earle, Brad Robertson and Gabriel Morey. Photo © Kip Evans for Mission Blue.

The Mission Blue team and partners held a press conference in Mallorca to announce the new Hope Spot. From left: Gigi Brisson, Carl Gustaf Lundin, Dr. Sylvia Earle, Brad Robertson and Gabriel Morey. Photo © Kip Evans for Mission Blue.

Some Hope Spots already enjoy formal protection, while others still need to be protected. Approximately 12 percent of terrestrial areas are formally protected, but less than four percent of the sea is. The goal of Mission Blue is to solve this deficit. Networks of marine protected areas are crucial to maintain biodiversity and conserve critical habitats, while making conservation compatible with economic activities such as fishing and ecotourism.

Before this announcement Mission Blue had identified 58 Hope Spots with only one in European waters (Norway) and none in the Mediterranean. Mission Blue and Asociación Ondine carefully analyzed the ecological value ​​of the Balearic Islands and considered their importance in the context of the Mediterranean before naming the archipelago a Hope Spot. Brad Robertson, President at Asociación Ondine, explains:

With seven declared marine reserves, the Balearic Islands are Spain’s autonomous region with the most marine protected areas, reaching 49,000 ha in total (18% of inland waters). It sets a good example in the Mediterranean that it is possible to reconcile fishing and marine conservation. Image & caption courtesy Asociación Ondine.

With seven declared marine reserves, the Balearic Islands are Spain’s autonomous region with the most marine protected areas, reaching 49,000 hectares in total (18% of inland waters). However, even more protection would help sustain local fish populations into the future. Image courtesy Asociación Ondine.

The Balearic Archipelago is a beacon of hope the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean is a historical sea that has been, unfortunately, largely overlooked by marine conservation groups over the years and now is the time to acknowledge that this extremely important body of water must be celebrated, appreciated and loved. We are extremely proud of what our local and mainland governments have been protecting over the past years here in the Balearics and super excited that Dr. Sylvia Earle and her Mission Blue team have declared our little patch of Mediterranean paradise a HOPE SPOT—The first Hope Spot in the Mediterranean! Asociación Ondine is committed to work closely with our local authorities, businesses and communities to amplify the protection and improvement of our wonderful home, the Balearic Archipelago.

The Balearic Islands consist of Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera. This archipelago is strategically located in the middle of the western Mediterranean, within the Balearic Sea, and subjected to the influence of currents from the northwestern Mediterranean and others of Atlantic origin. The Balearic Sea has a good representation of the habitats existing along the Mediterranean, as well as a high biodiversity. There are valuable Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows, accounting for more than 46,000 hectares, and the ones between Ibiza and Formentera were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. Pollution, sedimentation and poor water quality have not notably altered the habitats. Commercial fishing causes the primary impacts to the ecosystem, but the status of commercial fish stocks is considered to be better than those from most of the Mediterranean. The south of the Balearic Islands is an important area for sea turtles (mainly the loggerhead Caretta caretta, which is threatened by longlines), cetaceans, and a spawning area for endangered bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus). Some areas have also been identified as hot spots for other endangered species such as the white skate (Rostroraja alba). The Balearic Basin reaches depths below 2,000 meters, where researchers have documented a variety of deep sea fish species including the Mediterranean spiderfish (Bathypterois mediterraneus). The Balearic Islands also represent the only nesting area to the Balearic shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus), one of the most threatened marine birds in the world.

The video below was created in collaboration with Asociación Ondine​ by Gonzalo Castanera and Kip Evans.

About Dr. Sylvia Earle

Dr. Sylvia A. Earle is Explorer in Residence at the National Geographic Society, Founder of the Sylvia Earle Alliance (S.E.A.) / Mission Blue, Founder of Deep Ocean Exploration and Research Inc. (DOER), Chair of the Advisory Council for the Harte Research Institute and former Chief Scientist of NOAA. Author of more than 200 publications and leader of more than 100 expeditions with over 7,000 hours underwater, Dr. Earle is a graduate of Florida State University with M.A. and PhD. degrees from Duke University and 27 honorary doctorates. Her research concerns the ecology and conservation of marine ecosystems and development of technology for access to the deep sea. She is the subject of the Emmy® Award Winning Netflix documentary, Mission Blue, and the recipient of more than 100 national and international honors and awards including being named Time Magazine’s first Hero for the Planet, a Living Legend by the Library of Congress, 2014 UNEP Champion of the Earth, Glamour Magazine’s 2014 Woman of the Year, member of the Netherlands Order of the Golden Ark, and winner of the 2009 TED Prize, the Walter Cronkite Award, the 1996 Explorers Club Medal, the Royal Geographic Society 2011 Patron’s Medal, and the National Geographic 2013 Hubbard Medal. 

Dr. Sylvia Earle diving in the El Toro marine reserve off the coast of Mallorca, Spain. Photo © Kip Evans for Mission Blue.

Dr. Sylvia Earle diving in the El Toro marine reserve off the coast of Mallorca, Spain. Photo © Kip Evans for Mission Blue.

About Mission Blue

Mission Blue is an initiative of the Sylvia Earle Alliance (S.E.A.) to ignite public support for the protection of Hope Spots—special places that are vital to the health of the ocean, the blue heart of our planet. We draw inspiration from the vision of our founder, Dr. Sylvia Earle, and are uniting a global coalition of partners to inspire an upwelling of public awareness, access and support for a worldwide network of marine protected areas. From the seamounts of the high seas to shallow sunlit reefs, Mission Blue seeks to bring about a significant increase in ocean protection from less than four percent today to 20% by the year 2020. For more information, please visit http://mission-blue.org and find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

About Asociación Ondine

Asociacion Ondine is a local NGO established in 2012 to contribute to the management and conservation of marine ecosystems of the Balearic Islands. Asociación Ondine conducts scientific research, conservation initiatives and education through various programs. In addition to these, Asociación Ondine has a Working Group on Marine Protected Areas, composed of technical and scientific experts in this area, as well as entrepreneurs committed to the sustainable use and conservation of our coast. The objectives of this working group are to provide a constructive, critical and independent opinion, to contribute to the creation of new marine protected areas in the Balearics, proper design, management and monitoring, and facilitate and encourage the participation of businesses, citizens and local associations in the proper functioning of these protected areas. For more information, please visit http://asociacionondine.org. Asociacion Ondine has had, since its founding, the invaluable support of Stefan and Irina Hearst, who have been essential to establish collaboration with Mission Blue.

Dr. Sylvia Earle, Stefan Hearst and Brad Robertson during a tour of Mallorca. Photo © Kip Evans for Mission Blue.

Dr. Sylvia Earle, Stefan Hearst and Brad Robertson during a tour of Mallorca. Photo © Kip Evans for Mission Blue.

Mission Blue is grateful to Stefan and Irina Hearst, and Brad Robertson and Gabriel Morey of Asociación Ondine for making this dream a reality. Thanks also to our board members Carl Gustaf Lundin and Gigi Brisson.


Contact:

Courtney Mattison 
Mission BlueAsociación Ondine
cmattison@mission-blue.orginfo@asociacionondine.org 
+1-415-269-4475    +34-971-916-165

Featured image (top): The coast of Mallorca, Spain—the site of Mission Blue’s newest Hope Spot. Photo © Kip Evans for Mission Blue.

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"With knowing comes caring." - Dr. Sylvia Earle