Oceans: On Bermuda

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I’m on the road again—or in this case, the high seas. I’ll be spending this week in and around the Atlantic island of Bermuda with Her Deepness, Sylvia Earle—the famed American oceanographer I can best describe as America’s Jacques Cousteau. As I’ve written before, the 75-year-old Earle—who has spent her career exploring the depths—has launched perhaps her most ambitious project yet. It’s called Mission Blue, and it’s dedicated to highlighting aquatic and marine biodiversity hotspots—Hope Spots, in Earle’s words—that need far greater levels of protection than the miniscule degree offered today.

I’ll be diving with Earle and some of her friends in the Sargasso Sea, the vast gyre of in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean that is home to the sargassum, the free-floating seaweed that is a floating nursery for aquatic species like eels. Officials and scientists in Bermuda are pushing to make the Sargasso Sea the first protected area on the open seas. (Right now all protected areas, like the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the northwestern Hawaiian islands, are within a single country’s control.) Given that most of the ocean is beyond the control of any single nation, we’ll need to forge new legal strategies if we’re going to protect the ocean where it really needs the help. The Sargasso Sea could be a valuable proving ground for 21st century marine conservation.