National geographic Explorer-In Residence and Mission Blue founder Dr. Sylvia Earle teamed up with Greenpeace this week for an inspiring event at the Seattle Aquarium to officially announce the 19th Hope Spot, urging protection for the miraculous Bering Sea Canyons. Hope Spots – Dr. Earle’s global initiative formed in response to her 2009 TED Prize wish – are special places that are critical to the health of the ocean – Earth’s blue heart. With Hope Spots Dr. Earle challenged people to use whatever talents they have and all means at their disposal – from the Internet to submarines – to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas.
To help celebrate one such place where hope for the planet’s future thrives – the magnificent Bering Sea Canyons – the aquarium is now featuring an exhibit of Greenpeace’s ground breaking exploration into those deep sea canyons, complete with a real single-person DeepWorker submarine on display. A few lucky kids, grandchildren that inspire some of us campaign for marine parks in the sea, got a chance to sit in the pilot’s seat. They joined aquarium visitors in getting a up-close view of the tiny claustrophobia-inducing submersible that allowed researchers to dive nearly 2000 feet down into Zhemchug and Pribilof canyons – both larger than the Grand Canyon – to bring back images and data for scientists and policy makers.
Amongst colorful images and video brought back from the canyon depths – a juvenile golden king crab nestled into a sponge and fish eggs hatching within protective corals – Seattleites also took the opportunity to write personal comment letters to the North Pacific fishery Management Council urging them to protect the canyons.
In just a few weeks those decision makers will review much of the available scientific information on the canyons and also their vulnerability to fishing gear like trawl nets that rake across many miles of seafloor tearing up the sensitive coral and sponge habitat in the canyons. At their June Council meeting they will decide if the canyons will get protection from such destructive fishing gear. Besides the scientific facts, which are still few and far between with many gaps in our understanding of these barely explored canyons, Council members will have to weigh the voices of tens of thousands of public stakeholders calling on them to protect this vital ocean Hope Spot.
Thanks to the talented interpreters at the aquarium and eloquent voices like that of “Her Deepness” (New York Times’ name given to Sylvia Earle) more and more people who care to protect this national treasure, as we have our Grand Canyon on land, will be using their voices to protect these Grand Canyons in the sea. When people learn what is at stake they get involved, and that changes things. Sylvia Earle explained it this way; “the most important part is to take on the challenge of protecting the ocean as if your life depends on it – because it does.”