Most often when we discuss “wilderness areas” the first image that comes into mind is a big, wild area of land. For me, I think of mountains — mostly because mountain areas here in Colorado are very wild. Admittedly, I also love mountains and have always had a personal connection with the serenity and grandness of mountain landscapes. That said, there are large, uncharted wild areas in the two-thirds of our planet not covered in soil — the ocean. Perhaps because we humans can’t live in the ocean, we haven’t made as much headway in defining and declaring protected areas in our seas. Or perhaps the gap is more a factor of the international nature of marine areas — we must work collectively to protect marine regions that are not governed by one country.
The good news is that many scientists, policy makers and conservationists are making headway on marine wilderness and marine protected areas. These developments are laying the groundwork in science and research and setting the stage for designation and management of marine protected areas. WILD’s work for marine wilderness includes seminars, workshops and plenary presentations at the World Wilderness Congress, articles in the International Journal of Wilderness and applied work through our policy and government partnerships. For example, the working groups formed as a result of the North American agreement on wilderness conservation, signed at WILD9, the 9th World Wilderness Congress, incorporate marine wilderness.
Our colleague Eric Hoyt recently released the second edition of a publication very much at the forefront of work on marine protected areas. Marine Protected Areas for Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises: A world handbook for cetacean habitat conservation and planning (2011, Earthscan). Here is a brief review of the new publication:
The book reveals the inside story on existing and planned marine protected areas (MPAs), marine reserves, national parks and sanctuaries for whales and dolphins in national waters and on the high seas of the world. Follow ground-breaking efforts to protect the ocean with fin and sperm whales in the Mediterranean to the coldest part of the Antarctic, the marine wilderness of the Ross Sea, with minke and three kinds of killer whales. This story of pioneer conservation efforts in the marine realm is designed to be a key resource for scientists, research institutions, students, wildlife conservation agencies, MPA managers, and anyone who cares about whales and dolphins, and the special places where they live. Since most of the world’s MPAs promote whale and dolphin watching and responsible marine ecotourism, the book is also being used by keen cetacean watchers to find some of the best places to watch the 87 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises in 125 countries and territories around the world.