HONDURAS, July 18, 2011 – Today, Dr. Sylvia Earle, world-renowned oceanographer, National Geographic Explorer-In-Residence, founder of Mission Blue and 2009 TED Prize Winner, joins a team of scientists, government officials and award-winning photojournalists on a week-long expedition to the Swan Islands and Mesoamerican Reef, “the Galapagos Islands of the Caribbean.” Located 90 miles off the coast of Honduras, the Swan Islands are situated at the southern boundary of the Mesoamerican Reef – the Atlantic Ocean’s largest coral reef and a “hope spot” as identified by Dr. Earle and her team.
Led by the Sylvia Earle Alliance (SEA) and the Harte Research Institute (HRI) at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, the Mission Blue expedition aims to raise global awareness of the critical importance of the Mesoamerican Reef and surrounding areas to the overall health of the world’s ocean as well as catalyze support for the official declaration of this “hope spot” as a marine protected area (MPA).
“Hope spots are special places like the Mesoamerican Reef that are critical to the health of the ocean, Earth's blue heart,” said Sylvia Earle. “Our goal in exploring the Mesoamerican Reef this week is to work with the government and the people of Honduras to help protect this vital part of the Caribbean.”
Using the unique hashtag #hopespots, Earle will be posting real-time content from the expedition, including photos, blogs and video, on Twitter @blue rules and on her Facebook page Friends of Dr. Sylvia Earle, allowing the public to join the team on a virtual expedition of the Mesoamerican Reef and the Swan Islands.
This expedition is part of Mission Blue, an initiative aimed at establishing a global network of MPAs. An MPA is an area of the ocean where human activities are more strictly regulated than the surrounding waters – similar to national parks on land that have safeguarded key areas of biodiversity from environmental degradation for many years. Earle coined the term “hope spots” to describe existing MPAs as well as target regions in need of official MPA status.
Like many areas of the ocean, the Mesoamerican Reef is at risk of permanent environmental degradation from factors like climate change and overfishing, threatening the local communities and economies that depend on the Reef for their livelihoods.
The Swan Islands expedition includes scientists from HRI, National Geographic photographers, including award-winning, marine-focused photojournalist Brian Skerry, as well as local scientists and government officials from surrounding regions who specialize in reefs, coral and sharks. The SEA team will be working closely with these experts in their various fields to closely document the biodiversity of the Mesoamerican Reef to educate and excite the public about this hope spot and make the case for its protection.
For real-time updates and content, follow Earle and the expedition on Facebook at Friends of Dr. Sylvia Earle, on Twitter @bluerules and on the Sylvia Earle Alliance website blog – http://blog.sylviaearlealliance.org/.
About Mission Blue
Mission Blue is supported by a number of partners, including the Sylvia Earle Alliance, The National Geographic Society, the Waitt Foundation, along with strategic government, private, scientific, and conservation partners—including the TEDPrize, Google, and IUCN. Visit the Mission Blue website online at http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/missionblue.