Turning the Tide- page 3 | EcoCenter | Smithsonian
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(Eric Jaffe)

Turning the Tide

Our oceans are in trouble, says Nancy Knowlton. But it's not too late to do something about it

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(Continued from page 2)

There's real concern the white abalone could go extinct. The same goes for some shark species, some species of marine mammals and some corals. Once things get really rare, males and females can't find each other to mate. So even though there a few individuals left, they don't reproduce and eventually the population dwindles to extinction. Or, if things really get rare, other things take their place, so it's harder for them to build back up in the ecosystem.

Are there any ocean conservation success stories?

There are lots of waterways that are being cleaned up. Also, there are more marine protected areas, which are a big tool we have to manage things effectively. One-third of the Great Barrier Reef is now a no-take marine reserve. Similarly, the Northwest Hawaiian Islands have been brought into a major reserve system. And California now has a new reserve system. So people are really starting to effectively protect marine areas, which I think is probably one of the most important things we can do for the short term.

There's a lot to be done still. Some fisheries have started to come back, and some fisheries are much better managed than they used to be. It's slow getting people to do things, so the first step is for people to realize the problem. The public awareness of issues associated with climate change has increased enormously in the last five years. But that's the first step. Just being aware of the problem isn't going to solve it.

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