Pristine Seas

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a marine protected area (MPA)?

Marine protected areas are special places in the ocean designated to help protect and restore marine life and habitat, much like national parks protect wildlife and habitat on land. MPAs can also protect cultural resources like shipwrecks and archaeological sites and sustain and rebuild fish populations.

What are the major problems threatening the health of our ocean?

Overfishing, marine pollution, and the effects of climate change on the ocean (which impacts the temperature and chemistry of these fragile ecosystems) are the three major threats to the health of our oceans.

How do you determine that an ecosystem is pristine?

Several factors go into determining how pristine a place is. These include the level of human activity in the area, the amount of living coral on the seafloor, the number of individual fish, and the different sizes and species present. Our research has shown that human impact is so intense and widespread that we lack even a baseline for what a truly pristine area would look like. Each expedition brings us closer to understanding how the ocean appeared and functioned before extensive human impact.

What is the role of National Geographic?

National Geographic conducts scientific research to learn more about our pristine seas, prepares documentaries to educate the public, works with world leaders to protect the ocean, and brings together partners to monitor the sites over time.

What is the time line for this project?

Pristine Seas seeks to protect the last wild places in the ocean over the next three years.

What are some examples of success?

The Pristine Seas project, along with key partners, has helped to inspire country leaders to create eight large reserves totaling over 3.1 million square kilometers.

What does it take to restore an ecosystem?

First, and most importantly, we need to understand what is happening now. That is why National Geographic conducts these expeditions: to learn more about an ecosystem, to study it, and to report back on its health. An ecosystem is a bit like a bank account. Right now, we’re overdrawing on that account with too much fishing and too much pollution. That’s why marine protection works: It allows the account to build back up while, at the same time, developing a long-term plan for its use.

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