Deep off the California Coast lie magnificent underwater mountains known as seamounts. Rising thousands of feet off the seafloor, these seamounts support thriving communities of shallow, pelagic and deep-sea denizens as well as vibrant kelp forests. Species that call these environments home include endangered fin and blue whales, white abalone, anglerfish, sea jellies and rare corals. Some of these places also provide outstanding opportunities for sport fishing, deepwater diving, and even big-wave surfing. Although offshore and relatively far from coastal populations, seamounts are vulnerable to human impacts like mining, oil drilling, overfishing and climate change.
In recognition of the immense biological value they possess and the need for long-term protection, Mission Blue recently declared the California seamounts as the newest “Hope Spot.” The announcement took place on Tuesday, May 14th, 2019, at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, California. Dr. Sylvia Earle, founder of Mission Blue, and world famous ocean explorer delivered the keynote remarks. In her speech, Earle described how when she won the TED prize in 2009 and was given a chance to make a wish big enough to change the world, her wish was to establish a network of “hope areas” in the sea large enough to save and restore the blue heart of the planet.
With only 1% of the deep-sea habitats off California permanently protected and less than 6% of the entire ocean protected in any way, we must take the opportunity today to safeguard these sites before it’s too late. Hope Spots are one of many tools that will allow us to plan for the future by identifying new areas needing protection and/or providing extra layers of protection to existing protected areas.