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Leaders Gather in Monaco to Promote Marine Protection

European national leaders and environment ministers have gathered in Monaco to discuss the need for more marine protected areas and other strategies to conserve life in the oceans.

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National Geographic Executive Vice President for Mission Programs Terry Garcia addresses European environment leaders about the United States system of marine protected areas (MPAs) at the Monaco Blue Initiative meeting yesterday. Oceanographer and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle and HRH Prince Albert II of Monaco are seated to his left. The panel was moderated by Enric Sala, who helped to create this first meeting of Mediterranean leaders to discuss the potential for MPA protection, and followed the premier screening of National Geographic's film Secrets of the Mediterranean at Monaco's Oceanographic Museum.By Enric Sala I'm in Monaco with several of my National Geographic colleagues participating in a meeting of national leaders--prime ministers, presidents, ministers of the environment--convened by Prince Albert to discuss marine protected areas. It's called the Monaco Blue Initiative, and all of these leaders have come here to talk about ocean conservation. This is a first. In addition to the political leaders, conservation organizations and several ocean champions, including conservationists and scientists, are on hand. I hope that together we can inspire the leaders to do more for ocean conservation. That's the goal: Inform leaders about the need for more ocean protection, and inspire them to follow through. We want to show them that ocean conservation is not a luxury or a sacrifice, but something that provides economic and social benefits. It is far better than the current situation where we are overfishing everywhere. I hope that some of these leaders will return to their countries inspired to create more and larger protected areas. If we are able to accomplish that, this meeting would be a total success. The Mediterranean is one of the most overfished seas on the planet. Since I was a little kid growing up in Spain, I've been swimming and diving--and not seeing much marine life. The exception has been in marine reserves that are well protected. There, marine life has come back, and you can see abundant large fish such as huge groupers--three feet long and more--that can be 40 or 50 years old. Marine reserves are the best hope for the ocean. They're what keep me going. I'll share more updates from the meeting soon.

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The March issue of National Geographic magazine's Spanish edition includes the cover story "Mediterranean Sea: A Pure State," which will also appear in a number of other European editions of the magazine. "Secrets of the Mediterranean," premiering next month on the Nat Geo Wild channel, traces the adventures of Pierre-Yves Cousteau and Enric Sala beginning in Marseille, France, and moving across the western Mediterranean where they dive in the spots where the legendary Jacques-Yves Cousteau first filmed. Follow Enric Sala's tweets from the Monaco Blue Initiative meeting on Twitter. Photos by Lucie McNeil

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