National Geographic : 2012 Feb
EXPLORERS JOURNAL Founded in 1888, the National Geographic Society has added to our knowledge of earth, sea, and sky by supporting more than 10,000 explorations and research projects. Readers' member- ship dues make this support possible. • PHOTO: JOSEP CLOTAS Enric Sala MISSION To restore the oceans' health and protect pristine areas Ocean Advocate As a child, I learned to snorkel before I knew how to swim. My first clear memory is of seeing a red starfish one summer off Spain's Costa Brava. My family's experience with fish was mostly on the stove---they ran a restaurant. But I watched the documentaries of Jacques-Yves Cousteau and dreamed of being a diver on his Calypso. I assumed as a child that big fish belonged only to exotic, tropical seas. I didn't see them in the Mediterranean I knew. But years later, in that same sea's Medes Islands Marine Reserve, I finally saw all the fish I'd never seen before: sea bream, corvina, grouper. I saw all that had been lost to overfishing and pollution and realized that the whole Mediterranean must once have been like this. That is when I decided to work on creating marine reserves. These protected areas benefit fish and people. After many years sea life can recover to levels similar to those in pristine areas. Fishermen gain too. At one Kenya fishery their incomes have doubled because of marine reserves. In recent years I've helped inspire leaders to create marine protected areas off Chile, Costa Rica, Belize, and the United States. But more needs to be done to restore ocean health: We need to better manage our unsustain- able fisheries, improve aquaculture, and enforce marine-pollution laws. My happiest moments are under- water, especially in places with large predators. If there are predators, it means there is more of everything, and I know the waters are healthy. ---Enric Sala Oceanographer Enric Sala---a National Geographic explorer-in-residence--- encounters an endangered dusky grouper.