Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve Declared Mission Blue ‘Hope Spot’ in Recognition of Ongoing Conservation Efforts
Geneva, Switzerland – July 12, 2023 – MSC Cruises’ private island in the Bahamas, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, has been officially designated a “Hope Spot” by Mission Blue, the non-profit organization founded by renowned oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle to promote the protection of marine ecosystems. Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC Foundation Board Member and Executive Committee Chair, and Executive Chairman of the Cruise Division of MSC Group, has also been selected as the island’s Hope Spot Champion.
With this prestigious recognition, Ocean Cay joins Mission Blue’s global network of 154 Hope Spots, which are recognized as places critical to ocean health with the ultimate goal of achieving the status of Marine Protected Areas. Nominations are carefully evaluated by the marine scientists and policy experts on the Hope Spot Council, ensuring the final selection is both rigorous and reflective of global marine conservation needs.
When MSC Cruises took responsibility for Ocean Cay in 2015, the island had suffered from decades of industrial use, including aragonite sand mining. The company embarked on an ambitious restoration initiative, collaborating with the Government of The Bahamas, leading universities, marine scientists, and conservationists to restore the island’s ecosystems.
Through substantial investment, the restoration project has already achieved significant progress. Nearly 5,000 trees and 75,000 indigenous plants, flowers and shrubs have been planted on the island, revitalizing the terrestrial environment. Meanwhile, the health of the surrounding waters is demonstrated by flourishing marine life, including the presence of loggerhead sea turtles. The ‘Hope Spot’ recognition shines a light on the critical role that restored ecosystems, like Ocean Cay, play in enhancing biodiversity and improving the overall health of our oceans.
The Marine Restoration Program covers 25 square miles of marine waters and ecosystems around Ocean Cay. It was expanded in 2019 when the MSC Foundation started its Super Coral Program to restore the island’s coral reefs. This initiative harnesses scientific collaboration and advanced research to identify coral genotypes known as “super corals,” which have evolved to better withstand thermal stress. They are then strategically outplanted to create hardier reefs which are more resilient to the extreme heat events of climate change.
The MSC Foundation is committed to furthering this work and continuing to raise awareness of the urgent need for ocean conservation efforts worldwide. This large-scale restoration and public information effort underscores the MSC Foundation’s commitment to restoring ocean health, enriching biodiversity and fostering a sustainable future for our Blue Planet.
Dr. Sylvia Earle, President and Chairman of Mission Blue, expressed her excitement about the designation, stating: “This recognizes the comprehensive restoration efforts and commitment to protecting marine biodiversity. Led by Pierfrancesco Vago, the restoration of Ocean Cay has been a multidisciplinary effort to re-establish the ecological balance in this limestone island and its surrounding marine estate. Ocean Cay will inform thousands of people weekly about the crucial importance of growing and outplanting thermally tolerant corals for marine conservation, ocean health and human wellbeing.“
Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC Foundation Board Member and Chair of the Executive Committee, and Executive Chairman of the Cruise Division of MSC Group, responded: “Being designated a Hope Spot is an important recognition for Ocean Cay Marine Reserve and helps focus attention on how we all have an important duty as caretakers of our Blue Planet.
That responsibility is why the scientific research and restoration efforts of our Super Coral Program aim not just to create resilient coral reefs around Ocean Cay and in The Bahamas, but to simultaneously contribute to conservation knowledge and initiatives worldwide. I thank Dr. Sylvia Earle and Mission Blue for their tireless efforts, which inspire us all to cherish and safeguard the rich biodiversity of our oceans.”
This new acknowledgement reaffirms the status of Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve and the MSC Foundation Super Coral Program as frontrunners in nature conservation efforts, underscoring their pioneering role in marine conservation.
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ABOUT THE MSC FOUNDATION:
The non-profit MSC Foundation implements the MSC Group’s marine conservation, humanitarian and sustainable development commitments worldwide, utilizing MSC’s global reach and unique knowledge of the sea to protect and nurture our blue planet, its peoples and our shared cultural heritage.
Concentrating on four areas – the Environment, Community Support, Education and Emergency Relief – the Foundation promotes the protection and sustainable management of ecosystems, empowers vulnerable communities around the world to realize their full potential, supports equitable and inclusive quality education to foster enduring individual and collective development, and helps disaster-struck populations toward recovery.
The Foundation works to achieve this independently and with dedicated partners: independently, by leveraging MSC Group engagement in designing and managing projects, connecting communities, raising awareness and mobilizing the financial support of thousands of people, and together with trusted partners selected for their strong innovative vision or track record for effective action.
About Mission Blue
Mission Blue inspires action to explore and protect the ocean. Led by legendary oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, Mission Blue is uniting a global coalition to inspire an upwelling of public awareness, access and support for a worldwide network of marine protected areas – Hope Spots.
Under Dr. Earle’s leadership, the Mission Blue team implements communications campaigns that elevate Hope Spots to the world stage through documentaries, social media, traditional media and innovative tools like Esri ArcGIS. Currently, the Mission Blue alliance includes more than 250 respected ocean conservation groups and like-minded organizations, from large multinational companies to individual scientific teams doing important research.
Additionally, Mission Blue supports the work of conservation NGOs that share the mission of building public support for ocean protection. With the concerted effort and passion of people and organizations around the world, Hope Spots can become a reality and form a global network of marine protected areas large enough to restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet.
About Dr. Sylvia Earle:
Sylvia Earle is President and Chairman of Mission Blue / The Sylvia Earle Alliance. She is a National Geographic Society Explorer in Residence, and is called Her Deepness by the New Yorker and the New York Times, Living Legend by the Library of Congress, and first Hero for the Planet by Time Magazine. She is an oceanographer, explorer, author and lecturer with experience as a field research scientist, government official, and director for several corporate and non-profit
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