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Rolex Restores Our Oceans With Mission Blue

Rolex Restores Our Oceans With Mission Blue

Dr Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue, a Rolex Perpetual Planet Initiative partner, unveils the achievements of the Galápagos Marine Reserve on its 25th anniversary and the non-profit organisation’s latest developments.

Since the early 20th century, Rolex’s precision timing instruments have been relied upon by intrepid explorers when they traversed the globe’s most extreme landscapes and climates. As the renowned ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau once said, “People protect what they love,” the explorers’ passion for Earth’s wonders led them to recognise the urgency of preserving natural ecosystems on land, in the air, and in the seas.

Advocating for the latter, Dr Sylvia Earle, a prominent oceanographer and Rolex Testimonee, stands as one of the early proponents of the conservation of marine ecosystems. A global authority on this subject for over four decades, her work spans collaborations with organisations such as National Geographic, Ocean Elders, and Google Earth.

Dr Sylvia Earle, Rolex Testimonee and founder of Mission Blue.
Dr Sylvia Earle, Rolex Testimonee and founder of Mission Blue.

Mission Blue

In 2009, Dr Earle founded Mission Blue, which works with local communities and governments to create ‘Hope Spots’. These protected areas shield marine life from human activities, allowing ecosystems to regenerate. With 148 Hope Spots worldwide, the speed at which these environments revive is truly remarkable. In alignment with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, Mission Blue aims to protect 30 per cent of the world’s oceans by 2030 and 50% by 2050. Dr Earle notes, “Protecting 30 per cent of the ocean is a good start toward embracing all of the ocean with care, as if our lives depend on it, because they do.”

Dr Sylvia Earle, Rolex Testimonee and founder of Mission Blue.
Dr Sylvia Earle dives among the reef wonders of Galápagos Islands Hope Spot.

In 2014, Rolex initiated its partnership with Mission Blue and, in 2019, launched the Perpetual Planet Initiative to raise awareness and action in support of the organisation’s objectives. With Dr Earle as its Testimonee, Rolex also supported Hope Spot champions Sandra Bessudo (for Malpelo) and Vreni Häussermann (for the Chilean Fjords) through grants in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

DeepSee submersible
Dr Sylvia Earle and Salomé Buglass of the Charles Darwin Foundation (left) descend in the DeepSee submersible in search of deep-sea kelp that may be new to science.

Galápagos Marine Reserve

The Galápagos Islands, one of Mission Blue’s first Hope Spots, has been a marine reserve since 1998, covering 133,000 square kilometres of the surrounding waters. The delicate ecosystems of this region, teeming with diverse wildlife, require special care due to its number of residents, visitors, and tourists. Marking the Galápagos Marine Reserve’s 25th anniversary this year, Dr Earle and a team of scientists embarked on an expedition to assess its ecosystem and identify further conservation opportunities and challenges.

Galápagos Marine Reserve
A green sea turtle, surrounded by fish in the waters off Wolf Island, part of the expanded Galápagos Marine Reserve.

A crucial aspect of the expedition was the revelation of often-overlooked biodiversity within the Galápagos waters. Utilising advanced techniques like environmental DNA analysis, the team discovered a proliferation of life with DNA sequences not previously identified. The existence of deep-water kelp forests, found during a previous submersible expedition, is believed to be a critical factor in the region’s rich biodiversity. Additionally, the expedition tracked the movement of large marine species, including shark migrations from Costa Rica and beyond.

Alex Hearn
Alex Hearn, professor of marine biology at Universidad San Francisco de Quito and co-champion for the Galápagos Islands Hope Spot, helped establish an international network of receivers that detect tagged marine animals travelling through the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

Looking Ahead

Two key figures in the expedition, marine biologist Alex Hearn and conservationist Manuel Yepez, are champions of the Galápagos Hope Spot. Their work includes locating and tagging marine life and tracking their movements using a network of receivers along the Eastern Tropical Pacific. Thanks to their efforts, a marine corridor for safe passage has been established, spanning Ecuador, Panama, Colombia, and Costa Rica.

Manuel Yepez
Manuel Yepez, conservationist and Mission Blue co-champion for the Galápagos Islands Hope Spot, locates and tags marine life around the islands.

The imperative for international cooperation in marine protection is evident, as marine life knows no borders. Establishing Hope Spots holds great potential, improving yields for the fishing industry and benefiting the economies of cooperating countries. Dr Earle urges conservationists to “think like an ocean” and acknowledge the deep interconnectivity of marine ecosystems. To support marine life proliferation, countries must develop more protected waterways, such as the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor.

Alex Hearn
Alex Hearn records shark sightings in the waters of the Galápagos Islands.

From the Sargasso Sea to the Azores and beyond, Mission Blue’s Hope Spots demonstrate the intricate interconnectedness of our oceans. Preserving marine biodiversity while promoting sustainable maritime activities is achievable, and the Perpetual Planet project is a reminder that our world transcends borders, emphasising the collective responsibility to safeguard the perpetuity of our planet. This is especially true when it comes to the oceans. We mustn’t forget the water cycle and the life cycle are one.

Galápagos Islands Hope Spot
A whale shark in the inky blue waters of the Galápagos Islands Hope Spot.

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Rolex, Perpetual Planet, Mission Blue