Looking for something upbeat to share?
This is a story about environmental heroism and conservation success. Plus, there's pictures of jumping devil rays. Can't beat that.
Aerial view of devil rays in Cabo Pulmo. Photos by Octavio Aburto-Oropeza/iLCS
There's nowhere quite like Cabo Pulmo. Measuring just 14 km by 5 km, this small patch of coast in the Gulf of California has been dubbed 'the 'most successful marine reserve in the world.' Established in 1995 largely at the behest of the 100 or so residents of a nearby village, it nearly became a victim of its own success, until the villagers once again interceded on its behalf.
For the first ten years of its existence, the reserve's existence made no measurable impact on the wildlife within its boundaries; after a decade or so, however, that all changed. Overall fish biomass in the reserve increased by 400 percent. Check out, for example, the aerial photograph above of devil rays. "You can't even really see from this photograph, but the rays are four or five deep in places," Grant Galland of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, co-author of a paper about the reserve, told me last year. "You couldn't possibly get an accurate count from underwater."
The rays are four or five deep in places.
Exactly why Cabo Pulmo has been so successful is not entirely clear. However, two factors of success, are quite clear. It was established, and is enforced, by local residents; and the few commercial activities that are permitted - tourism, fishing on the reserve's fringes - are small-scale. However, the lure of potential pesos soon proved too much for the commercial tourism industry, and specifically the Spanish company Hansa Urbana, which sought to built a mega-resort called 'Cabo Cortes.' The resort would have comprised a 3,655-room hotel, two golf courses, a marina, shopping centers, and a private airport, and would have consumed water equivalent to that used by 183,000 people daily for 30 years.
Cabo Pulmo: Where conservation and quality of life aren't mutually exclusive
The establishment of the reserve was not without its difficulties, notes Octavio Aburto-Oropeza, who took these photographs: "The people from Cabo Pulmo suffered. It was not easy. The transition to other employment sources, other than fisheries, the economic crisis, and the new regulations as part of the identity as a Marine Park represented great challenges, with high costs." However, they persevered, to the extent that they "now have a quality of life superior to that of any other artisanal fishing community in the Gulf of Mexico." So much so, in fact, that they, in concert with a variety of environmental NGOs, took the lead in actively opposing the development of Cabo Cortes, choosing long-term investment in their natural surroundings over the lure of potential short-term profit. That opposition proved successful when, earlier this month, Mexican President Felipe Calderon announced his government would not permit the building of the resort, determining that Cabo Pulmo is Mexico's most important reef and in need of full protection.
Tweeted Enric Sala of the National Geographic Society: "Despite popular pressure and president's decision, the real hero of this story is the local community."
It's been a busy couple weeks. We keep trying stuff, and learning lots. As always, we love to share. Here are some highlights from the last two weeks of the attention lab:
One of the biggest things to hit the internet two weeks ago was the #endfossilfuelsubsidies twitterstorm, orchestrated by a coalition of nonprofits interested in influencing the happenings at Rio+20. The hashtag campaign was so popular that there was more than one tweet per second that included #endfossilfuelsubsidies, and celebrities like Robert Redford, Stephen Fry and Mark Ruffalo were joining in the action.
Upwell saw the twitterstorm as a great opportunity to draw attention to the oceans, particularly since the focus was on climate change. One of the biggest effects of climate change is ocean acidification, a process that most are unaware of. Capitalizing on the popularity of the #endfossilfuelsubsidies campaign, Upwell created an image to amplify the hashtag while also elevating the issue of the ocean.
The image plays on the classic "This is your brain on drugs" PSA, and also clearly illustrates, in a simple way, the effects of climate change on the oceans.
We shared the image with people who were tweeting #endfossilfuelsubsidies, and also specifically targeted those who were drawing the connection between fossil fuel subsidies and ocean acidification.
The image has been loaded nearly 4000 times, and, due to retweets by organizations like 350 (who helped orchestrate the twitterstorm), tweets mentioning #oceanacidification had over 350,000 impressions.
Due to the image's simplicity, and also the ability to join in on an existing conversation, we were able to successfully elevate this message. We are constantly monitoring conversations about the ocean, but perhaps some of the most important conversations to monitor are those that are popular and have a tangential relationship with the ocean. The marine conservation sector's ability to catalyze ocean advocacy out of trending topics may just be a key pivot point that helps put oceans on the radar.
Aaron highlighted a couple weeks ago that there was a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the final filming and editing of a movie about the Midway Atoll. This film is about a third of the way through its funding goal of $100,000. Recognizing the ambition behind this challenge and the importance of the film's message, Upwell decided to reach out and try to help word spread about the Kickstarter campaign.
We are still in the midst of our outreach, but we have faith that in the final three weeks of the Kickstarter campaign, we will be able to help spread the word about the filmmakers' vision, as well as the travesty that has hit the seabirds and fish that have been devastated by ocean plastic.
More updates to come.
International Surf Day
Last Wednesday was International Surf Day. Building off our lessons from World Oceans Day, we created and shared content that would elevate the issues affecting our ocean during the time of elevated attention.
Our most effective tactic was sharing inspirational quotes on Twitter. We also created a Pinterest board of surfing and waves photos. Ultimately, our efforts helped to elevate the message of ocean-love within the surf community, but they were small in comparison to the successful efforts of the Surfrider Foundation. Upwell is constantly looking for ways to amplify - and not duplicate - the efforts of our peers in marine conservation.
Australia announced last week that it would establish “the world's largest network of marine reserves, which will ring the country and cover more than 3 million square kilometres of waters to protect reefs and marine life. … The massive expansion of marine reserves [will] include key waters such as the Coral Sea and pygmy blue whale habitats off the southern coast of Western Australia.”
The announcement resulted in a significant spike in the online conversation about MPAs, as you can see below. The conversation about MPAs is generally pretty quiet with about 200 social mentions a day, so a spike to 2,000 is pretty big.
Social mentions June 5-19, 2012 for Upwell's MPA keyword set (blue) and Australian Marine Reserves (orange.)
Aaron, Upwell's captain of data and monitoring, starts each morning by opening Radian6, where he's got a fancy dashboard that tracks social mentions of all the ocean topics we're keeping our eyes on.
Don't worry if this makes your head spin. It makes mine spin. That's why we keep Aaron around.
This morning, Aaron saw a huuuuge spike on the whale chart.
(sidenote: It looks like a fin. cool.)
What? Whales are so popular today!!! What is going on!?! Did the rainbow whale go viral? (sidenote: yes, it did, and we take all the credit.)
Aaron dove into the data. What were people saying?
Apparently he who must not be named decreed that twitter was down. Does the Twitter Fail Whale count as more attention for the ocean?
Here's a graph that shows how much of the whale conversation spike was due to the Twitter Fail Whale.
Morals of the story: not all whales created equal, Aaron is graph ninja.
World Oceans Day was June 8, and a multitude of organizations used the date to launch initiatives and awareness campaigns. IUCN launched a Marine World Heritage App for iPhones; MPAtlas launched; Smithsonian’s Ocean Portal hosted a live webcast (now archived) featuring Sylvia Earle; and Alexandra Cousteau broadcast a message from on board an Oceana vessel in the Baltic. Brussels’ famous Mannekin-Pis had a makeover for the day, as did New York’s Empire State Building. More interactively, several local organizations conducted beach clean-up programs, and 1World1Ocean organized a contest for students aged 12-18 explaining what the ocean means to them.
The Twitter hashtag #worldoceansday proved successful - perhaps surprisingly so - in moving the dial in online mentions and coverage of ocean issues, as this graph shows:
Social mentions in the U.S. May 18- June 15, 2012 for the Upwell "ocean" Keyword set (teal blue) , World Oceans Day (dark blue), and #worldoceansday (pale blue)
The 95,481 mentions of ocean on June 8 (23,554 of which were mentions of World Oceans Day) represented an impressive 41 percent increase over the average daily volume for the month of 67,708. “!!!” editorializes Upwell’s Aaron Muszalski
Take a minute to send a thank you email to the Ocean Project for kicking off this impressive effort. We’ll make it easy for you, email awesome World Oceans Day Coordinator Alyssa Isakower right now or tweet her thanks with tremendous ease.