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Friday, February 23, 2024


June 19, 2001 – Just weeks after opening an office in the Virgin Islands, one of the nation's largest marine conservation groups has changed its name and announced a sweeping proposal to increase undersea protection efforts.
The Ocean Conservancy — formerly the Center for Marine Conservation — is pushing the creation of six "ocean wilderness" sites.
"We have an area beneath the waves that is 20 percent larger than the entire land area of the United States," Roger Rufe, conservancy president, said in a release. "Our ocean territory is the 'other America' — one that we don't protect or value enough. As a nation, we must value our oceans with the same conservation ethic that has saved so much of our land from destruction."
The National Wilderness Preservation System now encompasses 643 acres, or nearly 5 percent of all the land in the United States. The Ocean Conservancy wants to protect at least 5 percent of U.S. waters and key international sites as ocean wilderness.
It is proposing five U.S. sites and one in the Caribbean: areas within Glacier Bay and Prince William Sound in Alaska; the northwestern Hawaiian Islands; the Channel Islands off the sourthern California coast; Florida's Dry Tortugas; and the San Andres Archipelago east of Nicaragua.
"The underwater world is full of mountains taller than Mt. Everest, canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon, volcanoes, geysers, and wide-open plains," Rufe said. But the health of the oceans is rapidly deteriorating, the release stated: "From water pollution to oil drilling, from commercial fishing to seaborne shipping, from vessel grounding to invasive species, human activities have fundamentally altered the natural state of our oceans."
Based in Washington, D.C., and in existence as the Center for Marine Conservation for three decades, the Ocean Conservancy has regional offices in Alaska, California and Maine and field offices on St. John and in southern California, Virginia and the Florida Keys.
For more information about the organization and its goals, visit the www.oceanconservancy.org web site. The St. John office is staffed by Nick Drayton. He may be reached by calling 693-7012.

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