Wild Ocean Spaces

Today, with a sense of urgency and some impressive partners, National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project begins a bold new effort to save the last wild places in the oceans (read the full press release). Time for these places is running out. The threats are well-known–overfishing, pollution, and climate change–and are very hard to eradicate.

This is why the Society is taking action. Founded 126 years ago by visionary scientists and businessmen, the Society has been dedicated to inspiring the public to care about the planet. Our forefathers worked to create the first national parks in the U.S., and their successes have meant that national treasures like Yellowstone’s Old Faithful and Yosemite’s Half Dome remain intact for posterity.

But oceans are harder–they are owned by everyone and no one. Conserving them requires more than just a purchase transaction. For the last five years we have worked to develop an approach that has proven successful so far. We have completed 11 expeditions, and with the hard work of many partners, the governments of the United States, Gabon, Chile, Costa Rica, and Kiribati have taken actions to permanently protect 400,000 square kilometers of ocean habitat and resources.

A School of Parrotfish at Astrolabe Reef in New Caledonia. (Photo by Enric Sala)
A school of parrotfish cruise Astrolabe Reef in New Caledonia during the Pristine Seas expedition there. (Photo by Enric Sala)

Now we are ready to expand on these successes and go bigger and bolder. We have an ambitious goal–20 new marine reserves, covering more than 2 million square kilometers, where commercial fishing and mining are permanently banned.

We will span the globe, from the Arctic to the South Pacific to find the best places in the ocean that remain. We will explore them, document why they are special, capture them in beautiful pictures, and tell their stories. We will then work with willing local communities and national governments to help them to conserve these places. We hope that our 126 years of experience and the support of our readers, viewers, and members all over the world will give those who have the power to conserve these places the inspiration and courage to do what it takes.

I joined the Society because I want to be a part of this quest. I am determined to change the world by saving wild ocean spaces for future generations. I am thrilled that we are already poised to have our first new area protected. The President is expected soon to announce an expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands National Monument to create the largest marine reserve ever. I could not be prouder of our country and this president, and of the Society for all that we did to make the case for protection. But we have much more to do, and no time to waste. You can follow our progress at www.pristineseas.org.

Changing Planet


Monica Medina is the Senior Director for International Ocean Policy at the National Geographic Society. She is determined to help save endangered wildlife and the last wild places in the ocean.