Torre Cerrano (Cerrano Tower), Atri, Abruzzo, Italy (XVI sec. - 16th c. AC)

This sighting tower is part of a defense system of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies (basically, the whole Southern Italy) against the Saracen pirates recurring raids.

The area in front of the tower is now a marine protected area and a tourist destination.

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Happy 100th birthday, National Park Service!

Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and Olympic National Park, which share a border. Photo: Karlyn Langjahr/NOAA

This week, we join the rest of the nation in wishing the National Park Service, America’s best idea, a very happy 100th birthday!

A little known fact about the National Park Service is that 88 of its 412 units are coastal, Great Lakes and ocean sites. The National Park System protects island parks like Acadia, Dry Tortugas and Virgin Islands, national seashores like Cape Cod, Padre Island and Gulf Islands, and historic sites like Kalaupapa, New Bedford Whaling and Sitka.

Channel Islands National Park and National Marine Sanctuary, which overlap. Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

More than 30 of these sites are part of the national marine protected area system – the same system that includes the National Marine Sanctuary System. In many places, national parks and monuments are near, adjacent to or overlap with national marine sanctuaries. National parks and national marine sanctuaries have a long history of working together to preserve special places for the education and enjoyment of the American people.

Dry Tortugas National Park and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which share a border. Photo: Karrie Carnes/NOAA

The sanctuary system was founded in 1972, just about a hundred years after the first national park, Yellowstone, was established. But both programs share the same passionate commitment to their communities, nation and planet. All of these places protect our natural and cultural heritage, preserve scenic land and seascapes, maintain areas for science and knowledge, and serve as destinations for the public to visit and enjoy and learn. These are places held in trust for future Americans. Here’s how you can help.


Covering more than 46,000 square kilometres (over 18,000 square miles),  that will safeguard whales, sea turtles, and other marine species inhabiting the country’s coastal and offshore ecosystems – a network of marine parks covering about 23% of Gabon’s territorial waters and EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone).

The announcement was made by His Excellency The President of Gabon Ali Bongo Ondimba in Sydney as the world’s conservationists gather for the 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress.

Gabon will become the first Central African Nation to protect its marine resources with the establishment of a marine protected area network,” said John Robinson, Wildlife Conservation Society Executive Vice President for Conservation and Science and IUCN Vice President. “This announcement by President Ali Bongo Ondimba is a great way to start the IUCN World Parks Congress which aims to show that protected areas are vital to securing Earth’s biodiversity.”

  • more: NewsWise
  • Photo: Enric Sala/ Nat Geo

Malaysia just established a one million hectare marine park

Malaysia has just established the biggest Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the country. The Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) occupies 1m hectares (2.47m acres) of seascape off the northern tip of Sabah province in Borneo, a region containing the second largest concentration of coral reefs in Malaysia as well as other important habitats like mangroves, sea grass beds and productive fishing grounds.

It is also home to scores of thousands of people who depend on its resources – from artisanal fishing communities to the commercial fisheries sector – making it in many ways a microcosm of the entire Coral Triangle bioregion, where environmental protection must be balanced with the needs of growing coastal populations.

It’s taken nearly 13 years of consultation, strategic planning and negotiation to get the new Tun Mustapha MPA officially gazetted, thanks to its sheer size and the complexity of developing an action plan that could satisfy local and commercial interests in an ecologically sustainable way.

The Park is pioneering a mixed-use approach to marine conservation, where local communities and the fishing industry can continue to fish in designated zones they themselves have helped select in consultation with Malaysia’s Sabah Parks department and NGOs including the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which has helped spearhead the project. This is vital in a fishery that generate around 100 tonnes of catch per day.

Overfishing, blast fishing and the use of sodium cyanide to capture high value reef species like Grouper for the Live Reef Fish for Food Trade have had a major impact on the ecosystems off northern Sabah, which are home to 250 species of hard corals and around 360 species of fish as well as endangered green turtles and dugongs. 

In September 2012, a research team comprising 30 marine scientists and volunteers found that around 57% of the reefs analysed were in excellent or good condition. But the researchers also found abundant evidence of negative human impacts, including blast fishing (a total of 15 bombs were heard during the trip), overfishing and pollution. Iconic species like sharks and turtles were conspicuously absent; when megafauna such as these are missing, it indicates that an ecosystem is under pressure.

The data confirmed the urgent need for a sustainable management approach to preserve existing biodiversity and to allow depleted fish stocks and damaged coral to recover. Areas with minimal damage can recover in as little as three to five years, according to WWF Malaysia. Areas with more significant damage will require longer – five to ten years or more.

“The establishment of Tun Mustapha Park will boost the conservation and biodiversity of this uniquely rich natural environment,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International. “The Park’s gazettement should act as a model and an inspiration for marine conservation in the Coral Triangle and worldwide,” he added.

Tun Mustapha has huge and as yet largely untapped potential for nature based tourism development. Besides diving, the area is replete with beautiful white sand beaches, pretty islands (more than 50 in all) and stunning seascapes. There are a number of key turtle nesting areas, offering opportunities for “voluntourism.”

The challenge now is to try and make it all work. As the Coral Triangle and reefs around the world face unprecedented levels of coral bleaching and plummeting fish stocks, effective, replicable marine management models that work for both people and ecosystems will be critical.