MSC Cruises’ Ocean Cay Recognized As ‘Hope Spot’ For Conservation
The private island Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, owned by MSC Cruises, has received the designation of a “Hope Spot” by Mission Blue. This recognition comes from the non-profit organization founded by oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, dedicated to preserving marine ecosystems. Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC Foundation Board Member, Executive Committee Chair, and Executive Chairman of the Cruise Division of MSC Group, has been chosen as the island’s Hope Spot Champion.
Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve now stands among Mission Blue’s collection of 154 Hope Spots worldwide. These designated areas hold significance for the health of the world’s oceans, with the shared objective of becoming Marine Protected Areas. The selection process for these spots involves evaluation by the Hope Spot Council, consisting of marine scientists and policy experts, ensuring that the chosen locations align with stringent criteria and address critical global marine conservation priorities.
Since MSC Cruises assumed ownership of Ocean Cay in 2015, the island has undergone a remarkable transformation following decades of industrial use and aragonite sand mining. Through a collaborative effort involving the Government of The Bahamas, renowned universities, marine scientists, and conservationists, MSC Cruises embarked on an ambitious restoration initiative to revive the island’s ecosystems.
Investments have led to significant achievements in the restoration project. The introduction of nearly 5,000 trees and 75,000 native plants, flowers, and shrubs has improved the island’s environment. The surrounding waters have shown signs of recovery, with thriving marine life, including loggerhead sea turtles, indicating improved ecosystem health. The recognition of Ocean Cay as a ‘Hope Spot’ highlights the crucial role that restored ecosystems, such as Ocean Cay, play in promoting biodiversity and contributing to the overall well-being of the world’s oceans.
The Marine Restoration Program encompasses an extensive area of 25 square miles, encompassing marine waters and ecosystems surrounding Ocean Cay. In 2019, the MSC Foundation initiated the Super Coral Program as an expansion of this program, specifically focusing on the restoration of the island’s coral reefs. Through scientific collaboration and advanced research, the Super Coral Program identifies resilient coral genotypes, known as “super corals,” that have naturally developed the ability to withstand temperature changes. The selected corals are strategically transplanted to foster the growth of more robust and resilient reefs capable of withstanding the adverse effects of climate change-induced heat events.
The MSC Foundation remains committed to advancing restoration efforts and raising awareness about the importance of ocean conservation on a global scale. This initiative, encompassing large-scale restoration activities and public education initiatives, highlights the MSC Foundation’s dedication to revitalizing ocean health, promoting biodiversity, and fostering a sustainable future for the planet’s marine ecosystems.
“This recognizes the comprehensive restoration efforts and commitment to protecting marine biodiversity,” Dr. Sylvia Earle, President and Chairman of Mission Blue, said. “Led by Pierfrancesco Vago, the restoration of Ocean Cay has been a multidisciplinary effort to re-establish the ecological balance in this limestone island and its surrounding marine estate. Ocean Cay will inform thousands of people weekly about the crucial importance of growing and outplanting thermally tolerant corals for marine conservation, ocean health and human wellbeing.”
“Being designated a Hope Spot is an important recognition for Ocean Cay Marine Reserve and helps focus attention on how we all have an important duty as caretakers of our Blue Planet,” Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC Foundation Board Member and Chair of the Executive Committee, and Executive Chairman of the Cruise Division of MSC Group, said. “That responsibility is why the scientific research and restoration efforts of our Super Coral Program aim not just to create resilient coral reefs around Ocean Cay and in The Bahamas, but to simultaneously contribute to conservation knowledge and initiatives worldwide. I thank Dr. Sylvia Earle and Mission Blue for their tireless efforts, which inspire us all to cherish and safeguard the rich biodiversity of our oceans.”
Mission Blue’s recognition further validates Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve and the MSC Foundation Super Coral Program as leaders in nature conservation initiatives, highlighting their pioneering contributions to marine conservation.
What are your thoughts on MSC Cruises’ and Mission Blue’s efforts to restore Ocean Cay? Let us know in the comments!
By Ethan Leckie