The world's oceans are in trouble. They've become a dumping ground for pollutants; acidity levels are on the rise. 90 percent of the big fish have disappeared. Destructive fishing practices are killing countless numbers of marine mammals each year. Although environmental groups have done impressive work toward making the world greener, up until now the blue part of our planet -- 71 percent of the Earth's surface -- has been largely ignored.
Deep-ocean explorer and TED Prize winner Sylvia Earle is changing that. Earle has been at the frontier of deep ocean exploration for four decades. She's led over 70 expeditions and has logged more than 6,500 hours underwater. To this day she's walked deeper on the ocean floor, untethered, than any other human. A dedicated advocate for the health of the ocean, Time Magazine has called Earle "a hero for the planet."
The TED Prize awards its honorees with one wish to change the world. Just over one year ago, Earle made her wish at TED and asked us to use all the means at our disposal -- films, expeditions, the web and more -- to ignite public support for a global network of Marine Protected Areas -- hope spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet.
The first step in granting Sylvia Earle's wish is The Mission Blue Voyage. On April 6-10, TED will host a one-of-a-kind conference on the National Geographic Endeavor, sailing across the Galapagos Islands to raise awareness about the urgency of ocean conservation issues, and to call for governments to establish more Marine Protected Areas. TED is bringing together marine scientists, deep-sea explorers, technology innovators, policy makers, business leaders, environmentalists, activists, artists and celebrities for this epic adventure into the blue.
Today, less than one percent of the ocean is protected -- while over twelve percent of land is. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are defined as "areas where natural and/or cultural resources are given greater protection than the surrounding waters." Mission Blue's focus is to begin securing MPAs in a few crucial areas. Sylvia refers to these places as "hope spots," because, in her words, "If we can embrace them and protect them, there is hope -- not just for continuation of these wonderful, extraordinary places -- but there's hope then for humankind."
The goal of the Mission Blue conference is to create content that will change minds and shift perception of the vital importance of our ocean's health. TED will use its platform to inspire the diverse high-profile attendees (who have credible voices on these issues), to advocate for Marine Protected Areas and the urgency of ocean conservation, to spread ideas and information to the public, and to incite action and influence policy makers.
The voyage is only the beginning. The conference will serve as a launching pad for the larger Mission Blue Campaign to do what is only possible if everyone is on board: save the oceans. Public support is the first step in pressuring governments to secure protection. The talks from the Mission Blue Voyage will be released on TED.com and Mission-Blue.org.
We have invited The Huffington Post to join the voyage so that you can be with us every step of the way. Before we set sail, stay tuned this week for guest blogs from Sylvia and other ocean experts who will provide deep insight into why these issues are so critical. From April 6-10, visit The Huffington Post Green section for real-time coverage of the voyage, including interviews, photos and more. Follow our Twitter account, @MissionBlue, and watch for tweets tagged #missionblue. In the meantime, we urge you to learn more about the oceans and become a fan of Sylvia on Facebook. Join us.