This explorer helps protect millions of square miles of ocean

With his Pristine Seas project, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala contributes to the creation of marine parks and reserves.

Enric Sala has made it his mission to save wildlife and habitat. In the past 10 years alone, thanks to his efforts and partnerships with governments around the world, an area half the size of Canada has been protected from all manner of human exploitation.

The reserves that marine ecologist Sala has helped establish aren’t on land but in the oceans. His Pristine Seas project, sponsored by the National Geographic Society, has been instrumental in getting more than two million square miles set aside—keeping untouched wild areas healthy and giving depleted ones a chance to recover.

Sala’s article this month recounts how Pristine Seas lent support to the creation of a protected marine park at the tip of Argentina. It’s next to waters that Chile designated as a park, and Sala believes it’s the largest contiguous transboundary protected ocean area in the world. Yet it’s not nearly enough. “Five percent of the ocean is protected,” he told me during a recent visit. “Science says half the ocean must be protected to make a real difference.”

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