International marine conservation nonprofit Mission Blue has named the Great Lakes the first and only freshwater Hope Spot – special places across the globe, championed by local organizations and conservationists, that are scientifically recognized as critical to the health of the ocean. The Great Lakes joins a suite of 151 Hope Spots recognized and established by Mission Blue over the last 12 years, all of which represent marine environments. Championing the nomination and application effort was Chicago’s John G. Shedd Aquarium with support from more than 24 Great Lakes organizations across the region.
Pioneer oceanographer and explorer Dr. Sylvia Earle, who founded Mission Blue and currently serves as its President and Chairman, posed a challenge to Shedd Aquarium in April 2022 to consider the Great Lakes for designation, in part, due to the unique connectivity they share with marine environments (The St. Lawrence River flows from Lake Ontario and pours out to the Atlantic Ocean) and human health.
“The Great Lakes represent both the figurative and the literal heart of the North American water system,” Dr. Earle stated. “A source of water for over 40 million people and more than 3,500 plant and animal species, many of which are unique to the Great Lakes, the inclusion of this critically important natural area as a Hope Spot will highlight the connection and significance of protecting inland habitats, as we really understand that the whole aquatic world; inland waters and the ocean beyond are one interconnected system.”
Dr. Earle added that recognition as a Hope Spot means the Great Lakes will benefit from additional scientific advisory, communication and community engagement support from Mission Blue. Organizations that contribute to conservation in the Great Lakes will also have access to Mission Blue’s growing list of partners, expanding the opportunity for future scientific and policy-focused collaborations.
Mission Blue, Shedd Aquarium and Great Lakes partner organizations encourage the public to learn more here and sign up to stay connected to Hope Spot efforts and receive ways to participate and act as champions of hope for the Great Lakes.
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