MSC’s Ocean Cay Declared Mission Blue ‘Hope Spot”
MSC Cruises’ private island in the Bahamas, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, has been officially designed a “Hope Spot” by Mission Blue. Ocean Cay joins Mission Blue’s global network of 154 Hope Spots, which are recognized as places critical to ocean health with the ultimate goal of achieving the status of Marine Protected Areas. Mission Blue is a non-profit organization founded by renowned oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle to promote the protection of marine ecosystems and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet.
“This recognizes the comprehensive restoration efforts and commitment to protecting marine biodiversity,” Dr. Sylvia Earle, president and chairman of Mission Blue, said in a news release.
“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,” she said.
“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,” she said.
When MSC Cruises took responsibility of Ocean Cay in 2015, the island had suffered from decades of industrial use, including aragonite sand mining. The company embarked on an ambitious restoration initiative, collaborating with the Government of The Bahamas, leading universities, marine scientists and conservationists to restore the island’s ecosystems.
“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 in a news release.
“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,” Vago said.
The Marine Restoration Program covers 25 square miles of marine waters and ecosystems around Ocean Cay. It was expanded in 2019 when the MSC Foundation started its Super Coral Program to restore the island’s coral reefs.
Through substantial investment, the restoration project has already achieved significant progress. Nearly 5,000 trees and 75,000 indigenous plants, flowers and shrubs have been planted on the island, revitalizing the terrestrial environment.
Meanwhile, the health of the surrounding waters is demonstrated by flourishing marine life, including the presence of loggerhead sea turtles. The “Hope Spot” recognition shines a light on the critical role that restored ecosystems, like Ocean Cay, play in enhancing biodiversity and improving the overall health of our oceans.
This initiative harnesses scientific collaboration and advanced research to identify coral genotypes known as “super corals,” which have evolved to better withstand thermal stress. They are then strategically outplanted to create hardier reefs which are more resilient to the extreme heat events of climate changes.
The MSC Foundation is committed to furthering this work and continuing to raise awareness of the urgent need for ocean conservation efforts worldwide. This large-scale restoration and public information effort underscores the MSC Foundation’s commitment to restoring ocean health, enriching biodiversity and fostering a sustainable future for our Blue Planet.
“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,” Vago said.
Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch
- Ocean Cay had suffered from decades of industrial use before MSC Cruises began conservation efforts.
- Nearly 5,000 trees and 75,000 native plants have been planted on the island.
- MSC ships can dock at the Ocean Cay pier and passengers can walk ashore.
- Flowers bloom abundantly on Ocean Cay.
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