Protecting these areas preserves them as important baselines in the understanding of the true magnitude of human impacts on ocean life, as well as the evaluation of the efficiency of management and conservation action, and represents an important step toward improving the condition of the ocean to be inherited by future generations. However, conservation efforts are very often rejected by local populations and country authorities, who fear a loss in revenues from the banning of fishing and other limiting regulations.
Blancpain's unwavering five-year support (2011-2016) helped the program become one of the world’s leading ocean conservation initiatives. During this period, PSE undertook fourteen expeditions to study a variety of marine ecosystems, from shallow coral reefs to deep seamounts, from the Russian Arctic to the South Pacific’s Coral Sea through tropical archipelagos and temperate seas harboring underwater forests of giant kelp.
During and following each expedition, the PSE team worked with local communities and used original economic arguments and stunning imagery to show that diving tourism attracted by thriving biodiversity in protected areas, as well as dramatically increased fishing catches around marine reserves actually boost economic activity. This win-win approach combined with the positive message that it is not too late to act - the message that if protected the ocean can recover – has proved very efficient. As a result of this positive approach, eleven out of the fourteen expeditions led to the creation of a large marine protected areas (MPAs) and helped safeguard more than four million square kilometers of the ocean.
During the 2012 Pristine Seas expedition to Gabon, the team presented their findings to President Ali Bongo Ondimba, whose father had established Gabon’s national park system. After the expedition, they continued helping the government to establish the marine protected areas, update fishing laws, and renegotiate international fishing licenses.
On November 12, 2014, Bongo committed to creating the Gabon Marine Protected Area Network, intended to cover 26 percent of Gabon’s waters. The first of its kind in the region, the more than 46,000-square-kilometer network will protect, among other marine creatures, 20 species of whales and dolphins and four species of marine turtles.