Switzerland, Geneva, 12 July 2023 - The Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve in the Bahamas has been formally designated a 'Hope Spot' and Pierfrancesco Vago – MSC Foundation Board Member and Chair of the Executive Committee, and Executive Chairman of the Cruise Division of MSC Group – as the Hope Spot Champion by Mission Blue, the non-profit organisation founded by renowned oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle to promote the protection of marine ecosystems.
With this prestigious recognition, Ocean Cay joins Mission Blue's global network of 154 Hope Spots: places recognised as critical to ocean health with the ultimate goal of achieving the status of Marine Protected Areas. Nominations are carefully evaluated by the Hope Spot Council, composed of marine scientists and policy experts, ensuring that the final selection is both rigorous and reflective of global marine conservation needs.
When MSC Cruises took responsibility for Ocean Cay in 2015, the island had suffered from decades of industrial activities, 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.
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, revitalising the terrestrial environment. Meanwhile the health of the surrounding waters is demonstrated by the now flourishing marine life, which includes the presence of loggerhead sea turtles.
The Marine Restoration Programme covers 64 square kilometres of marine waters and ecosystems around Ocean Cay. It was expanded in 2019, when the MSC Foundation started its Super Coral Programme to restore the island’s coral reefs. This pioneering initiative harnesses scientific collaboration and advanced research to identify coral genotypes known as 'super corals', which have evolved to better withstand thermal stress. They will be then strategically outplanted to create hardier reefs which are more resilient to the extreme heat events of climate change.
The MSC Foundation is planning to further this work and engage the attention of many thousands of cruise visitors every year, raising awareness of the urgent need for ocean conservation efforts worldwide.
This large-scale restoration and public information effort underlines the MSC Foundation’s commitment to restoring ocean health, enriching biodiversity and fostering a sustainable future for our Blue Planet.
Underlying the visionary Hope Spots project is the goal of raising global awareness of the importance of marine conservation and the need for urgent action to reverse damage to ocean ecosystems. Ocean Cay’s designation as a 'Hope Spot' highlights the critical role that restored ecosystems, like Ocean Cay, can play in enhancing biodiversity and improving the overall health of our oceans.
Dr. Sylvia Earle, President and Chairman of Mission Blue, expressed her excitement about the designation, stating: " This recognizes the comprehensive restoration efforts and commitment to protecting marine biodiversity. Led by Pierfrancesco Vago, the restoration of Ocean Cay has been a multidisciplinary effort to reestablish the ecological balance in this limestone island and its surrounding marine estate.[ . . . ] 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."
Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC Foundation Board Member and Chair of the Executive Committee, and Executive Chairman of the Cruise Division of MSC Group, responded: “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. That responsibility is why the scientific research and restoration efforts of our Super Coral Programme 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. 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.”
This new acknowledgement reaffirms the status of Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve and the MSC Foundation Super Coral Programme as frontrunners in nature conservation efforts, underscoring their pioneering role in marine conservation.