Mission Blue has officially designated Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve in The Bahamas, owned and operated by MSC Cruises, as a “Hope Spot” for its amazing potential for conservation and the work already done to restore and protect the marine environment. A “Hope Spot Champion” for the private reserve has been appointed as well, recognizing the fine work done by MSC Cruises with respect to Ocean Cay.
MSC Cruises’ “Hope Spot” Reserve
Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, MSC Cruises’ private island in the Bimini island change of the Bahamas, has been officially chosen as a “Hope Spot” by Mission Blue, an organization dedicated to marine environment conservation.
Additionally, MSC Foundation board member Pierfrancesco Vago has been appointed “Hope Spot Champion” for the reserve. Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve has now become one of Mission Blue’s 154 worldwide Hope Spots, which include coastlines, reefs, islands, and other important marine areas around the globe.
Hope Spots are specific oceanic areas or ecosystems considered critical for their biodiversity and potential for restoration. Mission Blue, founded by renowned marine biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle in 2009, focuses on identifying and protecting these ecologically significant regions. This includes raising awareness, conducting scientific research, and advocating for policies to safeguard these vital marine ecosystems.
The Hope Spot Council, consisting of marine scientists and policy experts, carefully evaluates nominations, ensuring a thorough selection process aligned with global marine conservation priorities and recognition of superior efforts to promote marine restoration and conservation.
“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,” Dr. Earle remarked in recognition of the new designation. “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.”
Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve
Since assuming responsibility for Ocean Cay in 2015, MSC Cruises has worked diligently to reverse the effects of decades of industrial activities, including aragonite sand mining, which is often used to combat high levels of soil-based magnesium.
Through collaboration with the Government of The Bahamas, universities, scientists, and conservationists, significant progress has already been achieved at Ocean Cay.
“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,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC Foundation Board Member and Executive Chairman of the Cruise Division of MSC Group.
“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.”
In 2019, the MSC Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to marine conservation, ocean health, and sustainable tourism, launched the Super Coral Program. This program employs scientific research to identify resilient coral genotypes, known as “super corals.” These corals can withstand thermal stress caused by climate change.
“Outplanting” is the process of transferring plants or organisms from controlled environments, like nurseries or laboratories, to their natural habitat or a specific desired location. By strategically outplanting super corals, the aim is to create more resilient reefs capable of enduring extreme heat events, which makes sense as the world’s temperatures, on average, continue to rise.
To date, the restoration project has also revitalized the Ocean Cay terrestrial environment by planting 5,000 trees and 75,000 indigenous plants, flowers, and shrubs. The surrounding waters now boast thriving marine life, including threatened loggerhead sea turtles — a species known for their reddish-brown shells and powerful jaws.
Visiting Ocean Cay
The 95-acre private island is visited exclusively by MSC Cruises’ passengers, with most Caribbean and Bahamas itineraries including a stop at the pristine spot just 65 miles east of Miami.
Ocean Cay features a purpose-built pier, perfect for direct access to the island. A welcome center, lighthouse, pastel-colored buildings, and even a wedding pavilion are all located on the island, as well as eight stunning beaches that stretch over 1.5 miles to offer plenty of chances to interact with the surrounding marine environment.
While a visit to Ocean Cay is a voyage highlight for many travelers, do note that MSC Cruises has informed booked guests and travel agents that Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve will be closed from April 7 to May 22, 2024, for upgrades and expansion. The exact nature of the upcoming changes has not yet been announced.