Why Salamanca?

By Mark J. Spalding, President, The Ocean Foundation

I have just arrived in the ancient city of Salamanca, Spain, the capital of the province of the same name.  The Old City of Salamanca is celebrating its 35th year as a UNESCO world heritage site http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/381, home to centuries of history, and of a global reputation as the university town of Spain—representing nearly a fifth of all Spanish language students visiting the country.  The University of Salamanca is 795 years old.  The University and the other institutions in the city attract a diverse array of international students—here to study the language, literature, and history of Spain. 

Salamanca is also known for the major battle between the Napoleonic French army led by Marsal Marmont and Duke of Wellington and the Anglo Portuguese Army—a battle that was jokingly described as Wellington defeating an army of 40,000 men in 40 minutes.  Seizing the strategic advantage when the French commander split his force, the short but intense battle, supported by heavy cannon fire, resulted in the retreat of the French, more than 6000 dead and wounded French soldiers, and a turning point in the Peninsular War.  Of course, I come in peace.

What am I doing in this landlocked city far from the Atlantic?  I came to spend a few days with a different army—the global force of those who work so hard on behalf of wild creatures and wild places all over the world.  I drove here from Lisbon with colleagues from Portugal who join me in presenting at Wild10, the 10th World Wilderness Congress.  People are gathering from all over the world to talk about protecting our global wilderness heritage and how we can do it better—and perhaps as important, presenting examples of how it can be done better.  I am here to promote the marine perspective about protecting and preserving our undersea landscapes for our own sakes and for our legacy to our children.

On Tuesday, as part of a panel on setting targets for wild marine protection, I will be giving a talk about how new technologies involving unmanned aircraft, vessels and other vehicles are enabling new ways of enforcing protection for large areas of the ocean.  On Thursday morning, I will also be representing The Ocean Foundation project, Ocean Conservation Research, in delivering a presentation about the increasing problem of ocean noise pollution and its alarming effects on mammals, fish, and other creatures.  Finally, on Thursday afternoon, I will put on my hat as chair of the marine committee of the Western Hemisphere Migratory Species Initiative (WHMSI) to deliver a talk about how that program of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of International Conservation and its allies is helping protect migratory species across political boundaries.

I am very excited to be here to share these presentations and to learn from others—scientists, government officials, and other colleagues—about their efforts to support a wild planet.  And given my background as a history student, I admit to being as excited to walk these ancient streets and marvel at the survival of these buildings and institutions—and of the many professors and students who established a long legacy of teaching and learning.  It reminds us that we can all consider our legacy even as we move through the present day—What will your ocean legacy be?

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