Pitcairn MPA proposal: a political salve?

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By Peter JS Jones, Dept of Geography, University College London, p.j.jones [at] ucl.ac.uk

In relation to a recent article in The Economist: Marine protected areas, Pitcairn’s bounty - The South Pacific is about to get the world’s biggest national park

These large remote MPAs are almost impossible to enforce, the same being the case for the Chagos MPA, where there is one patrol boat that spends most of its time collecting anchoring fees from the many visiting yachts. So not only are such large remote MPAs a distraction from designating smaller MPAs in more heavily used seas that actually need protection and restoration, they are also essentially paper parks!.... but they do enable BINGOs to fly the green flag of achievement and make progress towards achieving the questionable target for 10% MPA coverage across the world's oceans.

They are also arguably a political salve for governments to say they are protecting the marine environment through MPA designations in their overseas territories, whilst making faltering progress with protecting areas on their own continental shelf, e.g. the UK.

There needs to be a balance between designating small MPAs in 'metropolitan' seas that are under pressure and large MPAs in remote and pristine areas in order to safeguard them against emerging pressures, but the relative political ease and campaign benefits of the latter approach is leading to an unbalanced approach at present.