By Samantha Murray, Director of the Ocean Conservancy's Pacific Program
I’ve recently returned from the 3rd International Marine Protected Areas Congress in Marseille, France. The experience of meeting so many different kinds of people, all equally passionate about the ocean, has inspired me. It’s planted a desire to follow up and exchange marine protected area stories—and recipes—from California with those from around the world.
To that end, please join me this Wednesday, Nov. 6, from 2-3 p.m. PST for a lively and fun Twitter Party, where you can share the global MPA stories you heard at IMPAC3. Missed the Congress? No problem—we’d like to hear your thoughts about MPAs, even if you weren’t there. Follow @ThePacificOcean, @OurOcean and @HealTheBay, or #MPAsWork and #IMPAC3 to join the conversation (and win prizes!) this Wednesday.
Sarah Sikich (Heal the Bay) and I (Ocean Conservancy) will be leading the party, but it’s largely driven by participants. Topics will include: our evolving need to understand MPAs over the last decade, Sylvia Earle’s 50 Hope Spots, the value of urban MPAs, the issue of large MPAs and quantity versus quality, our shared MPA lessons from around the world and, of course, where we go from here.
That last issue is particularly exciting: how do we take what we’ve learned, distill it down to something instructive and move forward together? Well, just like a perfect Marseille bouillabaisse, there are a few essential ingredients that must be assembled to design and implement the best MPA in the world.
The first thing the classic Provençal dish requires is a good, local recipe. Everyone does it a little differently, and it’s important to respect local culture. This holds true for MPAs as well. Write something down—a mandate if you can get it—that lays out clear goals and objectives for your specific marine protected area.
Next, start with a long, slow simmer of local Mediterranean fish, spices and herbs. Likewise for your MPA, start with a local stakeholder simmer, though in this case it might be more like a slow stew—at least at first. Get fishermen and tribes and divers and everyone else who cares about the ocean involved early to think about setting up the new protections. Arm them with clear science guidelines to bookend the conversation and ensure the outcome follows the recipe closely enough to meet the goals of the MPA.
The perfect Marseille bouillabaisse requires fresh fish of certain types, from the firm-fleshed to the gelatinous to the shellfish. Likewise, the quality of what’s protected by your MPA, not just the square mileage, is important. Protection needs to include specific habitats—like rocky reef, bull kelp or deep submarine canyon—that will best benefit marine life.
Overall, it’s best to keep the fish stew simple. Don’t go experimenting with new flavors or convoluted ways to accommodate individual dietary restrictions. Likewise, create an MPA with simple rules. No-take areas are by far the easiest to understand and enforce. After that, tinkering with the rules can degrade the integrity of the overall outcome.
It’s important to note that the process doesn’t end when the stew is cooked! The way you serve and eat this delicacy is at least as important as the way you’ve made it. Similarly, an MPA effort mustn’t end once protections are created. Implementation is at least as important as adoption, and follow-through is of paramount importance. This includes education, to enhance MPA compliance among fishermen and local communities, and monitoring, to learn how your MPA is working. Engaging partners like citizens, tribes and fishermen in both enforcement and monitoring efforts is a great way to ensure your MPA has the stewardship necessary for the long haul.
The French dish is traditionally served with a side of croutons that are meant to be individually rubbed with fresh garlic and dipped in a mayonnaise-like rouille by the diner. If you’re new to the process, that may seem complicated, so if you see someone sitting next to you who doesn’t know how to eat it properly, help them out. Similarly, it’s crucial to help ocean users and decision-makers understand the new MPA, especially in the beginning. Signs and maps help people understand new regulations, and outreach to managers will help them integrate the new protections into future coastal and ocean management decisions so that the MPA can be enjoyed to its maximum benefit.
In the end, securing a science-based MPA with local community support and the stamina to stand the test of time follows a fairly simple recipe. I hope these lessons, largely taken from last month’s Congress, can be applied by others.
Agree or disagree with this recipe for the best marine protected area (and bouillabaisse) in the world? Join us on Nov. 6 at 2 p.m. PST for our MPA Twitter Party to share your thoughts.
This blog originally appeared on The Blog Aquatic on November 4, 2013. It has been reposted here with permission from the author.