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Posted on February 19, 2014 - 11:30am, by cmwahle

By Charles M. Wahle, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, NOAA Marine Protected Areas Center, Monterey, CA; and
Lauren Wenzel, Acting Director, NOAA Marine Protected Areas Center, Silver Spring, MD

What’s All The Fuss About Marine Protected Areas?

Driven by expanding threats to the world’s oceans, the past two decades have seen growing interest in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as a way to conserve ecologically, economically and culturally important places, the habitats they contain, and the ecosystem services they provide.  Designed and adaptively managed with sound science and meaningful stakeholder input, MPAs can be important, effective and equitable management tools for sustainably managing human impacts to these special areas.  Many people across the ocean conservation spectrum agree that special ocean places should be protected from the impacts of human activities, just as we have done for generations for our most treasured forests, grasslands, mountains and deserts. 

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Posted on February 7, 2014 - 2:37pm, by PJSJones

Dr Peter JS Jones, Dept of Geography, University College London (P.J.Jones [at]

See link for paper and for a conversation article by the lead author, Graham Edgar

To be clear from the outset, I think this is an excellent and very important paper that makes an outstanding contribution to debates about the need for effective MPAs. It represents a recent meta-analysis of the features that make MPAs effective in restoring fish populations, involving 87 MPAs in 40 countries. Interestingly, much of the data was collected by volunteer divers, representing a great example of the importance of ‘citizen science’.

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Posted on January 30, 2014 - 1:55pm, by emdesanto

By Elizabeth M. De Santo, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Franklin & Marshall College

In a recent Nature News piece, Daniel Cressey discusses the sustainability concerns posed by fish aggregating devices (FADs), drawing on the work of Davies et al., who examined FADs in the Indian Ocean. This is an interesting phenomenon – fishermen increase their catches by floating rafts or other structures that attract fish (and signal their location via radio transmitters), which works because fish are naturally attracted to and congregate under these sheltering structures. However, FADs are poorly regulated, add to overfishing, and their impacts on ecosystems are unknown.

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Posted on January 17, 2014 - 9:34am, by JGardner

By Julie Gardner, Dovetail Consulting, jgardner [at]

BC ferries has been having a tough time this winter among our gorgeous Southern Gulf Islands. The main ferry for the route, the Queen of Nanaimo, was damaged in early November as high winds pushed it off course, inconveniencing many travelers on a long weekend. A month later I set out from Vancouver for Galiano Island, which is normally a one-hour ferry ride. To cut a long story short I didn’t arrive until some 30 hours later, due to high winds and resultant re-routing via Vancouver Island.

The scariest stage of the journey was our first try to dock at Galiano’s Sturdies Bay. Having been sternly warned over the intercom, we 25 or so passengers stayed in our seats as the little Queen of Cumberland bucked forward and back, side to side, banging the dock infrastructure. Cars on the open deck swayed and were doused in sea water, as we could see through the window. The captain ultimately backed out in retreat.

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Posted on December 11, 2013 - 12:30pm, by nwehner

By J. Matthew Roney

In May 1975, rising concerns about overfishing and deteriorating ocean health prompted scientists and officials from 33 countries to meet in Tokyo for the first global conference on marine parks and reserves. Noting the need for swift action to safeguard more of the sea, the delegates were unanimous in calling for the creation of a global system of marine protected areas (MPAs)—zones explicitly managed for the conservation of aquatic ecosystems.

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Posted on December 9, 2013 - 11:12am, by JGardner

By Julie Gardner, Dovetail Consulting, jgardner [at]

I was on a long-awaited hiking trip to the national parks in southern Utah last month – the exact week they were closed. Utah’s not traditionally a national park-loving state, but after a few days of furor resulting from the federal government shutdown, the governor anted up enough funds to pay for re-opening the parks. That was quite the unintentional experiment: it revealed the true economic value of protected areas, as income to businesses and communities in the vicinity of the parks had plummeted.

Here in Canada the Harper Government (thus branded by the Prime Minister) has been steadily axing the budget of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), as if to see how far he can go before impacts are so obvious that funding has to be restored. This follows on a history of diminishing federal support for delivering programs critical to marine resources.

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Posted on November 26, 2013 - 2:39pm, by scosgrove

By Sean Cosgrove, Conservation Law Foundation, SCosgrove [at]

The 113th Congress can honestly be considered the “Real Do Nothing Congress.” To date their most significant act has been to shut down the federal government and narrowly avoid a default on the Nation’s debt. With that as a record there’s no place to go but up. Right now, however, the US Congress has three specific opportunities to close out the year and possibly retrieve some manner of holiday redemption in the form of genuine ocean achievements.

The Senate and the House of Representatives have both passed separate versions of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) and the bill is now in the conference committee. The WRDA bill authorizes the US Army Corps of Engineers to build and otherwise carry out water resources projects and allows the expenditure of considerable amounts of taxpayer dollars to do so.

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Posted on November 13, 2013 - 11:04am, by disciara

By Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, Tethys Research Institute, giuseppe [at]

The Cuvier’s beaked whale, Ziphius cavirostris, is a cetacean particularly vulnerable to the loud noise propagated underwater across the oceans, e.g., by military sonar and by seismic surveys to prospect for oil and gas at sea. When hit by these sounds, for reasons still poorly understood these whales are often lethally hurt; and even when they are too far from the sound source to be injured, the whales are impacted because they may leave an area which contains optimal habitat for them. Cuvier’s beaked whales in the Mediterranean, a threatened population which is separate from the rest of the world’s oceans, have been heavily affected by human-induced underwater noise, due to the frequent naval manoeuvres in a region of high strategic importance, and to the current widespread craze of finding oil or gas in the sea bottom.

To address beaked whale conservation problems caused by these circumstances, the Scientific Committee of the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS) – which I chaired from 2002 to 2010 and which I have been a member of until last week – was requested by the Agreement’s parties to provide indications about the whereabouts of critical habitats of Cuvier’s beaked whales in the Mediterranean in order to support appropriate mitigation measures.

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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.

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Posted on October 30, 2013 - 10:27am, by JGardner

By Julie Gardner, Dovetail Consulting, jgardner [at]

The closer our connection to special places, the bigger our stake in their future. But the ability to ensure these special places are protected is often vested in far away powers. As Saya Masso, a Councillor in the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation said recently, “We’re the ones who have to bathe in the river and eat the fish in it.”

Masso was explaining why his people oppose the BC Government’s issuance of a mining permit in a Tribal Park in Clayoquot Sound, on Vancouver Island’s spectacular Pacific coast. Tribal Parks, Wild Spirit Places, Cultural and Natural Areas – these are all First Nations designations for lands and waters that they are striving to protect in their traditional territories. The First Nations want to shelter these areas from developments that threaten both ecosystems and customary ways of life, while (usually) keeping them open to sustainable economic activities such as wilderness tourism.