- Long-term and well-managed marine protected areas (MPAs) can, under the right circumstances, contribute to biodiversity conservation and fisheries management, thus contributing to food security and sustainable livelihoods.
- This article emphasizes (1) the potential utility of MPAs as a fisheries management tool, (2) the costs and benefits of MPAs for fishing communities, and (3) the foundations of good governance and management processes for creating effective MPAs with a dual fisheries and conservation mandate.
- This article highlights case studies from numerous regions of the world that demonstrate practical and often successful solutions in bridging the divide between MPA management and fisheries sustainability, with a focus on small-scale coastal fisheries in order to emphasize lessons learned.
- To be an effective fisheries management tool, MPAs should be embedded in broader fisheries management and conservation plans. MPAs are unlikely to generate benefits if implemented in isolation. The spatial and temporal distribution of benefits and costs needs to be taken into account since proximal fishery-dependent communities may experience higher fishing costs over the short and long-term while the fisheries benefits from MPAs may only accrue over the long-term.
- Key lessons for effectively bridging the divide between biodiversity conservation and fisheries sustainability goals in the context of MPAs include: creating spaces and processes for engagement, incorporating fisheries in MPA design and MPAs into fisheries management, engaging fishers in management, recognizing rights and tenure, coordinating between agencies and clarifying roles, combining no-take-areas with other fisheries management actions, addressing the balance of costs and benefits to fishers, making a long-term commitment, creating a collaborative network of stakeholders, taking multiple pressures into account, managing adaptively, recognizing and addressing trade-offs, and matching good governance with effective management and enforcement.
- Marine ecosystems provide critically important goods and services to society, and hence their accelerated degradation underpins an urgent need to take rapid, ambitious and informed decisions regarding their conservation and management.
- The capacity, however, to generate the detailed field data required to inform conservation planning at appropriate scales is limited by time and resource consuming methods for collecting and analysing field data at the large scales required.
- The ‘Catlin Seaview Survey’, described here, introduces a novel framework for large-scale monitoring of coral reefs using high-definition underwater imagery collected using customized underwater vehicles in combination with computer vision and machine learning. This enables quantitative and geo-referenced outputs of coral reef features such as habitat types, benthic composition, and structural complexity (rugosity) to be generated across multiple kilometre-scale transects with a spatial resolution ranging from 2 to 6 m2.
- The novel application of technology described here has enormous potential to contribute to our understanding of coral reefs and associated impacts by underpinning management decisions with kilometre-scale measurements of reef health.
- Imagery datasets from an initial survey of 500 km of seascape are freely available through an online tool called the Catlin Global Reef Record. Outputs from the image analysis using the technologies described here will be updated on the online repository as work progresses on each dataset.
- Case studies illustrate the utility of outputs as well as their potential to link to information from remote sensing. The potential implications of the innovative technologies on marine resource management and conservation are also discussed, along with the accuracy and efficiency of the methodologies deployed.
- This paper explores how criteria to identify important marine mammal areas (IMMAs) could be developed, and nested in existing global criteria. This process would consider 134 species of marine mammals.
- Particular attention is given to two suites of global criteria to identify areas important for the persistence of marine biodiversity: Ecologically or Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs) developed through the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) in revision through the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). They are seen as mutually complementary in the development of IMMAs.
- The specificities necessary for identifying important areas at scales below the global level may vary according to the region, the biophysical requirements of distinct populations, and available data. Refining and testing the applicability of these global criteria on marine mammals at both regional and national scales will be necessary.
- Combining area-based measures with non-spatial management actions will likely be the optimal approach for ensuring marine mammal persistence given their highly migratory nature and widespread life-history stages.
- Capacity to enact IMMAs is strengthened by the existence of professional marine mammal associations and networks, and the recently formed IUCN Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force (MMPATF). The MMPATF is planning further development of IMMA criteria through joint work with the International Committee on Marine Mammal Protected Areas (ICMMPA).
- The paper comprises recommendations presented and discussed at several workshops of the 3rd International Marine Protected Areas Congress (Marseille, France, 21–27, October, 2013) to achieve effective management of marine protected areas in the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas.
- It highlights the similarities but also differences between the two areas as a result of their distinct biogeographic and cultural characteristics.
- The biophysical setting, socioeconomic scenario and issues related to marine protected areas in the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas are summarized and case studies from both regions are presented that illustrate the level of success thus far achieved by MPAs.
- Factors contributing to MPA success are related to ecological conditions, the involvement of stakeholders in decision-making processes, and to better governance, as well as improved communication and training.
- The SPAW and SPA regional environmental agreements administered by the UNEP Regional Seas Programmes in collaboration with government and non-government partners and the MPA managers' networks have provided technical assistance that has led to improved management.
- The experience of the last 3 years of contacts between both regional networks of MPA scientists and practitioners (i.e. MedPAN and CaMPAM) highlights the benefits of such an initiative and suggests the need to develop a robust transoceanic Exchange Programme to facilitate knowledge transfer.
- Five case studies from around the world illustrate key lessons in integrating top-down and bottom-up approaches to stakeholder and community engagement in the planning and implementation of marine protected areas (MPAs).
- Community resistance to MPA proposals from centralized agencies can be addressed through effective participatory processes with consistent engagement over time, transparency, and the incorporation of benefits for communities.
- Indigenous communities in particular are becoming key actors of some conservation initiatives (e.g. MPAs) and recognition of their inherent rights, traditional knowledge and deep connections to the marine environment can become the foundations for collaborative management of MPAs.
- True participation requires empowerment for engagement, and this in turn requires education and capacity building for local people to get involved in the process of planning, implementing, and managing MPAs.
- How bottom-up and top-down approaches are used should consider the scale of the MPA (e.g. small vs. large), the geographic scenario (e.g. coastal vs. remote), the level of anthropogenic influence, the conservation objectives (e.g. species, habitats, ecosystems), the political and governance context, and specific cultural conditions, such as the presence of indigenous communities.
- Migratory marine species (MMS) include many of the world's most charismatic organisms such as marine mammals, seabirds, turtles, sharks, and tuna. Many are now among the most threatened due to the diverse range of pressures they encounter during their extensive movements. This paper shows that 21% of MMS are classified as threatened (i.e. categorized as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable). Sea turtles are the most threatened group (85%), followed by seabirds (27%), cartilaginous fish (26%), marine mammals (15%) and bony fish (11%). Taken together 48% of MMS are threatened, Near Threatened or Data Deficient.
- As well as being threatened they share in common being wide-ranging animals, travelling through the waters of multiple nations as well as in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) during different times of the year. This makes their conservation a challenge, requiring coordinated action by many nations, international organizations, Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) and other stakeholders if their populations are to recover to healthy levels and be safeguarded into the future.
- Even though they are wide-ranging, long-term studies reveal considerable site fidelity and well-defined habitats for many species and areas. These sites are prime candidates for enhanced management such as via Marine Protect Area (MPA) designations. However, existing management frameworks do not yet contribute sufficiently to MMS conservation, MPA networks need to be expanded to capture key areas, in many cases through the application of new dynamic management techniques such as time area closures.
- Data on the distribution, abundance, behaviours and threats faced by many MMS are now available. These data should be used to inform the design of effective management regimes, such as MPAs, both within and beyond national jurisdictions. MEAs should ensure a full complement of MMS are included within species listings, and encourage further action to safeguard their populations.
- Connectivity is a crucial process underpinning the persistence, recovery, and productivity of marine ecosystems. The Convention on Biological Diversity, through the Aichi Target 11, has set the ambitious objective of implementing a ‘well connected system of protected areas’ by 2020.
- This paper identifies eight challenges toward the integration of connectivity into MPA network management and planning. A summary table lists the main recommendations in terms of method, tool, advice, or action to address each of these challenges. Authors belong to a science–management continuum including researchers, international NGO officers, and national MPA agency members.
- Three knowledge challenges are addressed: selecting and integrating connectivity measurement metrics; assessing the accuracy and uncertainty of connectivity measurements; and communicating and visualizing connectivity measurements.
- Three management challenges are described: integrating connectivity into the planning and management of MPA networks; setting quantitative connectivity targets; and implementing connectivity-based management across scales and marine jurisdictions.
- Finally, two paths toward a better integration of connectivity science with MPA management are proposed: setting management-driven priorities for connectivity research, bridging connectivity science, and MPA network management.
- There is no single method to integrate connectivity into marine spatial planning. Rather, an array of methods can be assembled according to the MPA network objectives, budget, available skills, data, and timeframe.
- Overall, setting up ‘boundary organizations’ should be promoted to organize complex cross-disciplinary, cross-sectoral and cross-jurisdiction interactions that are needed between scientists, managers, stakeholders and decision-makers to make informed decision regarding connectivity-based MPA planning and management.
- Regional approaches to protecting the marine environment have gathered momentum over the past 40 years. Pioneered by UNEP's Regional Seas Programme, such approaches have broadened their remit from pollution prevention to the conservation of biodiversity, promoting management tools such as networks of marine protected areas (MPAs).
- Formal intergovernmental approaches are increasingly complemented by a range of regional projects committed to ambitious targets to establish MPAs and Local Marine Managed Areas (LMMAs). These regional efforts have been inspired by political leaders, non-governmental organizations, coastal communities and committed individuals.
- Regional networks of MPA managers have drawn together professionals to share good practice and further develop management tools. They focus on partnerships and capacity building opportunities with support from international donors and implementing agencies.
- Collective ecosystem-based management delivered using a regional approach is identified as a preferred solution to environmental challenges in polar regions. Crossing boundaries and fostering regional synergies can help ensure ecologically coherent regional networks and support resilience. There is also the potential to reap tangible rewards from applying such a regional approach in many other areas.
- Regional coherence of MPA network design, compliance and enforcement policies, and information sharing is an optimal way to understand and counter commercial and industrial resource extraction forces actively working against sustainable development.
- The World Heritage Convention provides the potential for a comprehensive policy framework that allows for identification, management, governance, and protection of the world ́s most outstanding natural marine areas.
- Benefits of World Heritage (WH) listing include increased international attention and technical cooperation, governmental support and improvements to management, and enhanced funding opportunities.
- There are currently only 46 (of 981 or 4.7%) World Heritage Sites (WHS) that have been inscribed for their outstanding marine values, and these marine WHS (mWHS) represent predominantly tropical as opposed to temperate and polar ecosystems.
- Forty-seven (76%) of the world's 62 nearshore biogeographic provinces do not contain any mWHS or contain a low (<1%) coverage that is unlikely to capture the full range of values and features present in these provinces. A large proportion of the world's offshore provinces, representing 40% of the global ocean, do not contain any mWHS.
- To fulfill the World Heritage Committee's Global Strategy for a Representative, Balanced and Credible World Heritage List, States are encouraged to increase efforts to identify and nominate marine sites of potential Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), especially in biogeographic regions that are not yet represented, or underrepresented, on the WH List.
- However, as the criteria and guidance for the Convention are based primarily on terrestrial systems, further guidance on using them in the marine context is provided here. It is proposed that physical oceanographic features be considered under criterion (viii) ‘geology and oceanography’, while biological oceanographic features be considered under criterion (ix) ‘ecological and biological processes’. Use of criteria (vii) ‘superlative phenomena’ and (x) ‘species’ can follow current guidance for terrestrial systems.
- Potential approaches that can help address gaps in biogeographic representation of marine WHS and create a more balanced and representative marine World Heritage List are outlined here.
- Creating representative networks of marine protected areas (MPAs) as part of an ecosystem-based management approach is generally advocated to protect the full spectrum of marine ecosystems and vulnerable species. Core objectives for designing MPA networks incorporate issues of scale, size and spacing. Ascertaining when such objectives have been met, and thus when a network can be judged to be ecologically coherent, presents an ongoing challenge. This paper presents a broad-scale approach to assess the degree of ecological coherence within one such network.
- In 2013 an independent ecological coherence assessment was requested by OSPAR, the Regional Seas Convention for the North-east Atlantic, of the ecological coherence of its regional MPA network. As is often the case in the marine environment, the data were not sufficiently comprehensive or spatially inclusive to allow for a thorough assessment for the entire region. Consequently two levels of testing were applied: (1) basic tests applied to the whole OSPAR maritime area; and (2) a more sophisticated second level of tests directed at specific OSPAR regions and subregions for which more complete datasets were available. The former considered major gaps based on basic distribution thresholds and representativity (both biogeographic and bathymetric). The latter focused on broad-scale habitat presence to determine replication, adequacy and connectivity.
- On the basis of these tests it was concluded that while the OSPAR MPA network as a whole is not ecologically coherent, nonetheless significant progress towards global targets, such as protection of 10% of marine and coastal environments under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has been made. Gaps in the distribution of MPAs were identified, particularly under-representation of certain biogeographic provinces and bathymetric zones of depths greater than 75 m including bathyal (200–3000 m) and abyssal (3000–6000 m) depths.
- To address such gaps, a cooperative region by region approach will be required by the OSPAR Parties to identify where positioning new MPAs can enhance ecological coherence.
- A limitation of the 2013 assessment was that it did not consider which MPAs are designated and managed for the protection of specific features; rather, it assumed that all features that fall within an MPA are protected. With a redevelopment of the OSPAR MPA database underway it is hoped that reporting of such details by Parties will improve, allowing for more specificity in future analyses. However, as the first such assessment of its kind our two-level approach serves as a case study of a pragmatic example of how assessments of ecologically coherent networks might be undertaken using GIS to contribute to systematic conservation planning.
- In 2010, Contracting Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted the so-called ‘Aichi targets’ in order to achieve global biodiversity conservation. Target 11 specifically provides that ‘by 2020 (…) at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas (…) are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures’. This objective is currently far from being reached since less than 3% of the ocean has been designated as marine protected areas (MPAs).
- In areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) in particular, with less than 0.5% protected, there is no mechanism aimed at creating internationally-recognized MPAs and the initiatives launched by regional organizations, although promising, have limitations.
- ABNJ are nevertheless facing increasing human pressures and it is therefore appropriate and pressing to designate a comprehensive and representative network of MPAs in these areas. This paper analyses the current efforts conducted to better conserve marine biodiversity in ABNJ and identifies enabling conditions for meeting the Aichi Target 11.
- The adoption of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, along with the 20 Aichi Targets, is a strong political endorsement for integrating biodiversity strategy across the entire United Nations system. Aichi Targets represent specific, time-bound drivers for governments to safeguard both marine and terrestrial biodiversity.
- For the marine environment, Aichi Target 11 represents a call to effectively conserve at least 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020. The core indicator to measure Aichi Target 11 is the extent of protected area coverage, and therefore it is essential that MPA data used to calculate this metric are robust.
- The World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) is the authoritative source of data for measuring Aichi Target coverage progress. The WDPA assimilates global protected areas data as officially reported by the UN Member States themselves.
- Analysis of the WDPA (August 2014) calculated that MPAs now cover approximately 12,300,000 km2 or 3.41% of the world's ocean. Only 0.59% of the global ocean area (2 163 661 km2 within 1124 areas) is protected in no-take areas.
- Only gathering and using State-sanctioned information may affect the accuracy of the WDPA MPA data. However, it is essential to first and foremost recognize national sovereignty and the rights of the Member State data providers in order to maintain a comprehensive approach to data gathering while ensuring international support for the resulting coverage figures that are used to measure global environmental targets.
- Further improvements could be made to the MPA data, for example by refining current MPA attributes and working with Member States and conventions to reduce or remove point data in the system. Moreover, broadening the scope of the WDPA to allow the inclusion of clearly marked non-State-sanctioned sites would complement existing official data and facilitate dialogue between Member States and other data providers towards MPA data improvement.
- The Aichi Biodiversity Targets were designed to promote and implement the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) by providing a framework for action to save biodiversity and enhance its benefits for people. Specifically, Target 11 aims to protect 10% of all seas by 2020. The percentage of the world's oceans that are protected has increased steadily in recent years, mainly due to very large marine protected areas (MPAs).
- The issue of making major gains in achieving protection targets through ‘going big’ has brought added scrutiny to the subject of MPAs. There is economy in scale, but several people have called into question whether going large will protect representative habitat and result in true protection, or whether it is merely a politically expedient way for some nations to attain targets by creating paper parks, while avoiding tough conservation decisions.
- The recent creation of large MPAs has greatly enhanced the chance of achieving global protection targets. Large areas typically contain several ecosystems and habitats that interact ecologically, and allow for more holistic conservation. The interactions between ecosystems in large MPAs occur without many of the problems associated with networks of smaller MPAs, where the connectivity between sites is often affected by human activities.
- The disadvantages of large MPAs include difficulties of surveillance, enforcement and monitoring of vast offshore areas, as well as high total costs. While the cost per unit area may be lower for large MPAs, conducting surveillance and monitoring in such vast areas requires much more expensive technologies.
- Large MPAs complement and add to existing management and conservation measures. Decision makers should consider designating them as one of a suite of possible protection measures. Besides greatly enhancing the chance of reaching agreed biodiversity targets, large MPAs improve the quality of conservation.
Effective marine conservation requires protection and management of functional seascapes, but seascape-level conservation is challenging because it needs to capture complex physical and ecological features that characterize dynamic populations and their habitats. And since populations are spatially and temporally bounded by combinations of natural heterogeneities in the marine environment (environmental boundaries) and associated species' responses (population boundaries), marine protection mechanisms need to take such boundaries into account in a spatially and temporally explicit framework. Therefore, improved understanding of these population and environmental boundaries and the processes driving them over multiple scales is essential for developing effective marine spatial planning (MSP). This kind of comprehensive approach for MSP is especially relevant in the face of global climate change, as conservation targets will shift in space, and phenological relationships will be confounded, thereby diminishing the significance of the original conservation strategies.
Oceanic islands are structurally more vulnerable to disturbances: their small size and isolation reduces spatial options for persistence of biodiversity. The establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs) is considered essential for conserving the marine environment and biodiversity. However, a number of natural and social factors influence the planning process for MPAs, with effects on the exact conservation strategy adopted. Sometimes social interests dominate and the final zoning of the MPA fails to meet the initial conservation criteria, which were recommended on the basis of scientific results. Geographic Information Systems (GIS), with their derived and specific applications, provide new opportunities for zoning and management of the marine environment. These tools facilitate analysis of large datasets and allow integration of more information into the MPA planning process. There is already a database full of geo-referenced information about marine habitat distribution, communities, endangered species and human activities, around La Palma (Canary Islands, Spain). We analyzed this information, using GIS tools and the algorithm Marxan, and presented seven alternative MPA zones in the sublittoral environment around La Palma. This is the first time that an objective and systematic process, combining knowledge about human activities as well as conservation status, has been used to establish the suitable placement of MPAs in the Canary Islands. The zoning recommended by this study differs significantly from that currently in place. We suggest there is a need to redesign La Palma’s outdated conservation strategies by redefining the size, shape and location of its MPAs.
Human-induced changes in flows of water, nutrients, and sediments have impacts on marine ecosystems. Quantifying these changes to systematically allocate management actions is a priority for many areas worldwide. Modeling nutrient and sediment loads and contributions from subcatchments can inform prioritization of management interventions to mitigate the impacts of land-based pollution on marine ecosystems. Among the catchment models appropriate for large-scale applications, N-SPECT and SedNet have been used to prioritize areas for management of water quality in coastal-marine ecosystems. However, an assessment of their relative performance, parameterization, and utility for regional-scale planning is needed. We examined how these considerations can influence the choice between the two models and the areas identified as priorities for management actions. We assessed their application in selected catchments of the Gulf of California, where managing land-based threats to marine ecosystems is a priority. We found important differences in performance between models. SedNet consistently estimated spatial variations in runoff with higher accuracy than N-SPECT and modeled suspended sediment (TSS) loads mostly within the range of variation in observed loads. N-SPECT overestimated TSS loads by orders of magnitude when using the spatially-distributed sediment delivery ratio (SDR), but outperformed SedNet when using a calibrated SDR. Differences in subcatchments' contribution to pollutant loads were principally due to explicit representation of sediment sinks and particulate nutrients by SedNet. Improving the floodplain extent model, and constraining erosion estimates by local data including gully erosion in SedNet, would improve results of this model and help identify effective management responses. Differences between models in the patterns of modeled pollutant supply were modest, but significantly influenced the prioritization of subcatchments for management.
In 2011, the global human population reached 7 billion and medium variant projections indicate that it will exceed 9 billion before 2045. Theoretical and empirical perspectives suggest that this growth could lead to an increase in the likelihood of adverse events (e.g., food shortages, climate change, etc.) and/or the severity of adverse events (e.g., famines, natural disasters, etc.). Several scholars have posited that the size to which the global population grows and the extent to which this growth increases the likelihood of adverse outcomes will largely be shaped by individuals’ decisions (in households, organizations, governments, etc.). In light of the strong relationship between perceived risk and decision behaviors, it is surprising that there remains a dearth of empirical research that specifically examines the perceived risks of population growth and how these perceptions might influence related decisions. In an attempt to motivate this important strand of research, this article examines the major risks that may be exacerbated by global population growth and draws upon empirical work concerning the perception and communication of risk to identify potential directions for future research. The article also considers how individuals might perceive both the risks and benefits of population growth and be helped to better understand and address the related issues. The answers to these questions could help humanity better manage the emerging consequences of its continuing success in increasing infant survival and adult longevity.
The need to adapt to climate change is now widely recognised as evidence of its impacts on social and natural systems grows and greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated. Yet efforts to adapt to climate change, as reported in the literature over the last decade and in selected case studies, have not led to substantial rates of implementation of adaptation actions despite substantial investments in adaptation science. Moreover, implemented actions have been mostly incremental and focused on proximate causes; there are far fewer reports of more systemic or transformative actions. We found that the nature and effectiveness of responses was strongly influenced by framing. Recent decision-oriented approaches that aim to overcome this situation are framed within a “pathways” metaphor to emphasise the need for robust decision making within adaptive processes in the face of uncertainty and inter-temporal complexity. However, to date, such “adaptation pathways” approaches have mostly focused on contexts with clearly identified decision-makers and unambiguous goals; as a result, they generally assume prevailing governance regimes are conducive for adaptation and hence constrain responses to proximate causes of vulnerability. In this paper, we explore a broader conceptualisation of “adaptation pathways” that draws on ‘pathways thinking’ in the sustainable development domain to consider the implications of path dependency, interactions between adaptation plans, vested interests and global change, and situations where values, interests, or institutions constrain societal responses to change. This re-conceptualisation of adaptation pathways aims to inform decision makers about integrating incremental actions on proximate causes with the transformative aspects of societal change. Case studies illustrate what this might entail. The paper ends with a call for further exploration of theory, methods and procedures to operationalise this broader conceptualisation of adaptation.
Protecting and promoting recovery of species at risk of extinction is a critical component of biodiversity conservation. In Canada, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) determines whether species are at risk of extinction or extirpation, and has conducted these assessments since 1977. We examined trends in COSEWIC assessments to identify whether at-risk species that have been assessed more than once tended to improve, remain constant, or deteriorate in status, as a way of assessing the effectiveness of biodiversity conservation in Canada. Of 369 species that met our criteria for examination, 115 deteriorated, 202 remained unchanged, and 52 improved in status. Only 20 species (5.4%) improved to the point where they were ‘not at risk’, and five of those were due to increased sampling efforts rather than an increase in population size. Species outcomes were also dependent on the severity of their initial assessment; for example, 47% of species that were initially listed as special concern deteriorated between assessments. After receiving an at-risk assessment by COSEWIC, a species is considered for listing under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA), which is the primary national tool that mandates protection for at-risk species. We examined whether SARA-listing was associated with improved COSEWIC assessment outcomes relative to unlisted species. Of 305 species that had multiple assessments and were SARA-listed, 221 were listed at a level that required identification and protection of critical habitat; however, critical habitat was fully identified for only 56 of these species. We suggest that the Canadian government should formally identify and protect critical habitat, as is required by existing legislation. In addition, our finding that at-risk species in Canada rarely recover leads us to recommend that every effort be made to actively prevent species from becoming at-risk in the first place.
Fishing has been important in the Mediterranean region for many centuries and still has a central role in its economic importance and cultural heritage. A multitude of fishery-oriented marine managed areas have been implemented under a highly complex political and legislative framework to protect fishery resources and sensitive habitats from high impact uses. However, a review of the literature revealed that few data are available to support their effectiveness, except for a few studies on fishery reserves and marine reserves. In these cases, fish biomass has increased and some evidence of ecological and socioeconomic benefits has been documented. The environmental and geopolitical complexity of the Mediterranean region as well as the dominant top-down management approaches, constitute the weakest points in the spatial management of fisheries at regional level. A coordinating role of all national and supranational bodies present in the area is desirable in the near future.