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Last month, MPA News presented findings from a November 2001 workshop to discuss the role of socioeconomic concerns in successful MPAs, convened at the 54th annual meeting of the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (MPA News 3:8). This month, we present findings from a parallel workshop that discussed how to improve the application of science in MPA design and management. This latter workshop - involving more than 30 individuals from 10 countries - identified several priority areas for filling gaps in the use of MPA science.

The science workshop Improving Applications of Science in MPA Design and Management identified the absence of clear goal-setting and subsequent hypothesis-testing as obstacles to determining long-term MPA effectiveness. The report, available online at the website of the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (, suggests tips for better integrating science in MPA practice. In light of the report's usefulness to practitioners both inside and outside the Caribbean region, MPA News has summarized its highlights below.

MPA News

The New England groundfishery, off the northeastern coast of the US, faces the specter of increased closures by management as a result of a lawsuit brought by conservation groups to limit bycatch and prevent overfishing.

In papers filed in March with the presiding federal court, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) proposed a remedy of extending one major closure and creating a new one to decrease fishing mortality. It is up to the court to accept the NMFS proposal or draft another solution, which could include removal of the groundfishery from NMFS jurisdiction, as requested by the conservation groups that brought the suit.

The Conservation Law Foundation and four other NGOs filed the lawsuit last year. They charged that the New England Fishery Management Council - which has direct regional oversight of groundfish management, and submits management plans to NMFS for approval - had violated federal law by failing to adopt a framework for minimizing bycatch and preventing overfishing in a timely manner. Of the 19 groundfish stocks under council management, 15 are considered to be overfished. The court ruled last December that the council had indeed violated the law, and called on NMFS and the NGOs to propose remedies.

MPA News

Public protests about potential fishery closures off the coast of the state of California (US) have led state officials to scrap a two-year process to plan a network of marine reserves, and start over. State officials agreed with recreational fishermen, commercial fishermen, and other groups that stakeholders had not had enough input in the planning process. A new process, expected to begin this month, will involve representatives from an array of stakeholder groups in the study of potential closures.

The effort to plan a series of closures stems from the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), a state law passed in October 1999 (MPA News 1:3). The MLPA requires the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) to draft a master plan for a network of MPAs in state waters; the plan must meet resource protection goals while considering the needs of interested parties. Responding to the law, DFG convened a team of scientists - referred to as the master plan team - to draw up concept maps of potential new closures. It was these maps that drew stakeholder criticism. In announcing the new inclusive process this past January, DFG Director Robert Hight said he was "wiping the slate clean."

MPA News

Dear MPA News:

As former manager of three US National Marine Sanctuaries (Key Largo, USS Monitor and Channel Islands), I would like to offer the following perspective to the MPA definition discussion that has been proceeding in the "Letters from Readers" (MPA News 3:7, 3:8).

Briefly, unless we have control over pollutants coming in from the land, air and external currents, we are trying to manage the proverbial "submarine with three screen doors". We might have success on the land side, but the air and current sides are often international (as well as large-scale national) problems, and not easily mitigated.

MPA News

New MPA plan for Victoria enshrines compensation of fishermen

In a revision of its plan for a series of marine national parks in state waters, the Australian state government of Victoria has developed a compensation scheme for fishermen affected by the new parks. Under the revised plan, financial assistance would be available to eligible fishery license holders to cover increased fishing operating costs and reduced catches directly related to the MPAs. The plan also calls for creation of an assessment panel to determine compensation amounts and an appeals tribunal.

MPA News

Roughly 80% of international trade is carried by ship. Such traffic carries the risk of groundings, collisions, spills, and other incidents that threaten the ecological health of marine systems. The associated hazards to habitats and wildlife can pose a persistent concern for managers of marine protected areas, particularly those near major ports or shipping routes.

In several cases around the world, MPA practitioners have moved to reduce these threats by implementing focused regulatory instruments, such as shipping lanes, areas to be avoided, or discharge restrictions. But a broader, higher-profile tool remains available - the international designation of sites as Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas, or PSSAs - offering managers a comprehensive approach to seeking vigilance and awareness from the international shipping industry. Available since 1991, the PSSA tool has so far been approved for just two sites, but more are now in the designation pipeline. This month, MPA News examines the PSSA tool and how some practitioners intend to apply it.

MPA News

Last November at the 54th annual meeting of the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute, scientists and MPA practitioners convened a workshop to discuss the role of socioeconomic concerns in successful MPAs. Titled "Human System Connectivity: A Need for MPA Management Effectiveness", the workshop addressed gaps in the management of Caribbean MPAs, namely in the development of manager and stakeholder capacity and inter-group communication. Participants, including resource users and NGOs, said filling these gaps would help MPAs to achieve their goals of protection and sustainable resource use.

The workshop report provides a list of tips for how practitioners can fill such gaps. In light of the list's potential usefulness to practitioners both inside and outside of the Caribbean region, MPA News has adapted its highlights below.

MPA News

By Brock Bernstein, National Fisheries Conservation Center

I know a fisherman who doesn't think marine reserves are needed.  He's skeptical of their ability to improve fishery yields and says he just wishes they'd go away.  In spite of that, he's willing to contribute his knowledge to help improve their design and lessen their immediate impacts on fishermen.  But like many others who share both his point of view and his deep knowledge of the ocean, he has been frustrated by a welter of problems that leave fishermen feeling marginalized and even targeted as the movement toward marine reserves gains momentum.

MPA News

Cocos Island update: Poacher fined, forfeits ship In a decision handed down by the supreme court of Costa Rica, the owners of an Ecuadorian longliner, caught in August 2001 fishing illegally in the country's Cocos Island National Park (MPA News 3:4), have been fined US$290,000 for the infraction and have had to forfeit the vessel to authorities. This marks the first time the country has applied vessel forfeiture as a penalty for poaching.