For MPAs, scientific research on the effect of management policies is central to measuring overall success. Most managers, however, lack the funding to conduct such studies in-house. As a result, they must rely on external researchers - with their own interests and priorities - to conduct the work.
For a scientist's view on what researchers look for when considering MPA study sites, MPA News interviewed Callum Roberts of the University of York (UK). Roberts has conducted fish censuses at several MPAs in the Caribbean, and is author of multiple papers and reports on the effect of marine reserves on fish populations (MPA News 3:6).
MPA News: What criteria do you consider when searching for a field site to study?
For the MPA manager facing a future of tight government budgets and increasing program demands, the search for additional funding becomes an essential task. While there are various self-financing mechanisms from which to choose - e.g., user fees and income from associated commercial operations (MPA News 2:8) - there is another option available: soliciting donor organizations for funding.
Editor's note: The author of the following perspective piece, Nancy Dahl-Tacconi, is currently on leave from the Marine Group of Environment Australia. She is conducting research for her Ph.D. on incorporating participatory processes and scientific methods in the measurement of MPA management effectiveness. In this piece, she draws on her own observations and experience in the MPA field, both in Australia and Indonesia.
By Nancy Dahl-Tacconi
British Columbia publishes MPA inventory
When MPA practitioners face the challenge of meeting their conservation goals with a budget that is less than optimal, there are two options available to them: seek more funding from other sources, and find ways to minimize costs. Because the "seek more funding" option can entail significant work without guaranteed returns, many practitioners have become adept at finding ways to stretch the limited funding they have. In the tightly budgeted world of MPA planning and management, frugality is a necessary virtue.
This month, MPA News interviewed two managers - one from the US, one from Zanzibar - about the challenge of doing more with less, and how to leverage available resources to manage an MPA effectively.
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 (http://www.gcfi.org), 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.
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.
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."
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.