The heightened interest in MPAs among resource managers has spurred a wave of related scientific research and a growing library of academic articles and reports. But how much of this scientific discovery is reaching MPA practitioners -- the people who need this information to plan and manage their MPAs effectively? MPA News asked two practitioners about the availability of scientific information and explored what others are doing to help translate science into action.
MPA News spoke with two members of the Channel Islands science advisory panel about the roles of science and scientists in the reserve-planning process there. Satie Airame, a postdoctoral researcher with the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, has served as the panel's sanctuary liaison; Robert Warner is a biologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
A marine protected area based wholly upon ecological science may represent the ideal MPA for conservation biologists. Seldom, however, are MPAs designated on a purely ecological basis. More often, MPA designations represent the desire of decisionmakers to protect an area for aesthetic or political reasons. Or they incorporate a range of social and economic considerations -- like minimizing economic impacts on fishers -- that can compromise an MPA's "ideal" ecological design, often for the purpose of gaining support from stakeholders.
Frequently this results in disagreement about the role of science in stakeholder processes.
In the state of California (USA), a process is ongoing to designate a series of marine reserves around the Channel Islands archipelago. The process, designed by a multistakeholder group, has been advised by two panels: a science advisory panel, made up of natural scientists, and a socioeconomic advisory panel, consisting of economists and other social scientists. Set to conclude this month (May), the process has been intended to heed ecological and socioeconomic concerns in generating a consensus plan.
By Kreg Lindberg, Griffith University, Queensland, Australia
As illustrated in the recent MPA News article on self-financing (March 2001), user fees like the US$10 dive fee at Bonaire can make important contributions to the funding of MPAs. Nonetheless, there are several conceptual and practical issues facing MPA managers when deciding whether to charge fees. This article briefly discusses some of these issues in the context of user fees at Belizean MPAs.
With each year's designation of new marine protected areas around the world, analysis of the coverage fostered by this patchwork of MPAs is becoming increasingly difficult.
For managers to assess gaps in habitat protection, they must first document where MPAs already exist. In regions where dozens -- or hundreds -- of marine protected areas have been designated under various regulatory regimes, such documentation can be painstaking. Nonetheless, inventories of MPAs are necessary for effective marine resource planning, and efforts to create regional MPA databases are becoming more common.
The new book Marine Protected Areas and Fishery Closures in British Columbia may offer a useful model for MPA practitioners interested in pursuing their own MPA-inventory process. Created by two Canadian fisheries researchers, the book profiles the 125 legislated MPAs and 579 spatially-persistent fishery closures along Canada's Pacific coast. (The book defines "fishery closures" as restricting only fishing activity, while "marine protected areas" may address a variety of human activities.)
The US Man and the Biosphere Program, a federal multiagency initiative, has published a reference manual to help MPA practitioners develop user-access strategies. It is a product of a five-year, peer-reviewed project to assess impacts of various MPA management schemes.
Alternative Access Management Strategies for Marine and Coastal Protected Areas: A Reference Manual for Their Development and Assessment offers a flowchart of the major components of managing MPAs. Its chapters -- short, relatively introductory essays -- follow the flowchart and offer references to sources of additional information. The topics range from establishing a legal framework and vision statement, to assessing ecosystem health and involving local stakeholders in decisionmaking.
Managing the relationship between tourism and marine protected areas requires a balancing act on the part of MPA practitioners. The unique ecological features found in MPAs often make them popular tourist attractions for scuba diving, sightseeing, or other activities, and these can generate revenue for the MPA and the local community. But tourists, if not managed carefully, can quickly degrade the very resources they have come to see.
This month, MPA News examines how some stakeholders in the global MPA community -- divers, researchers, recreational fishers, and environmentalists -- are working to influence the way that MPA practitioners balance tourism and conservation.
By Stephen Palumbi, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University
The seas are increasingly in serious trouble. Coral bleaching, blankets of hypoxic or anoxic water, radical changes in species composition, toxic algal blooms, marine epidemic diseases, mass mortalities, and fisheries collapses are all symptoms of complex but fundamental alterations in the health of marine ecosystems. As both the value and vulnerability of marine ecosystems become broadly recognized, there is an increasing search for effective mechanisms to prevent or reverse widespread declines, and to sustain or restore ocean ecosystems.
There is now compelling scientific evidence that no-take areas -- or marine reserves -- conserve both biodiversity and fisheries, and could help replenish depleted fish stocks, according to a consensus statement signed by 160 marine-science academics from around the world. Released February 17 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the statement is the culmination of a three-year, international effort to advance scientific understanding of marine reserves.
"All around the world there are different experiences, but the basic message is the same: marine reserves work, and they work fast," said Jane Lubchenco (Oregon State University, USA), a past president of AAAS and a leader of the three-year effort. "It is no longer a question of whether to set aside fully protected areas in the ocean, but where to establish them."
The consensus statement recommends that marine resource managers use reserves as a "central management tool" for achieving long-term fishery and conservation benefits. It concludes that networks of reserves, rather than isolated single reserves, will be necessary to buffer against environmental variability and catastrophes.
The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has published a guidebook to assist protected area managers in identifying and securing appropriate and sustainable finance. Financing Protected Areas: Guidelines for Protected Area Managers provides a step-by-step process for creating business and financial plans, and discusses mechanisms for generating revenue flows.
Released in October 2000, the 58-page book is based on inputs from a range of sources, including IUCN's Economics Unit and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA). It guides readers through the range of funding sources and mechanisms available at international, national and local levels.