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A new atlas prepared by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP-WCMC) provides what it describes as the first detailed accounting of the state of coral reefs around the world. The glossy, 424-page World Atlas of Coral Reefs offers full-page maps depicting reefs and associated MPAs, and assesses the threats facing both.

The atlas divides its subject into three broad geographic realms: the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific; the wider Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia; and the Pacific. These are then subdivided into regional chapters, then smaller sections. Each section covers a range of issues, including the physical geography of each region or country and the structure and biodiversity of the reefs.

The book should be useful to practitioners of coral reef MPAs interested in comparing their sites to others around the world, in terms of biodiversity, threats, and protection efforts. "The atlas gives a flavor of the global network of protection for coral reefs, and of the gaps in this network," said lead author Mark Spalding, senior program officer for UNEP-WCMC's Marine and Coastal Programme. "There are some great stories arising from different management approaches around the world, and there may be opportunities to apply lessons learned in one country to those in another." (Spalding's co-authors were Corinna Ravilious and Edmund Green, both of UNEP-WCMC.)

MPA News

Scientists and managers from more than 20 countries gathered in July to share information on the role of science in MPA management. In a workshop held prior to the Coastal Zone '01 conference in Cleveland, Ohio (US), attendees discussed ways to improve coordination of science and management, including through the enhanced participation of local stakeholders.

The three-day international workshop -- directed by the US National Ocean Service and sponsored by several organizations -- culminated in a brainstorming session to provide advice on improving the conduct and use of MPA science. The workshop participants and their results were divided into two general groups -- scientists and managers.

MPA News has excerpted below the advice of the scientist group, which had members from eight countries on four continents. The group included both natural and social scientists. (Advice from the managers will be printed in the next issue of MPA News.)

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The past two decades have experienced a surge in the number of marine protected areas designated around the world. Some are small, some larger; some are no-take, some multiple-use. The global collection of MPAs -- consisting of thousands of sites worldwide -- has evolved to feature a broad range of designs, management regimes, and goals.

But from what did this MPA constellation evolve? How has MPA practice changed since the first marine protected area? And what do those changes mean for how practitioners should plan for the future?

To begin to answer these questions, one must first decide on when the first MPA was designated. This point is surprisingly unclear. Last month, in the coral_list online discussion group (see box at end of article), the question of when the first MPA was designated elicited answers suggesting sites across the globe, with designation dates ranging decades or more.

MPA News
  • Clarification: The correct address for the website co-managed by the US Departments of Commerce and the Interior to provide news and information on national MPA efforts is The August 2001 issue of MPA News incorrectly printed the address as Both addresses direct the visitor to the same website, but the departments refer to the site by the shorter address.

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The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and the California Department of Fish and Game have finalized a recommendation for the designation of a no-take marine reserve network around the Channel Islands, on the US Pacific Coast. The recommendation represents the culmination of two years of consensus-based discussions among a variety of interest groups (MPA News 2:10); it will be presented to the California Fish and Game Commission on 24 August 2001.

MPA News

Approximately half of the Earth's surface consists of the high seas: open-ocean and deep-sea ecosystems beyond the 200-nautical-mile marine jurisdiction of any coastal state. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), nations hold a duty to protect the marine environment and to conserve the living resources of the high seas.

But the high seas are also open to all nations, and subject to freedoms of fishing and navigation. For such activities to be limited, multilateral agreements are necessary. Such agreements are binding upon their signatory nations, but not upon others.

While there are several multilateral environmental and conservation agreements dealing with the high seas, few establish MPAs as such. Last year, MPA News (2:1) reported on various activities by scientists and governments to support the designation of MPAs in international waters. New information is now available.

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As MPAs are designated around the world, keeping track of their locations and what they're protecting becomes increasingly necessary. In order for resource managers to analyze the breadth or effectiveness of a collection of MPAs, they need to know what is already in place.

This is easier said than done. In regions where MPAs have been designated under a variety of regulatory regimes, tracking down all of them can be a painstaking process. Even defining what is meant by "marine protected area" -- and, therefore, what will be included in the inventory -- can be tricky. This month, MPA News examines efforts by two countries to create national MPA inventories, and describes how they are facing the challenges involved.

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By Mat Vanderklift and Trevor Ward, University of Western Australia

Ecological information is an important basis for the selection of marine protected areas. However, when evaluating areas, planners are often faced with limited and uncertain ecological information on which to base their decisions. They usually do not have good information about the distribution patterns of species, habitats, and ecosystems over extensive areas. Even less is known about the processes that maintain biological diversity (such as those that maintain fish or invertebrate recruitment to an area) and the extent of ecological interconnectedness of different areas.

Arbitrary declaration of areas for MPAs on the basis of poor ecological knowledge leads to a high risk that objectives will not be met. If MPAs are to be more than just paper exercises to appease lobby groups with politically acceptable solutions, appropriate ecological data from a carefully designed process of sampling and analysis are required. MPAs identified and selected using only superficial ecological knowledge will provide a false sense of security, and may disguise continuing decay of marine biological diversity both within and around designated MPAs.

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The government of the Australian state of Victoria has put on hold its plan to establish a representative marine parks system for the state, due to arguments with the opposition over how to compensate fishers for reduced catches.

The ruling Labor government favors providing roughly AU $1 million in "transitional assistance" to fishers, but wants to prevent fishers from seeking additional compensation through the Supreme Court. The opposition Liberal party objects to compensation limits on this issue. Labor has withdrawn the bill from parliamentary consideration, pending negotiations with the opposition.

"Unlimited compensation through the courts would expose taxpayers to large compensation claims, which would not be in the government's interest," said a spokesperson for the Victorian environment minister. "The Victorian government has a policy commitment to the creation of marine national parks, and is presently considering options for the bill's reintroduction."