Report available on state-level MPA policies and programs in US
The largest marine protected area in the world now also includes the largest network of no-take areas. In late March, the Australian Parliament passed a bill to re-zone the multiple-use Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, setting aside one-third of the 344,000-km2 park as off-limits to all extractive activity. In doing so, legislators created a 115,000-km2 network of no-take zones, representing all 70 marine bioregions throughout the park. (For perspective: The new no-take network is roughly the size of Bulgaria or North Korea.
Discussions of MPAs often focus on the management of fishing inside and outside of protected areas. But the growing presence of another extractive sector - the offshore petroleum industry - contributes its own set of interactions with MPAs, both negative and positive. The 50-year-old industry of exploring and drilling for oil and natural gas from the seafloor continues to expand, with new areas - such as West Africa and Western Canada - either in active development or under consideration for development. As the industry grows, so will its interactions with MPAs.
This May, a new guidebook on measuring the management effectiveness of MPAs is scheduled for release. Titled How Is Your MPA Doing?, the book aims to help improve management by offering a framework to identify site goals and analyze how well those goals are being achieved. Featured are case studies of 18 MPAs around the world, both tropical and temperate, that used the framework to evaluate their management effectiveness.
Caribbean nations meet to build partnerships for marine ecosystem management
To design effective MPAs, planners need information on the habitats and species they want to protect. Data on the home range of a particular fish species, for example, can be invaluable for siting marine reserves to protect that species. Over the past several decades, scientists have tracked fish movement through mark-and-recapture techniques or following fish with scuba divers - generating useful, though incomplete, information.
In February, delegates from 161 nations met in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for biannual talks on strategies to conserve global biodiversity. The meeting - the Seventh Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP-7) - featured decisions on international protected-area planning and the conservation of marine and coastal ecosystems, among other items. MPA News invited Bud Ehler, Vice-Chair (Marine) for the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, to explain the implications for MPAs:
Editor's note: When MPA habitats become severely degraded, active rehabilitation by management may be desirable - or necessary, in some cases - to restore ecological functions formerly provided. Such rehabilitation can be controversial, however, when artificial technologies are applied. The concept of "naturalness", which management normally strives to protect with an MPA, becomes somewhat blurred.