In a move to protect the waters of one of the most remote places on Earth, Australia has designated a giant marine reserve around an island group just outside the Antarctic Circle. At 65,000 km2, the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve is the world's largest no-take area - roughly the size of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg combined.
In memoriam: Bob Johannes
Representative networks of marine protected areas should be established worldwide by the year 2012, and depleted fish stocks restored by 2015, according to an action plan agreed upon by global leaders at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), held earlier this month in Johannesburg, South Africa. The agreement also calls on governments to incorporate an ecosystem approach in fisheries management by 2010, eliminate subsidies that contribute to fishing-industry over-capacity, and protect marine biodiversity on the high seas.
Think of a community-based MPA and you might well imagine a rural coastal village managing its ocean resources with little, if any, outside involvement. In Fiji, however, a unique mix of geographic, environmental, and political conditions has helped foster a partnership for the protection of small community-based MPAs, uniting the interests of community members and a nearby private resort. Now, as that partnership has shown positive results, other Fijian resorts are looking to follow its lead. This month, MPA News examines this case and its lessons.
Editor's note: Mark Hixon, author of the following perspective piece, is a professor of marine ecology and conservation biology at Oregon State University (USA). Hixon excerpted this piece from a report he prepared for the Oregon Ocean Policy Advisory Council and the California Fish and Game Commission. His full report, entitled Fishery Effects of Existing West Coast Marine Reserves: The Scientific Evidence, can be obtained via e-mail directly from Dr. Hixon. The report contains full citations for studies mentioned in the following piece.
To protect rare colonies of glass-like, deepwater sponges, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has banned groundfish trawling at four sites off the Pacific coast of Canada. The non-contiguous sites - about 200 meters in depth and covering nearly 1000 km2 of seabed - will remain open to other fishing-gear types as DFO officials examine the compatibility of those gear types with sponge protection.
Report details steps to reduce impacts of fishing
The seafloor - sandy or rocky; flat or sloped; seamount or canyon - provides the foundation for multiple processes within MPAs, including the distribution of flora and fauna. However, MPA practitioners have generally had only patchy knowledge, at best, of what lies at the bottom of their protected sites, based on information gathered from fishermen, divers, and rough bathymetric data from nautical charts. With an inexact understanding of what's "down there", planners and managers face a real challenge of drawing appropriate boundaries and protecting the habitats they want to protect.