The Skimmer & MPA News

MPA News

By Mark Tupper, University of Guam

Many scientists agree that tropical fisheries in developing island nations, such as St. Lucia, stand to gain the most from no-take marine reserves.  Many of these island fisheries are seriously overexploited and have little or no management of their reef fish stocks. In such cases, where no-take marine reserves are established they serve as the primary (in some cases sole) controls of catch and effort.  It seems obvious that any management regime will produce increased yields over no management at all, and for developing tropical nations with several hundred or more species of reef fish, no-take marine reserves might be much easier to enforce than a complex set of catch limits, size limits, and gear restrictions.  However, the St. Lucia example is specific to coral reef fisheries and does not prove the global utility of no-take marine reserves to fisheries.

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In the past quarter-century, MPAs have experienced a surge in popularity among resource managers looking for tools to help protect underwater habitats and other resources. Of the thousands of MPAs now in existence worldwide, the large majority of them have been designated since the mid-1970s.

But the modern history of marine protected areas began long before that. To get a sense of when, and where, the modern MPA movement began, one must pinpoint when the first MPA was designated. This is easier said than done. With the definition of "marine protected area" often differing from user to user, several MPAs around the world have been named, in print or on the web, as being "the first".

Wading into this issue, MPA News challenged readers in September to name the oldest existing marine protected area in the world, in hopes that we might help to settle this matter. Our guidelines were fairly simple: nominated MPAs must exist currently, and must fit the IUCN definition of marine protected area -- "an area of intertidal or subtidal terrain, together with its overlying water and associated flora, fauna, historical and cultural features, which has been reserved by law or other effective means to protect part or all of the enclosed environment." (IUCN 1992)

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Mozambique protects Bazaruto coral reefs

The government of Mozambique on November 28 extended the boundaries of what had been solely a terrestrial park on the islands of the Bazaruto Archipelago to include 1,400 km2 of the surrounding waters. The newly named Bazaruto Archipelago National Park features coral reefs and seagrass beds that support a diverse fishery, a strong dive industry, and the largest viable dugong population on the East African coast. The pending management plan for the expanded park includes a zoning system that will establish some no-take areas, particularly in coral communities; elsewhere in the park, seine and hand-line fisheries by island residents will still be allowed.

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Many parts of the ocean remain largely unknown to scientists. The deeper the water, the more difficult and costly it is to study the ecosystems there. Sometimes it is only exploration by commercial interests that sheds much light on the deep ocean, as the petroleum and fishing sectors plumb ever-greater depths with advanced drilling and fishing gear.

Such has been the case for deepwater corals. Although naturalists have known since the 1800s that some corals live in deep, cold water, researchers are only beginning to appreciate the scale of their reef communities, and their potential ecological significance to fish and biodiversity. As the petroleum and fishing industries increasingly encounter these reef communities off the coasts of Europe and elsewhere, resource managers are starting to consider necessary protection. This month, MPA News examines the current state of knowledge on deepwater corals, and the various efforts to protect them.

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Editor's Note: Bruce Burrows, author of the following perspective piece, has worked as a commercial fisherman on the Pacific Coast of Canada for 20 years. Burrows now serves as fisheries outreach coodinator for the Living Oceans Society, a Canadian NGO, raising the awareness of fishermen on the subject of MPAs. In the following piece, he offers tips to NGOs and other MPA planners on why and how they should work with commercial fishermen. Some of his points echo comments made by Bob Johannes (see Johannes, this issue) in discussing the knowledge of indigenous fishermen. [Burrows's piece is based on a presentation he made at the "MPA Power Tools Conference", White Rock, British Columbia, Canada, October 19-21, 2001.]

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In most areas of the world, indigenous peoples can be important stakeholders in the planning and management of marine protected areas, often offering a detailed ecological knowledge of the sea, honed over centuries. In addition, some nations grant special territorial and resource rights to indigenous peoples, empowering them with a direct say in how protected areas are planned and managed.

This month, as part one of a two-part study, MPA News offers insights from two experts -- Gonzalo Oviedo and Bob Johannes -- on issues involved in the participation of indigenous peoples in MPA practice. An MPA News interview with Oviedo and a perspective piece by Johannes appear below. In next month's newsletter, we will examine case examples of MPAs in which indigenous peoples have played a significant role.

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  • The draft Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage was adopted on November 6 by the United Nations cultural organization UNESCO. The convention covers activities directed at sunken ships and other "traces of human existence" that have been submerged for at least 100 years (MPA News 3:3). Among parties to the convention, no activity directed at such heritage may occur without a permit. The convention will now be submitted to UNESCO member nations for ratification; if adopted by a two-thirds majority of member nations, the convention will become international law, at least for its signatories. For more information: http://www.unesco.org/culture/legalprotection.

  • The results of MPA News's reader challenge to name the oldest marine protected area in the world (MPA News 3:3) will be published in next month's issue.

MPA News

Dear MPA News:

As a matter of general principle, the Tasmanian Fishing Industry Council is opposed to the introduction of no-take MPAs unless we can be satisfied that it is demonstrably in the best interests of our members and coastal communities. Locking up areas of marine waters around Tasmania (MPA News 3:4) is an extremely contentious issue, and we have yet to see positive evidence that proves marine reserves actually benefit the commercial fishing industry.

MPA News

Dear Reader,

When MPA News was launched two years ago, the editorial board had one overarching goal: to serve the entire community of MPA stakeholders by informing them and bringing them together in discussion, debate, and understanding. This remains our goal, and the editorial board has worked to cover the range of views and knowledge held by stakeholders.

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