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.
The Skimmer & MPA News
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.
In October 1999, MPA News surveyed a dozen MPA experts from around the world on what scientific question intrigued them most (MPA News 1:2). Reflecting the relative newness of MPA science, respondents viewed some of the most basic questions -- such as whether no-take areas increase stock biomass, both within and outside their borders -- as unanswered.
Since then, several academic papers, reports, and consensus statements have cited "compelling" scientific evidence for marine reserves' use as a central tool in fisheries management. A committee of the US National Research Council has argued in favor of the expanded use of marine reserves for protecting and rebuilding depleted fish stocks (see box at end of article). A separate group of 160 marine-science academics voiced a similar opinion (MPA 2:8).
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.
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.
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.)
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.
Marine protected area practitioners regularly face the challenge of meeting their conservation goals with a budget that is less than needed. Short on funding, MPA managers must limit their conservation programs and visitor services.
This situation is what attracts many practitioners to the concept of finding additional resources besides those budgeted. By harnessing the economic potential of an MPA -- as by charging fees on visitors -- they can use that revenue to support the costs of resource protection.
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.
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.