The Skimmer & MPA News

MPA News

WWF, an international conservation NGO, has published an information package designed to summarize in lay terms the scientific case for no-take marine reserves. Composed of a book, slide show, and overhead presentation, the "toolkit" is geared toward people who need to persuade others of the benefits of reserves. Its objective, as stated in the book's preface, is to speed up the process of translating recent research into the creation of more reserves.

The toolkit, titled Fully-Protected Marine Reserves, was created by Callum Roberts and Julie Hawkins of the University of York (UK). They said the idea for the toolkit evolved from their research on reserves in developing countries.

"During this work we have come across many people working to set up reserves, and have been struck by the inadequacy of the background information they have access to," said Roberts. "Most are using papers that are five or more years old. In such a fast-moving field, they are missing out on some of the most powerfully convincing case studies and theoretical advances. We wanted to put the most recent information directly in their hands."

MPA News

The discovery of three rare coelacanths in a South African marine protected area has led the national government to place emergency restrictions on access to the MPA. Officials are now examining how the fishes' presence could be harnessed to increase tourism and research in the area.

On 27 November, recreational scuba divers encountered and videotaped the coelacanths at a depth of 107 meters (351 feet) in the St. Lucia Marine Protected Area, off the east coast of South Africa. This is the shallowest site in the world at which these ancient fish have been found. South Africa is just the third country (after Comoros and Indonesia) in whose waters live coelacanths have been observed.

MPA News

The US federal government has established a center to improve communication between MPA scientists and managers.  Called the Center for Marine Protected Area Science, the institution is designed to serve as a hub for initiating, supporting, and coordinating MPA science and policy analysis in the US.

Located in Santa Cruz, California, the center is scheduled to be fully operational by early 2001.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is responsible for managing it.

MPA News

Marine resource managers should increase their use of marine reserves, or no-take areas, as a supplement to conventional management tools, according to a new report from a committee of the US National Research Council (NRC). The report argues that the lack of experience with marine reserves should not stop managers from implementing them in an adaptive manner.

"Declining or poorly managed fish populations and damage to marine habitats are discouraging signs that conventional ocean-management practices are insufficient," said NRC committee chair Ed Houde in a statement following the report's release. The report provides a survey of scientific evidence in support of reserves.

The NRC is the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences, a private, nonprofit institution that provides scientific and technical advice under charter from the US Congress. The committee that wrote the report consisted of academics from the fields of marine resource management and marine ecology.

MPA News

President Clinton signed a bill on November 13 to reauthorize the US National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA). The reauthorized NMSA entails some changes in the law, including a new requirement that the US' existing national marine sanctuaries be deemed to have "sufficient resources" to implement their management plans before any new sanctuaries are designated. The reauthorized law also allows the US President to designate any coral reef in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) as a "coral reef reserve" to be managed by the US Secretary of Commerce.

This is the second time this year the NWHI coral reef ecosystem has been in the nation's news. In late May, President Clinton initiated a 90-day review process with state and regional stakeholders to decide whether more protection was needed for the NWHI coral reefs, which account for 70% of US coral reefs. As of mid-November, no recommendation had yet been announced.

MPA News

The Australian state of Victoria should set aside more than 6% of its waters in a network of "highly protected" (no-take) areas to safeguard spawning sites and other important habitats, according to the final report of an advisory council to the state government. Currently, 0.05% of Victorian waters serve as no-take areas.

The report, produced by the Environment Conservation Council (ECC) of Victoria, marks the culmination of an investigative process begun in 1991 by a preceding council. The ECC advises the Victorian government on the use of public lands; its investigation came at the government's request. Its final report incorporates stakeholder responses to a draft that the ECC released in December 1999 (MPA News 1:5).

MPA News

For a marine protected area to be able to meet its goals, resource users must comply with its regulations. Achieving such compliance from users can be a constant challenge for MPA practitioners. Managers with narrow budgets generally must rely on public-education techniques to build community support for the MPA. Larger budgets allow for greater surveillance and policing.

MPA News

The September 2000 issue of MPA News featured an article on the concept of rotating closed areas: that is, alternately closing and re-opening areas to fishing, allowing time for stocks to rebuild after each open season. With managers and researchers around the world beginning to consider the idea, it could represent an emerging trend in fisheries management.

MPA News asked readers to comment on the idea. Below, we've printed three of the letters we received. The first is from Graham Edgar, who was quoted in the September article.

MPA News

On September 14, Canada's minister of fisheries and oceans endorsed a plan that will make the waters surrounding Race Rocks, a small nine-islet archipelago, the first official marine protected area in Canada. Commercial fishing and most sport fishing will be off-limits in the MPA, which will measure a little less than one square mile, or 2.6 sq. km, in area. Race Rocks is located on the southernmost end of the nation's Pacific coast (MPA News 1:8).

Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) designated Race Rocks in 1998 as one of several "pilot MPAs", part of a strategy to determine whether those areas should be formally designated as MPAs and how they could best be managed (MPA News 1:1).

MPA News

The field of MPA planning and management may still be young, but its collective body of knowledge is growing quickly, through academic journals, textbooks, conferences, and workshops. Nonetheless, familiarity with the concept of MPAs among other stakeholders -- including policymakers, fishers, and the general public -- is relatively low. While practitioners discuss topics such as mooring buoy placement or self-financing schemes, many in the general public remain unaware that "marine protected areas" even exist.

This month, MPA News examines how various practitioners are attempting to raise public awareness of MPAs for an array of purposes.

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