MEAM and MPA News

MPA News

By Stephen Palumbi, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University

The seas are increasingly in serious trouble. Coral bleaching, blankets of hypoxic or anoxic water, radical changes in species composition, toxic algal blooms, marine epidemic diseases, mass mortalities, and fisheries collapses are all symptoms of complex but fundamental alterations in the health of marine ecosystems. As both the value and vulnerability of marine ecosystems become broadly recognized, there is an increasing search for effective mechanisms to prevent or reverse widespread declines, and to sustain or restore ocean ecosystems.

MPA News

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.

MPA News

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.

MPA News

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.

MPA News

Charles Darwin was referring to living organisms.  I am quoting him here because the complex, interrelated environmental problems which the world is seeing at the end of the 20th century reveal that his observation is equally applicable to the checks and relations between human political and administrative organizations.

We are at last realizing that everything is connected to everything else and that the world operates as a complex process with characteristics which ensure that it will function chaotically.  That is to say, precise predictions of events and states a long time ahead will not be possible.

The best reaction to such a situation is to proceed strategically -- that is, to adopt policies that will put us in advantageous positions from which to take specific actions which will contribute to our attaining our objective.  Our goal is, of course, ecologically sustainable development.

MPA News

The number of marine protected areas is growing worldwide. But how effective is each in meeting its objectives? A new report from the World Conservation Union (IUCN) offers a method for evaluating the successes and shortfalls of individual protected areas and protected area systems.

Evaluating Effectiveness: A Framework for Assessing the Management of Protected Areas, published in October 2000, is an evaluation workbook for protected-area stakeholders. Providing step-by-step advice, the report is designed to be used at a variety of assessment levels, from relatively quick evaluations at a national level to detailed monitoring programs at each site.

MPA News

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has created a new center to equip MPA stakeholders with skills for designing and managing marine protected areas. The Institute for Marine Protected Area Training and Technical Assistance will develop and provide a variety of training and assistance to MPA managers, scientists, fishermen, and other interested parties, primarily from the US. It will be located at NOAA's Coastal Services Center in Charleston, South Carolina.

The institute's establishment follows former President Clinton's executive order from May 2000 that ordered NOAA to establish a new Marine Protected Areas Center to provide the science, tools and strategies for building a national system of MPAs (MPA News 1:8). Part of NOAA's response has been to create two regional MPA centers: the above-mentioned MPA training institute in South Carolina, and the Center for Marine Protected Areas Science in Santa Cruz, California (MPA News 2:5).

MPA News

Last month, a tanker vessel carrying a cargo of 240,000 gallons (605,000 liters) of fuel ran aground off San Cristobal Island in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. After two days, the tanker Jessica began to leak, and fuel continued to spill from her for nearly a week. All told, the Jessica released two-thirds of her cargo directly into the waters of the archipelago -- the Galapagos Marine Reserve.

Galapagos resource managers faced a potential ecological nightmare. But through a combination of manpower, technology, and luck, they appear to have kept the spill from becoming the disaster it could have been. This month, MPA News examines how the Galapagos management team responded to the Jessica spill, and what other MPA managers can learn from their experience.

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

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."

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