MEAM and MPA News

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."

MPA News

President Clinton has designated a vast marine protected area around the coral-laden Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) -- an MPA that now ranks as the largest protected area (either terrestrial or marine) in the US and the second largest MPA in the world. Clinton's designation of the MPA in early December followed a 90-day public consultation process -- ordered by the president last May (MPA News 1:9) -- to develop recommendations for increasing protection of the NWHI's coral ecosystems. The NWHI contain nearly 70% of US coral reefs.

The newly created Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve spans 340,000 sq. km (84 million acres). The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, widely considered to be the world's largest MPA, is only slightly larger at 350,000 sq. km.

The state of Hawaii will retain its jurisdiction out to three nautical miles from the shore of most of the NWHI islands. The new reserve will extend from the seaward boundary of Hawaii state waters to 50 nautical miles from the geographic center of the NWHI chain's islands. The reserve will be overseen by the National Marine Sanctuary Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency within the Department of Commerce.

MPA News

Dozens of fishers in the Galápagos Islands, angered by resource managers' refusal to expand a lobster quota, rioted in mid-November, looting and destroying buildings including the administrative building of the Galápagos National Park. Eventually halted by military personnel sent from mainland Ecuador, the clashes signaled the continuation of episodes among Galapagueño fishers to use violence to oppose conservation efforts.

Conservation scientists in the Galápagos Islands face the challenge of implementing several initiatives -- including a zoning plan to create a network of no-take areas (MPA 1:7) -- in an island society that is increasingly trying to benefit from valuable fisheries.

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

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.

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