MEAM and MPA News

MPA News

The 518-sq. km Tortugas Ecological Reserve, at the western end of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (US), will take full effect on July 1, 2001. Located in two parts (Tortugas North and Tortugas South), the coral-rich reserve will be off-limits to all fishing. Diving will be prohibited in Tortugas South. According to sanctuary officials, the reserve will be the nation's largest permanent no-take marine reserve.

The process to create the ecological reserve involved a wide array of stakeholders, including several federal agencies, state government, divers, fishers, and scientists (MPA News 1:1). The US Department of the Interior -- which oversees nearby Dry Tortugas National Park and which participated in the reserve-planning process -- is still considering creating a no-take "research natural area" of its own that would abut Tortugas North.

MPA News

Many marine protected areas exist on maps and in legislation but offer little real protection in the water. Often referred to as "paper parks", these sites represent a failure of efforts to protect resources and ecosystems. They are surprisingly common. Estimates of the percentage of some countries' MPAs that exist primarily on paper range as high as 80-90%.

Reasons abound for this ineffectiveness, and often center around shortages of funding, lack of community support, and other factors. Although these conditions can be persistent, practitioners around the world are working to overcome them. This month, MPA News examines some of the causes of paper parks and how people and organizations are working to turn them into effective MPAs.

MPA News

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).

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.

MPA News

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.

MPA News

A marine protected area based wholly upon ecological science may represent the ideal MPA for conservation biologists.  Seldom, however, are MPAs designated on a purely ecological basis.  More often, MPA designations represent the desire of decisionmakers to protect an area for aesthetic or political reasons.  Or they incorporate a range of social and economic considerations -- like minimizing economic impacts on fishers -- that can compromise an MPA's "ideal" ecological design, often for the purpose of gaining support from stakeholders.

Frequently this results in disagreement about the role of science in stakeholder processes.

In the state of California (USA), a process is ongoing to designate a series of marine reserves around the Channel Islands archipelago.  The process, designed by a multistakeholder group, has been advised by two panels: a science advisory panel, made up of natural scientists, and a socioeconomic advisory panel, consisting of economists and other social scientists.  Set to conclude this month (May), the process has been intended to heed ecological and socioeconomic concerns in generating a consensus plan.

MPA News

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.

MPA News

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.)

MPA News

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.

MPA News

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.

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