Is It an MPA?

MPA News

MPA News asked two people with an interest in global MPA statistics for their thoughts on what counts as an MPA. Specifically, we gave a short list of what might be considered borderline MPAs to:

  • Chris Yesson of the Institute of Zoology in the UK, who helped develop the global MPA coverage calculation for the Marine Reserves Coalition, and
  • Lance Morgan of the Marine Conservation Institute, who has led development of MPAtlas.org

…and asked them which ones they would consider to be actual MPAs. Because both of their projects rely on the World Database on Protected Areas as their primary source of global MPA data, they agreed on nearly all of the sites. Still, their answers shed some light on how global MPA statistics are compiled:

Mediterranean/Black seas bottom trawl closure (designated 2005; 1.63 million km2)

Morgan: This is unlikely to be considered an MPA. It should be considered a fishery restriction instead.

International Whaling Commission Indian Ocean Sanctuary (designated 1979; 70 million km2)

Yesson: The Marine Reserves Coalition did not include this in our calculation. We felt its inclusion would result in a massive and artificial inflation of the protected area calculation.

Morgan: This site needs to be more comprehensive in its ecosystem protection to be considered an MPA.

Any MPA that has little to no effective management or enforcement in place (a paper park)

Morgan: Many sites in MPAtlas.org most likely fall into this category. We have not attempted yet to exclude areas on the basis of effective management.

Any MPA that allows commercial fishing

Morgan: Most MPAs allow some form of commercial fishing. In MPAtlas.org, we are planning to display no-take reserves differently and are looking to refine this information as our project continues.

Yesson: It would be useful to conduct a spatially explicit analysis of areas that are completely no-take. At present it is difficult to do because the data required have not been gathered into usable form. We feel this is the next logical step for MPA coverage analysis.