New Book Takes Comprehensive Look at Marine Reserves

MPA News

A new book aims to summarize the "state of the art" on no-take marine reserves, providing an overview of current expertise on reserve science, planning, and management. Targeting a broad audience - including non-expert scientists, students, managers, decision-makers, conservationists, and other stakeholders - the book provides analysis on all aspects of reserves, as well as detailed case studies from around the world.

Marine Reserves: A Guide to Science, Design, and Use, by Jack Sobel of The Ocean Conservancy (a US-based NGO) and Craig Dahlgren of the Caribbean Marine Research Center, will fill a vacant niche on the MPA bookshelf, says Sobel. "The lack of an existing, easily accessible overview and synthesis of marine reserves was a primary motivation for writing this book," he says. "Readers interested in exploring the primary literature more fully should find a strong base here for such exploration."

The 383-page book has chapters on such topics as the impacts of fishing, reserve design, social dimensions, and research priorities. A chapter titled "What Marine Reserves Can Accomplish" reviews the latest research on reserves, and addresses the often-contentious issue of the potential benefits of reserves for fisheries. Acknowledging that evidence of reserve benefits is "not always ironclad", due to sources of uncertainty and basic challenges involved in conducting ocean research, Sobel and Dahlgren challenge whether any other fisheries management tool has been proven to have been directly responsible for improving long-term fishery yields. "Compared to other management tools, extensive scientific support backs marine reserves as an effective conservation and fishery-management tool," they write.

"Scientifically, we already know more than enough to plan, design, develop, and create highly effective marine reserves, and should greatly expand their use," Sobel told MPA News. The primary challenges are all socio-political, he says, such as lack of wide public knowledge of the efficacy of reserves and the influence that extractive industry can have on policymaking. He says planners can face these challenges by using improved and extensive public outreach to all public constituencies and allowing for vigorous debate on the merits of reserves. "Consensus is neither always possible nor necessary," he says.

More information on the book, including instructions on ordering it, is available on the website of the publisher, Island Press, at http://www.islandpress.org. On the homepage, enter "marine reserves" in the search engine and click "Search". The book costs US$35 for the paperback version and US$70 for the hardcover version.

For more information:

Jack Sobel, The Ocean Conservancy, 1725 DeSales St. NW, #600, Washington, DC 20036, USA. Tel: +1 202 429 5609; Email: jsobel [at] oceanconservancy.org