Notes & News

MPA News

In memoriam: John R. Clark

John R. Clark, an early leader in the fields of MPA management and coastal zone management, passed away of a heart attack on 5 April 2010. Twenty-five years ago, Clark co-authored (with Rod Salm) one of the first books on MPA practice - Marine and Coastal Protected Areas: A Guide for Planners and Managers. Known as "the Orange Book" for its distinctive covers, the guide went through three editions (most recently in 2000) and remains a trove of lessons and experience. In the past decade, Clark became a regular source of guidance and encouragement to the staff of MPA News, offering tips on making our publication more useful and applause when we did things well. His original comments of support were in response to our third issue, in 1999. His most recent message to us was sent this past March. We will miss him.


Portugal designates four MPAs on extended continental shelf

In March, Portugal designated four MPAs on its extended continental shelf, beyond the nation's 200-nm Exclusive Economic Zone. Covering a total seafloor area of 120,000 km2, the MPAs include vulnerable deepwater communities, including cold-water coral reefs and sponge fields. Portugal will bear responsibility for managing the seafloor at these sites, whereas international bodies will manage the resources of the corresponding water column, which is still considered the high seas. Portugal had previously petitioned the United Nations for jurisdiction over the extended continental shelf areas, which are off the Azores and mainland Portugal.

The designations establish Portugal as a pioneer in international marine conservation. Although other nations have also successfully petitioned the UN for jurisdiction of shelf areas beyond their EEZs (see "Australia gains jurisdiction over large seabed area", MPA News 9:10), Portugal is the first to use such extended jurisdiction to designate MPAs. The nation announced its designation of the four MPAs at a meeting of the OSPAR Convention, the intergovernmental mechanism for protection of the North-East Atlantic marine environment. The MPAs are on the southern Mid Atlantic Ridge, Altair Seamount, Antialtair Seamount, and Josephine Bank.


Disasters threaten MPAs in US, Australia

An explosion on 20 April on an oil-drilling platform (the Deepwater Horizon) in the Gulf of Mexico has led to a massive oil spill that threatens dozens of MPAs in the immediate region, within 50 miles of the coast of the US state of Louisiana. The explosion and subsequent sinking of the platform blew out the seafloor wellhead, more than one kilometer below sea level. The blowout has released thousands of barrels of crude oil daily into the water column (equivalent to hundreds of thousands of US gallons, or millions of liters). Although efforts to plug the well are underway, it may take weeks or months to do so completely, and the disaster is expected to become the worst oil spill in US history. The slick reached parts of the US coast in early May.

The US National Marine Protected Areas Center has generated a map of MPAs in proximity to the spill, available at http://mpa.gov/pdf/helpful-resources/horizon_spill_mpas_5.4.2010.pdf. Depending on ocean currents and weather, it is possible the slick could move down the coast of Florida toward the Florida Keys and even into the Atlantic, although that remains speculative. The Deepwater Horizon Response Unified Command, which involves personnel from multiple US federal agencies as well as petroleum company BP and offshore drilling contractor Transcocean, is providing regular updates on the spill, its effects, and containment efforts. Many links to additional sources of information on the Deepwater Horizon spill are available at http://gulfseagrant.tamu.edu/oilspill/index.htm and at www.doi.gov/deepwaterhorizon/index.cfm.

On 3 April, a Chinese coal tanker (Shen Neng 1) ran aground on a shoal in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in Australia, and began leaking heavy fuel oil. Although there was danger that the ship would break apart and spill all of its 950 metric tons of fuel oil, it remained intact and was eventually towed off the shoal. The grounding caused extensive damage to the reef, however, leaving a two-mile-long scar and contaminating the ecosystem with antifouling paint. The vessel's master and officer-on-watch face multiple criminal charges in Australian court. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority website on the grounding is at http://bit.ly/as5ssx. The lead agency on the response effort was Maritime Safety Queensland, whose website (with press releases and photos) is www.msq.qld.gov.au.


Phoenix Islands Protected Area starts fundraising; no-take zone to increase over time

The group responsible for building an endowment to support the 408,000-km2 Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) in Kiribati has set a fundraising target of US $13.5 million to be achieved by the end of 2014. The board of the PIPA Conservation Trust held its first meeting in March, and consists of members from each of the three PIPA partner institutions: the government of Kiribati, Conservation International, and the New England Aquarium.

Although the government's vision remains that commercial fishing will eventually be phased out in PIPA (MPA News 9:8), the rate of phaseout will be tied to the rate of fundraising. Because Kiribati relies on fishing license revenue for a significant portion of its budget (35%), much of the endowment funding will go to compensate the government for lost fishing license revenue as PIPA becomes increasingly no-take. "The more money the Trust is able to get for the endowment, the more of PIPA will become no-take," says Bud Ris, president of the New England Aquarium and a member of the Trust Board.

Reaching the $13.5-million target would allow for 25% of PIPA to be closed to fishing, says Ris. So closing PIPA completely to commercial fishing will take some time. "In the long term, continued efforts to increase the endowment will be needed to enlarge the no-take zone," he says. "In the meantime, Kiribati will implement a newly developed management plan that will enhance the sustainability of the entire MPA."

For more information: Regen Jamieson, New England Aquarium, Boston, Massachusetts, US. E-mail: rjamieson [at] neaq.org; Web: www.phoenixislands.org


Pacific territory of Tokelau designates whale sanctuary

The government of Tokelau, a territory of New Zealand in the South Pacific, has designated its entire Exclusive Economic Zone as a whale sanctuary. In doing so, Tokelau joins 11 other Pacific nations and territories in declaring their EEZs as off-limits to whaling. Although Tokelau's land area consists of just three coral atolls totaling 10 km2, its EEZ covers 290,000 km2 of ocean.


Egypt designates its first MPA in Mediterranean

Egypt has designated a 383-km2 marine protected area in the Gulf of el-Salloum near the country's border with Libya. It is the first MPA along Egypt's Mediterranean coast. "The goal is to protect endangered species...and encourage ecotourism in the reserve area, putting it on the global ecotourism map," said Environment Minister Maged George. It is not Egypt's first MPA: the country designated Ras Mohammad National Park in 1983 along the southern end of the Sinai Peninsula.


Mission Blue Voyage raises US $16 million for ocean conservation

In April, a four-day conference in the Galápagos Islands raised US $16.7 million to fund several ocean conservation initiatives, including ones pertaining specifically to MPAs. Called the Mission Blue Voyage, the conference was led by ocean explorer Sylvia Earle and held aboard the National Geographic Endeavour expedition ship. The meeting brought together global business leaders, marine scientists, and entertainers, including American actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Edward Norton.

Most of the funds raised by the conference came via donations from the Planet Heritage Foundation and the Oak Foundation. The MPA-related initiatives to be funded include:

  • $500,000 to establish a network of MPAs in the Arctic, including a high seas science reserve;
  • $1 million to help improve protection of the Galápagos Marine Reserve; and
  • $1.1 million to launch a plan to support efforts by the government of Bermuda to protect the Sargasso Sea (as well as commitments to raise an additional $2.5 million to support the long-term efforts).

For more information on Mission Blue, including a blog of the voyage, go to www.mission-blue.org.


Report describes role of no-take areas in marine planning

Commissioned by the Western Australian Government, a new report examines the role of no-take areas in marine planning, including their effectiveness for biodiversity conservation and fisheries management. Authored by a state-appointed panel of three scientists, the report is intended to guide Western Australia's regional marine planning process. It concludes that "empirical evidence for the use of marine sanctuaries for biodiversity conservation is now substantial, [whereas] the evidence for the effects of marine sanctuaries on fisheries, either positive or negative, is less clear." The Report on the Scientific Basis for and the Role of Marine Sanctuaries in Marine Planning is available at http://bit.ly/a766Wa.


Report examines indigenous people and MPAs on Canada's Pacific coast

A new publication examines the rights, concerns, and interests of indigenous groups with regard to MPAs along the Pacific coast of Canada. Published by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), the report recommends several approaches to help Canadian government agencies achieve a collaborative MPA network that addresses the concerns of Coastal First Nations (what indigenous groups are called in the province of British Columbia).

"We commissioned this report to provide an introduction to these themes in connection with MPAs, including legal and treaty imperatives, cultural and economic considerations, and past experiences of First Nations with MPAs," says Sabine Jessen of CPAWS. Among the report's recommended approaches are building relationships, tailoring MPAs to address First Nations interests, and encouraging shared authority. The publication was authored by Julia Gardner of Dovetail Consulting Group and funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. First Nations and Marine Protected Areas is available at www.cpawsbc.org/publications/index.php.


UK releases strategy for planning MPA network

The UK Government has released its strategy for delivering a national network of marine protected areas to meet obligations under UK and EU law. The strategy sets out the country's proposed vision and framework for MPAs in territorial waters adjacent to England, and in UK offshore waters, over the next 10 years. Underlying the planning of MPAs will be seven principles as described in the strategy: representativity, replication, viability, adequacy, connectivity, protection, and best available evidence. The strategy is available at www.defra.gov.uk/environment/marine/documents/mpa-strategy100330.pdf.


Courses available on Marxan

Two-day courses on how to use Marxan, a software program widely used for the planning of MPA networks, will be provided this July 2010 in Victoria and Edmonton, Canada. The courses will be offered by PacMARA (the Pacific Marine Analysis and Research Association) and will cover key concepts such as creation of planning units, setting parameters, and more. PacMARA is also offering a one-day advanced course in Victoria for experienced Marxan users who are interested in training others on the software. For more information on the courses or to register, go to http://pacmara.org/marxan_courses.


US National MPA Center debuts online mapping tool

The US National Marine Protected Areas Center has launched an interactive Web-based application to help users view the boundaries of more than 1600 MPAs in the US and access data on each site. The data include details such as a site's total area, its date of designation, whether it has fishing restrictions, and more. The online mapping tool is available at http://mpa.gov/dataanalysis/mpainventory/mpaviewer/mpaviewer.swf.


Study: Spillover from reserve will offset loss in fishing yields

A team of Spanish and American researchers has measured the number and biomass of lobsters spilling over from a no-take marine reserve, and concluded any loss in fishing yields incurred as a result of the closure will be offset by greater catches within a decade or two. The study, published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series, used a decade of tag-recapture data from the Columbretes Islands Marine Reserve (CIMR) in Spain. "We showed that during an 8- to 17-yr. protection period, harvested spillover offset the loss of yield resulting from the reduction of fishing grounds set aside in the CIMR, producing a mean annual net benefit of 10% of the catch in weight," write the researchers. The abstract of the paper "Net contribution of spillover from a marine reserve to fishery catches" is at www.int-res.com/abstracts/meps/v400/p233-243.


Countries with most visitors to MPA News website

In the first three months of 2010, the countries with the most visitors to the MPA News website were:

  1. US
  2. Australia
  3. UK
  4. Canada
  5. Japan
  6. France
  7. Italy
  8. Indonesia
  9. Germany
  10. Mexico