Notes & News

MPA News

Measures taken to halt expansion of bottom fisheries in 16 million square miles of North Pacific

In March 2011, negotiations among seven nations to formalize fisheries management in the North Pacific resulted in several interim conservation measures to protect seafloor habitats. Among these measures, the participating nations agreed to not use bottom-contact gear throughout most international waters of the North Pacific without first undertaking an assessment of vulnerable marine ecosystems and determining there will be no adverse environmental impact. This halts the expansion of bottom fishing into an area of 16.1 million square miles. The negotiating countries were Canada, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, and the US.

The central purpose of the talks was to forge a treaty for establishing a new regional fishery management organization, the North Pacific Fisheries Commission. The commission will oversee high seas fisheries for species not already managed under existing international agreements. The treaty has been drafted and now awaits formal ratification by each of the negotiating countries' governments. The interim conservation measures take effect immediately, however. An unofficial announcement of the conservation measures and treaty is at http://bit.ly/dRz43E. (The webpage is by Oceana, an NGO involved in the negotiations. An official treaty website with text of the treaty was not available as of mid-March 2011, when MPA News went to press.)


Costa Rica designates seamount MPA around Cocos Island

Costa Rica has announced the designation of a large new MPA to protect seamounts and important habitat for sharks and tuna species. The new Seamounts Marine Management Area covers 9640 km2 and includes a ban on purse seining. Longlining for tuna will still be allowed at the site, which is several hundred kilometers off the country's Pacific coast.The protected area surrounds an existing MPA, the 2000-km2 Cocos Island National Park, which is a no-take zone and World Heritage site. Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla Miranda said the new protected area would help set up "clear parameters to defend one of the greatest zones of marine wealth in the planet: Cocos Island


New Zealand expands protection around Sub-Antarctic Islands

New Zealand has designated no-take marine reserves around its Sub-Antarctic Islands, totaling 4352 km2:

  • Antipodes Island: the entire territorial sea (out to 12 nm) will be off-limits to all fishing;
  • Bounty Islands: 58% of the territorial sea will be off-limits to all fishing, and the remainder will be off-limits to Danish seining (a type of seine fishing);
  • Campbell Island: 39% of the territorial sea will be off-limits to all fishing, with the remainder off-limits to Danish seining.

"The Sub-Antarctics are a unique area and not currently widely fished due to their remote location," said Fisheries Minister Phil Heatley. "The prohibition on any future Danish seining is a sensible step." The terrestrial portions of the Sub-Antarctic Islands are National Nature Reserves, the strongest possible conservation status in New Zealand. They have also been honored with World Heritage status. A press release on the new marine reserves is at www.doc.org.nz/about-doc/news/media-releases/subantarctic-islands-to-become-marine-reserves.


Two men jailed for fishing in NZ marine reserve

Two men have been sentenced to jail for illegally harvesting crayfish, sea urchins, and abalone in a no-take marine reserve in New Zealand. One man received an eight-week sentence, the other a six-week sentence, for fishing in the Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve in May 2010. The boat they used has been forfeited to the government. The marine reserve is in northeastern New Zealand.

The sentences are the longest handed down so far for marine reserve offenses in New Zealand. "This sends a very clear message that the judiciary and the agencies involved in protecting our marine reserves won't tolerate them being plundered," said reserve manager Andy Bassett. For more information, go to www.doc.govt.nz/about-doc/news/media-releases/two-men-jailed-for-marine-reserve-offences.


Entire coastline of Namibia now a national park

In February the Namibian Coast Conservation and Management project (NACOMA), under the auspices of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, announced that the nation's entire coastline is now an uninterrupted national park. This effectively occurred with the country's December 2010 designation of the Dorob National Park, which converted the last remaining unprotected section of the Namibian coast to protected status.

Four contiguous protected areas now cover the Namibian coast. The national government refers to them collectively as the Namib-Skeleton Coast National Park. Covering 107,540 km2 of land, the park is reportedly the eighth largest protected area in the world. At its narrowest, the park extends 25 km inland; at its widest, it reaches 180 km inland. The 28 February NACOMA announcement of the coastline's protected status is at www.nacoma.org.na/FindOutMore/News.htm.


Bermuda launches Sargasso Sea Alliance

An alliance of governmental and non-governmental institutions, led by the Government of Bermuda, aims to build international support for heightened protection of the Sargasso Sea ecosystem, an area of the subtropical North Atlantic. The Sargasso Sea supports a range of endemic species and plays a critical role in the lifecycles of several threatened and endangered species, including the porbeagle shark and American and European eels. As most of the Sargasso Sea is located in areas beyond national jurisdiction, the Sargasso Sea Alliance anticipates its work will help generate insights for the development of high seas protected areas in the Atlantic and elsewhere.

Members of the Alliance include Mission Blue, IUCN, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Stanford University's Center for Ocean Solutions, SEAlliance, Marine Conservation Biology Institute, WWF, and the Pew Environment Group. For more information, go to http://blog.protectplanetocean.org/2011/02/introducing-sargasso-sea-alliance.html.


Grenadines MPA network formed to share lessons

Managers of three MPAs in the southeastern Caribbean have formed a network to share experience and knowledge across national borders. The network includes two MPAs from the island of Carriacou (a dependency of Grenada) and one MPA from the nearby island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Together they now form the Grenadines Network of Marine Protected Areas.

Among the first steps for the network will be a day trip for wardens from the Carriacou MPAs (Sandy Island/Oyster Bed and Moliniere-Beausejour Marine Parks) to visit their counterparts at Tobago Cays Marine Park in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. There they will learn about office and visitor centre operation, participate in patrols, share knowledge of mooring maintenance, and examine the environmental benefits that can accrue in a longer established marine park. This network initiative is made possible with support from the US National Fish and Wildlife Service and the UNEP-Caribbean Environment Program through the Small Grant Program coordinated by the Caribbean Marine Protected Areas Management Network and Forum (CaMPAM) and the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI).


First meeting of Marine World Heritage site managers; survey reveals climate as major concern

Managers of the 43 marine World Heritage sites around the world gathered in Hawaii in December to share experience and discuss ways of playing a larger collective role in global ocean conservation. It was the first time the managers of all marine World Heritage sites had come together in one place.

The UNESCO World Heritage list aims to reflect the world's natural and cultural sites that exhibit the most outstanding universal value. In this light, the Marine World Heritage Programme (http://whc.unesco.org/en/marine-programme) refers to its sites as "the crown jewels of the ocean".

The meeting also provided a venue for sites to explore collaborative measures, similar to the functioning partnership agreement that Papahānaumokuākea and the Phoenix Islands have in place. Managers of the Wadden Sea and Banc d'Arguin sites agreed to cooperate on migratory birds, while Glacier Bay and the West Norwegian Fjords were inspired to work together on managing the environmental effects of cruise tourism.

A survey of the assembled site managers examined major threats and management gaps at the site level. "We are currently finalizing the results," said Marine World Heritage Programme Director Fanny Douvere. "But it is clear already that climate change is becoming a greater threat to marine World Heritage sites, and that science and information on this are greatly needed." A report from the meeting is expected to be released by May.

For more information: Fanny Douvere, Marine World Heritage Programme, UNESCO, Paris, France. E-mail: F.Douvere [at] unesco.org


US National MPA System adds gear closures

In February, the US National MPA Center announced that the National System of Marine Protected Areas has added its first federal fishery management sites. The four sites - all canyons off the US Atlantic coast - are gear-restricted areas designated under the federal Tilefish Fishery Management Plan. They are Lydonia, Norfolk, Oceanographer, and Veatch Canyons.

The national system consists of existing MPAs that collectively enhance conservation of the nation's natural and cultural marine heritage. To join the national system of MPAs, a site must be nominated by its managing agency and the nomination must be approved by the National MPA Center. Information on the new additions and the system as a whole is at www.mpa.gov.


Update: Lionfish invasion and Caribbean MPAs

As part of ongoing efforts throughout the Caribbean to combat the widespread invasion of non-native lionfish ("Promoting consumption as a tool to combat invasive lionfish", MPA News 12:2), MPAs are continuing to take steps:

  • Alacranes Reef National Park (Mexico) is conducting workshops for lobster diver-fishermen to promote their participation in catching lionfish. From July 2010 to February 2011 as a result of the program, fishermen captured 260 lionfish in the park during their normal lobster-diving activity. Management is building a database to map the presence of lionfish in the park by depth, location, size of fish, and month.
  • Roatan Marine Park (Honduras) held its first Lionfish Derby and Cook-Off in February 2011. Cash prizes were awarded for most lionfish caught, smallest lionfish caught, and largest lionfish caught (http://www.roatanmarinepark.com/news/lionfish-derby). Nicholas Bach, director of patrols, says the park daily equips 50 divers with spears to combat the lionfish, and that hundreds of lionfish are killed per day in the park through this program.

Wine aged on seabed of MPA

A winemaker has crafted a sparkling white wine by aging it on the seafloor of a coastal Italian MPA. The wine company Bisson lowered 6500 bottles of spumante to a depth of 60 meters in the Portofino Marine Protected Area in northwestern Italy. There it matured for 13 months at a near-constant temperature of 15 degrees Celsius. The wine, named "Abissi - Riserva Marina di Portofino" (Abyss - Portofino Marine Reserve), went on sale in late 2010.

The company credits the "cradle effect" of the constant ocean currents with assisting the wine's fermentation process: the gentle movement promoted uptake of residual yeast to yield body, texture, and aroma. In land-based winemaking, this effect is achieved mechanically.

Bisson owner Piero Lugano said the winemaking was inspired by the underwater discovery of sealed wine containers from the Green and Roman era, in which the wine inside is still drinkable. Vito Jeddah, manager of the Portofino MPA, said in support of the initiative, "We think it is necessary to foster innovative ideas that invoke our natural environment and at the same time promote local products."


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