Notes & News

MPA News

Conference on MPA enforcement: February 2012

A conference in February 2012 will examine all aspects of MPA enforcement - from demonstrations of enforcement tools, to strategies for increasing compliance with MPA rules, to self-sustaining financing mechanisms, and more. The four-day Global MPA Enforcement Conference will feature cases of effective enforcement with discussions of best practice. It is hosted by WildAid, an international NGO dedicated to ending the illegal wildlife trade. For more information, go to www.wildaid.org/index.asp?CID=8&PID=682.


Proposals unveiled for regional MPA networks in UK

Four regional, stakeholder-driven initiatives to plan and propose networks of MPAs in UK waters have submitted their recommendations. All told, the proposals comprise 127 sea areas (called Marine Conservation Zones, or MCZs) and encompass more than 37,000 km2. The plans will now be analyzed by advisory institutions to the UK Government (the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and Natural England) to assess potential environmental and socioeconomic impacts and ensure the proposals abide by official network design guidance. From there, the proposals and advice will go to Ministers, who will consider the supporting evidence and potential impacts before deciding sites to take forward for designation.

Under the recommendations, just under 2% of the total combined area for MCZs would be highly protected (allowing no extraction, deposition, or human-derived disturbance). Information on the four regional plans - including details on individual site boundaries, features proposed for protection, and draft conservation objectives - is at www.mczmapping.org. The January-February 2011 edition of MPA News featured an interview with Jen Ashworth of Natural England about the UK planning process ("Comparing Two Methods of Building MPA Networks...", MPA News 12:4).

In other UK news, the Government submitted the country's portion of the Dogger Bank sandbank in the North Sea to the European Commission to be included in a European network of nature protection sites. The 12,000-km2 area is the largest marine site to be submitted by an EU country. If accepted, the UK section would link up with existing protected areas in German and Dutch waters. A press release is at www.defra.gov.uk/news/2011/09/01/dogger-bank.


Pacific island leaders endorse plan to designate regional shark sanctuary

In late July, leaders of several Western Pacific island nations agreed to begin a process of designating a 3 million-km2 area in which fishing for sharks - as well as possession or sale of shark fins - will be banned. Once the MPA is officially designated, it will be the world's largest shark sanctuary. The area will cover the waters of the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, the Marshall Islands, the Northern Marianas Islands, and Palau.

The sanctuary will extend existing protection for sharks in the region. Palau's waters are already off-limits to shark fishing, and the Marshall Islands instituted a shark-fishing moratorium in 2010 after reports of unregulated activity in its waters. However, in other parts of the proposed sanctuary there is still a significant longline fishery. Although the fishery is primarily for tuna, sharks are also caught and their fins sold, which will be illegal under the ban.


Philippines town designates 12 more marine sanctuaries, for total of 15

In mid-August, the town of San Joaquin in the Philippine province of Iloilo designated 12 no-take marine sanctuaries, bringing the town's total to 15. Each of the marine sanctuaries is 20 km2 in area, and corresponds to one or more barangays (neighborhoods). "Our main purpose here is to protect and preserve the source of livelihood of small fisher folk," said San Joaquin Mayor Ninfa Garin in a statement. The 12 new no-take areas are in response to the success of an earlier pilot project involving three sanctuaries. Within months of designating the pilot sites, local fishing catches increased, leading to community support for more sanctuaries. The sanctuaries will be maintained and enforced with the help of barangay officials and the community. A news article on the new MPAs is at http://bit.ly/SanJoaquinMPAs.


Protest of oil exploration near Brazil MPA

In late August, Greenpeace activists shut down the headquarters of a Brazilian petroleum services company to protest oil exploration near Abrolhos Marine Park, an important breeding ground for humpback whales. The Abrolhos region in northeast Brazil was previously closed to oil exploration, but was reopened to energy producers last December after a federal court struck down the oil exploration ban in the area. Several exploration blocks have now been leased within what was previously a buffer zone around the marine park. The buffer zone has been the focus of political and legal struggles for years among conservationists, municipalities, and government agencies.

The August protest involved two-dozen Greenpeace activists blocking the front entrance of OGX Brasil, one of several firms holding exploration blocks in the Abrolhos region. The activists were dressed as oil-soaked humpback whales. The Greenpeace Brasil website (in Portuguese) is www.greenpeace.org/brasil/pt. A letter from OGX to Greenpeace following the protest is at http://bit.ly/GreenpeaceOGX.


New Zealand designates five no-take reserves

The New Zealand Government in August designated five new no-take marine reserves along the west coast of its South Island. The new protected areas encompass 175 km2. An additional 95 km2 in the area was set aside as off-limits to bottom trawling, dredging, and Danish seining (a type of net fishing). New Zealand Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson called the reserves a huge achievement and said their establishment was driven by the local community, including fishermen. The opposition Green Party said the reserves were disappointingly small and did too little to increase the country's share of waters in marine reserves (which remains less than 0.5%). The Government press release on the new reserves is at www.beehive.govt.nz/release/five-marine-reserves-announced-west-coast.


Studies cite need to protect deep ocean

Two recent studies by large international teams of scientists have concluded that the deep ocean is under significant threat from human activities, and that MPAs on the high seas are a necessary tool for protecting the ecosystem:

  • In the journal Marine Policy, researchers recommend an end to most commercial fishing in the deep sea. They cite powerful fishing technologies that are overwhelming fish species adapted to life in "deep-sea time" - i.e., species with slow maturation rates. The best policy, according to the authors, would be to redirect subsidies to help displaced fishermen and rebuild fish populations in productive waters closer to ports and markets, places more conducive to sustainable fisheries. The study "Sustainability of Deep-Sea Fisheries" is available at http://bit.ly/DeepSeaFisheries.
  • In the journal PLoS ONE, an analysis of human impacts on the deep ocean suggests the greatest current impacts are from exploitation (including fishing, mining, and petroleum exploration and extraction), but that future impacts will be greatest from increases in dissolved CO2 and consequences of climate change. The scientists suggest MPAs can help lessen human impacts on the deep sea. The study "Man and the Last Great Wilderness: Human Impact on the Deep Sea" is available at http://bit.ly/LastGreatWilderness.

NGO proposes MPA network for Mediterranean

Oceana, an international NGO, has proposed a network of marine protected areas in the Mediterranean that would increase total MPA coverage in the region to 12%. Current MPA coverage in the Mediterranean is 4%. Oceana's network, called MedNet, would feature 100 new MPAs encompassing 200,000 km2, and would include seamounts, banks, canyons, slopes, trenches, ridges, mud volcanoes, gas seeps, carbonate mounts, and more. "We suggest MedNet as a minimum proposal in order to reach the 10% MPA coverage target under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity," says Pilar Marin of Oceana. She says it represents the first time a comprehensive MPA network has been planned for the Mediterranean with connectivity in mind. To access the MedNet website, go to http://bit.ly/MedNet. For more information: Pilar Marin, Oceana, Madrid, Spain. E-mail: pmarin [at] oceana.org


Study: Protecting 4% of world ocean could protect most marine mammal species

Enhancing conservation at just nine specific ocean sites worldwide - equal to 4% of the ocean - could protect critical habitat for the vast majority of marine mammal species, according to a new study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The nine sites are located off the coasts of Baja California (Mexico), eastern Canada, Peru, Argentina, northwestern Africa, South Africa, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. To identify areas where conservation could protect the maximum number of species and the ones most vulnerable to extinction, the research team overlaid maps of where each marine mammal species is found. The composite map revealed locations with the highest species richness (i.e., the highest number of different species). The researchers discovered that 84% of all marine mammal species had significant range within the nine aforementioned sites. The paper "Global distribution and conservation of marine mammals" appears in the 16 August 2011 edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The abstract is available at www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/07/26/1101525108. A press release is at http://news.stanford.edu/news/2011/august/seals-082911.html.


US seeks nominations for national MPA system

The US National MPA Center has launched its fifth round of nominations for sites to be included in the national MPA system. Eligible federal, state, territorial, and tribal MPA programs are invited to nominate some or all of their sites by 31 October 2011. Currently 297 federal, state, and territorial sites are members of the national system, which provides coordination, technical assistance, training, and grants to existing MPAs to enhance collaborative stewardship of marine resources. For more information or to nominate an MPA, go to www.mpa.gov.