Effective marine protection: what does the science say?

Fish are abundant in no-take Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. Photo credit: Luiz Rocha/NOAA
Fish are abundant in no-take Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. Photo credit: Luiz Rocha/NOAA

The pressing need for the creation of marine protected areas (MPAs) (sometimes called as marine reserves) is discussed often on the Ocean Views blog. MPAs and reserves can help ecosystems recover, provide climate refuges and even protect humans. So we know that marine protection has a huge potential to improve environmental outcomes. But the MPAs in existence today aren’t all the same. Some MPAs allow fishing, some don’t. Some are large, some are small. When policymakers and scientists decide to protect a marine area, there is no universal template to follow. However, a groundbreaking study last year by Edgar et al. analyzing the conservation benefits from 87 global MPAs has started to help us figure out what an MPA needs to accomplish its conservation goals.

The study, published in Nature, examined the impact of MPAs on fish by comparing MPAs to fished areas. Their results revealed that, unfortunately, many MPAs were no different from fished areas in terms of fish biomass and species richness. Fortunately, some MPAs showed dramatic increases in fish biomass and species richness. The news for sharks was particularly good —> Read More Here

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