So you spend all this time to drum up support and build a place where marine animals can thrive. Then allow fishing?
What's wrong with this math?
Marine protected areas are designed to foster biodiversity. Instead, they allow in the same problems triggering an extinction. The main causes are overfishing, loss of habitat and widespread pollution. Survival levels so low in some species it's as if they've already gone. Ecosystems are falling apart. The majority of coral reef fish have vanished. Marine mammals such as dolphins and whales are being hunted to extinction. Despite listed as endangered. Land animals that rely on the oceans for food are dwindling. Don’t get me wrong, this is not going unnoticed. Governments have implemented programs that introduced legislation. Intended to ban dumping waste into the oceans and nuclear testing over the sea. Other programs have reduced fishing in certain areas and protect more species class. As a result, all the world's oceans have some sort of protection application in place. Because of these programs, some species have rebounded. Yet, the allowance of fishing in protected areas hinders how effective programs can be.
So what is a marine protected area?
In the arena of marine conservation. MPA's are waters listed as protected by certain authorities. Authorities comprise of government or states agencies who have control over environmental protection. MPA's can likewise be territorial, native or international established orders. Each authority forms its own set of rules about the protection of marine life. For instance, limits vary on marine development, fishing practices, seasons, and catch quotas. Between ruling bodies. MPA's open fisheries to subsidize lost revenue. Countries are provided resources equal to the income lost by fishing. A land development class system was executed for marine conservancies. A newcomer among land development is marine reserves. Marine reserves provide the most protection for marine animals. Fishing and the removal of other resources are strictly prohibited. Countries such as Kenya and Belize allow some fishing to sustain local economies.
Fishing impacts the biodiversity of an ecosystem. Too much fishing cause following disparities:
- Population size
- Age structure
- Number of predators
- Food availability
MPA's are aware of this. It's better to have protections but to allow fishing kind of works backward against the goal. The UN is looking to conserve as much as ten percent of all oceans as marine protected areas by the year 2020. The issue with this is no measurable way to determine how well this will work. Reporting is spotty among organizations. Most reports don't even have complete data. The bigger concern, abuse of the MPA label. The more areas listed as protected, the greater the corruption. This is the nature of humanity. Some bias already exists. Permitting fishing and even hunting natural predators within protected areas. Let's keep in mind the percentage of protected areas is small, around 10%. This leaves a lot of waters to fish in and make a good living. A better solution is to back marine reserves to conserve all levels of biodiversity. Marine reserves have strict reporting guidelines. Protections are clear and concise.
MPA's may not be adequate for long-term marine conservation but they are a start. Fishing is not going away. The goal here is to stop fishing species to extinction or harvesting for sport. The marine ecosystem is delicate and needs our help to thrive. We need it to survive. The key is awareness. More people need to get involved. Learn about marine conservation. Thousands of people visit reserves created under MPA legislation. Not realizing how they came to be. Now you know.
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Costello MJ, Ballantine B, et al. Biodiversity conservation should focus on no-take Marine Reserves: 94% of Marine Protected Areas allow fishing... PubMed 10.1016/j.tree.2015.06.011