Currently, almost 8% of the world's oceans are designated marine protected areas (MPAs), the majority of which are relatively small and under national jurisdiction. Several initiatives are presently underway in international waters to establish large-scale MPAs, such as for the Southern Ocean under the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). By reviewing the MPA initiative in the Weddell Sea (WSMPA), we aim to guide through the planning steps involved in developing an MPA in the high seas of the Southern Ocean in the context of an international organisation, i.e. CCAMLR. We focus also on the associated science-policy discussion process. To this end, we examine the WSMPA roadmap retrospectively from its beginning in 2013 until today. We discuss the individual planning steps and how these have been designed in detail. Throughout, we show that the planning of the WSMPA was based on a collaborative, science-based process that exemplified best practice in applied science. Lastly, we also provide an outlook on the current situation regarding the establishment of CCAMLR MPAs and point out that scientific best practice may not be sufficient to achieve the consensus and political drive ultimately required for the designation of MPAs in the Southern Ocean.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)
Extractive activities in the ocean are expanding into the vast, poorly studied deep sea, with the consequence that environmental management decisions must be made for data-poor seafloor regions. Habitat classification can support marine spatial planning and inform decision-making processes in such areas. We present a regional, top–down, broad-scale, seafloor-habitat classification for the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone (CCZ), an area targeted for future polymetallic nodule mining in abyssal waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Our classification uses non-hierarchical, k-medoids clustering to combine environmental correlates of faunal distributions in the region. The classification uses topographic variables, particulate organic carbon flux to the seafloor, and is the first to use nodule abundance as a habitat variable. Twenty-four habitat classes are identified, with large expanses of abyssal plain and smaller classes with varying topography, food supply, and substrata. We then assess habitat representativity of the current network of protected areas (called Areas of Particular Environmental Interest) in the CCZ. Several habitat classes with high nodule abundance are common in mining exploration claims, but currently receive little to no protection in APEIs. There are several large unmanaged areas containing high nodule abundance on the periphery of the CCZ, as well as smaller unmanaged areas within the central CCZ, that could be considered for protection from mining to improve habitat representativity and safeguard regional biodiversity.
Marine reserves constitute effective tools for preserving fish stocks and associated human benefits. However, not all reserves perform equally, and predicting the response of marine communities to management actions in the long run is challenging. Our decadal-scale survey of recreational fishing yields at France’s 45-year old Cerbère-Banyuls marine reserve indicated significant protection benefits, with 40–50% higher fishing yields per unit effort in the partial-protection zone of the reserve (where fishing is permitted but at a lower level) than in surrounding non-reserve areas. Over the period 2005–2014, catch per unit effort (CPUE) declined both inside and outside the reserve, while weight per unit effort (WPUE) increased by 131% inside and decreased by 60% outside. Different CPUE and WPUE trajectories among fish families indicated changing catch assemblages, with yields increasing for the family most valued by fisheries, Sparidae (the ecological winners). However, reserve benefits were restricted to off-shore fishermen (the social winners), as on-shore yields were ~4 times lower and declining, even inside the reserve. Our study illustrates how surveys of recreational fishing yields can help evaluate the effectiveness of marine protected areas for key social and ecological protagonists. We show that, more than four decades after its establishment, fishing efficiencies at the historical Cerbère-Banyuls marine reserve are still changing, but benefits in terms of catch abundance, weight, and composition remain predominantly restricted to off-shore fishermen. Further regulations appear necessary to guarantee that conservation strategies equitably benefit societal groups.
Over the past several decades marine conservation policy has supported the implementation of protected areas in ocean and coastal environments to restrict some elements of human use for ecological benefits. The appropriate extent of protection and the allowable uses are often the subject of public debate about marine protected area policy. Local community dynamics around marine protected area designation and management have been the subject of much ocean and coastal management social science research. However, broader public opinions and attitudes about marine protected areas are not well understood and are critical for managers seeking to maintain their public trust obligations in environmental management. This paper provides a model for understanding the attitudes and beliefs that foster public support for or opposition to marine protections. We explored the relationships between awareness, attitudes and beliefs towards coastal and marine resource issues and uses, and demographics among a sample of Oregon, USA residents (n = 459), and tested their influence on support for expanding Oregon's recently established marine reserves. We found that Oregonians have relatively low familiarity with Oregon's marine reserve system, but that familiarity did not influence public support for Oregon's marine reserves. Instead public support was lower among coastal residents and those with positive attitudes towards commercial fisheries, and higher for those concerned with the ecological integrity of Oregon's ocean and supportive of some limits to human uses of the ocean. Our findings highlight the need for managers to engage both coastal communities and the general public to make a case for the value of marine protected areas in safeguarding the public trust.
Comprehensive, spatially explicit data that include regulatory information are essential for evaluating the level of protection that marine protected areas (MPAs) and other marine managed areas (MMAs) provide to marine life, and to inform progress towards ocean protection targets. An analysis based on the ProtectedSeas database, which includes information on regulated activities, found that 85% of U.S. waters are in managed areas that restrict living resource extraction at some level above generally applicable regulations, with 52% managed at a low level of protection and 3% managed as highly protected no-take areas. States with the most state waters area in no-take MPAs are Hawaii (~25%), California (~9%), and Oregon (~3%). The majority of highly protected areas in U.S. waters exist in low-populated areas of the Pacific, such as the Papahānaumokuākea and Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monuments. Under a quarter of U.S. waters are closed to bottom trawling, with the West Coast and Alaska each contributing one-third of trawl closures by area. Bottom trawling is prohibited in nearly 90% of West Coast waters. Focusing on waters off California showed that overlapping management and fishing gear restrictions can increase overall protection. In state waters, no-take MPAs account for roughly 9% of the area, while restricted take MPAs of different types cover 27% of the area. About 40% of California state waters are in some kind of MPA, while 13.4% of state waters have a high level of protection from fishing impacts. In federal waters off California, under one percent are in no-take areas while nearly all waters are subject to some kind of fishery restriction. Capturing regulatory information at the individual MPA and MMA level will improve assessments of current protection, inform planning of new protections, and provide ocean users a more accessible way to increase compliance through awareness.
For almost two decades, marine protected areas (MPAs) have been a central instrument of coastal conservation and management policies, but concerns about their abilities to meet conservation goals have grown as the number and sizes of MPAs have dramatically increased. This paper describes how a large (15 years) program of transdisciplinary research was used to successfully measure MPA management effectiveness (ME)—how well an MPA is managed, how well it is protecting values, and how well it is achieving the various goals and objectives for which it was created. This paper addresses the co-production and uptake of monitoring-based evidence for assessing ME in coastal MPAs by synthesizing the experiences of this program conducted with MPA managers. I present the main outcomes of the program, many were novel, and discuss four ingredients (learned lessons) that underpinned the successful uptake of science during and after the research program: (i) early and inclusive co-design of the project with MPA partners and scientists from all disciplines, (ii) co-construction of common references transcending the boundaries of disciplines, and standardized methodologies and tools, (iii) focus on outcomes that are management-oriented and understandable by end-users, and (iv) ensuring that capacity building and dissemination activities occurred during and persisted beyond the program. Standardized monitoring protocols and data management procedures, a user-friendly interface for indicator analysis, and dashboards of indicators related to biodiversity, uses, and governance, were the most valued practical outcomes. Seventy-five students were trained during the projects and most of the monitoring work was conducted with MPA rangers. Such outcomes were made possible by the extended timeline offered by the three successive projects. MPA managers’ and scientists a posteriori perceptions strongly supported the relevance of such collaboration. Local monitoring and assessment meets the needs of MPA managers, and forms the basis for large-scale assessments through upscaling. A long-term synergistic transdisciplinary collaboration between coastal MPA managers and research into social-ecological systems (SESs) would simultaneously (i) address the lack of long-term resources for coastal monitoring and SES-oriented research; (ii) increase science uptake by coastal managers, and (iii) benefit assessments at higher levels or at broader geographic scales.
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are valuable tools for marine conservation that aim to limit human impacts on marine systems and protect valuable species or habitats. However, as species distributions shift due to ocean warming, acidification, and oxygen depletion from climate change, the areas originally designated under MPAs may bear little resemblance to their past state. Different approaches have been suggested for coping with species on the move in conservation. Here, we test the effectiveness of different MPA designs, including dynamic, network, and different directional orientations on protecting shifting species under climate change through ecosystem modeling in a theoretical ecosystem. Our findings suggest that dynamic MPAs may benefit some species (e.g., whiting and anchovy) and fishing fleets, and these benefits can inform the design or adaptation of MPAs worldwide. In addition, we find that it is important to design MPAs with specific goals and to account for the effects of released fishing pressure and species interactions in MPA design.
Comanagement is recognized, practiced, and recommended as an effective, equitable approach to place-based protection of marine resources. Despite acknowledged benefits and its potential for improved management outcomes, in the U.S., comanagement of marine protected areas (MPAs) is a relatively new approach, with limited applications. This paper reveals social, ecological and institutional conditions that enabled, or hindered, development of comanagement as an outcome of collaborative processes undertaken by community-based actors and state-based resource managers in three U.S. MPA case studies. A mixed method design, consisting of a literature review, in-depth interviews and document analysis was used to analyze MPAs in Hawai‘i, California and Florida where: (1) comanagement systems have developed between state government and community-based partners, (2) protected area boundaries and objectives are clearly defined, and, (3) marine habitat protection is a primary management objective. Eight enabling conditions were present in all three cases. Four of these conditions were consistent with preconditions identified in a published conceptual framework for comanagement arrangements synthesized from the literature and direct observations – an opportunity for negotiation, a legally mandated or brokered incentive, a willingness by local users to contribute, and leadership. Four more enabling conditions emerged from this study – connection to place, a capacity crisis, government willingness to partner, and a clear and just process. As managers strive to protect marine ecosystem function in the face of chronic environmental stressors and limited government support for environmental protection, applying these findings to leverage conditions that enable comanagement can help build community-based capacity to effectively manage MPAs.
Like most ocean regions today, the European and contiguous seas experience cumulative impacts from local human activities and global pressures. They are largely in poor environmental condition with deteriorating trends. Despite several success stories, European policies for marine conservation fall short of being effective. Acknowledging the challenges for marine conservation, a 4-year multi-national network, MarCons, supported collaborative marine conservation efforts to bridge the gap between science, management and policy, aiming to contribute in reversing present negative trends. By consolidating a large network of more than 100 scientists from 26 countries, and conducting a series of workshops over 4 years (2016–2020), MarCons analyzed challenges, opportunities and obstacles for advancing marine conservation in the European and contiguous seas. Here, we synthesize the major issues that emerged from this analysis and make 12 key recommendations for policy makers, marine managers, and researchers. To increase the effectiveness of marine conservation planning, we recommend (1) designing coherent networks of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the framework of marine spatial planning (MSP) and applying systematic conservation planning principles, including re-evaluation of existing management zones, (2) designing MPA networks within a broader transboundary planning framework, and (3) implementing integrated land-freshwater-sea approaches. To address inadequate or poorly informed management, we recommend (4) developing and implementing adaptive management plans in all sites of the Natura 2000 European conservation network and revising the Natura 2000 framework, (5) embedding and implementing cumulative effects assessments into a risk management process and making them operational, and (6) promoting actions to reach ‘good environmental status’ in all European waters. To account for global change in conservation planning and management, we further recommend (7) developing conservation strategies to address the impacts of global change, for example identifying climate-change refugia as high priority conservation areas, and (8) incorporating biological invasions in conservation plans and prioritizing management actions to control invasive species. Finally, to improve current practices that may compromise the effectiveness of conservation actions, we recommend (9) reinforcing the collection of high-quality open-access data, (10) improving mechanisms for public participation in MPA planning and management, (11) prioritizing conservation goals in full collaboration with stakeholders, and (12) addressing gender inequality in marine sciences and conservation.
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are essential to human well-being and usually part of spatial planning processes for managing coastal and marine areas. In Brazil, national-level spatial planning processes are still incipient. This article offers a systematic review through a comparative meta-analysis of the literature on MPAs and spatial planning based on the following questions: (I) What topics are investigated in spatial planning in MPAs worldwide? and (II) What are the advances and trends of these topics in Brazilian MPAs? Specific goals of this study are (I) to identify studies on Brazil; and (II) to compare and contrast these with studies performed elsewhere. The PRISMA report was used to select literature, with a focus on three spatial contexts (I) outside Brazil, analyzing studies from other countries; (II) in Brazil; and (III) a case study in Brazil that focuses on a sustainable-use area in northeastern Pará. Studies outside Brazil showed three major groups of themes: (I) planning and tools; (II) stakeholders; and (III) the ecology of non-human species. For the Brazilian context, studies were grouped into five major themes: (I) small-scale fishing practices and conflicts; (II) participation in protected areas; (III) technical aspects of the planning process, (IV) zoning; and (V) mapping. The local case study investigates socio-cultural sustainability and tourism. All identified studies relate to use, but have a greater focus on conservation and, especially abroad, on species and ecosystems. There are few reviews or comparative studies that could help to draw parallels between the different spatial planning settings. We conclude that synthesis work on spatial management strategies worldwide is needed, including the elaboration of frameworks to develop measures to address the widespread lack of data and spatial planning expertise. Collaborative networks of researchers and practitioners are needed for this. The novelty in our study is that it examines MPAs and spatial planning research at three spatial contexts with innovative methodologies to represent the current state of the spatial planning discourse in coastal and marine conservation.