The high degree of marine habitat degradation and the depletion of marine resources has led to numerous calls and initiatives to increase the coverage of marine protected areas (MPAs). Currently, marine reserves (no-take areas) cover approximately 2.2% of the world's oceans whilst most calls and targets suggest protection levels should be between 20% and 30% in order to achieve both conservation and resource management objectives. In this study a systematic conservation planning framework was developed using ecological and socio-economic data. This framework was used to test different protection scenarios in Portugal. The current situation in mainland Portugal is alarming, with 0.2% of the waters under national jurisdiction included in MPAs and only 0.002% being marine reserves. Moreover, ecologically important habitats, such as seagrass beds and mäerl beds, have less than 10% of their area protected. The solutions provided by Marxan, and subsequently improved with MinPatch, revealed that there is a need to considerably increase the area under protection. However, adequate protection could be achieved with a number of MPAs (between 5 and 14) similar to the number of already existing MPAs (n = 8). Different stakeholders (artisanal fisheries, industrial fisheries, and other human uses such as oil and gas, and offshore aquaculture) were considered in different scenarios, with the results of the multivariate analysis indicating that there are several solutions that satisfy all stakeholders. Therefore, the results of this study are a valuable starting point for the ongoing implementation process of an MPA network in Portugal since they integrate the most important stakeholders whilst also taking in consideration the ecological aspects. This framework can be applied elsewhere and can be easily amended whenever new information is available.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are the preferred tool for preventing marine biodiversity loss, as reflected in international protected area targets. Concerns have been raised that opposition from resource users is driving MPAs into low‐pressure areas while high‐use areas remain unprotected, with serious implications for biodiversity conservation. We apply a novel test of the spatial relationships between different pressures on marine biodiversity and protection in the world's MPAs. We find that as pressures from pelagic and artisanal fishing, shipping and introductions of invasive species by ship increase, the likelihood of protection decreases, and this relationship persists under even the most relaxed categories of protection. In contrast, as pressures from dispersed, diffusive sources such as pollution and ocean acidification increase, so does the likelihood of protection. We conclude that MPAs are systematically established in areas where there is low political opposition, limiting the capacity of existing MPAs to manage key drivers of biodiversity loss. We suggest that conservation efforts should focus on biodiversity outcomes rather than prescribing area‐based targets and that alternative approaches to conservation are needed in areas where protection is not feasible.
- Deep‐sea marine protected areas (MPAs) present particular challenges for management. Their remote location means there is limited knowledge of species and habitat distribution, and rates and scales of change. Yet, evaluating the attainment of conservation objectives and managing the impact of human activities both require a quantitative understanding of natural variability in species composition/abundance and habitat conditions.
- Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) and Fisheries and Oceans Canada are collaborating in the development of remote monitoring tools for the Endeavour Hydrothermal Vents MPA in the north‐east Pacific. This 98.5 km2 MPA, located 250 km offshore Vancouver Island, encompasses five major fields of hydrothermal vents, at depths of 2200–2400 m. A real‐time cabled observatory was installed at the Endeavour site in 2010.
- Scientific research for the conservation, protection and understanding of the area is permitted within the MPA and is the primary activity impacting the area. Research activities require the use of submersibles for sampling, surveying and observatory infrastructure maintenance. Data and imagery from remotely operated vehicle dives and fixed subsea observatory sensors are archived in real time using ONC's Oceans 2.0 software system, enabling evaluation of the spatial footprint of research activity in the MPA and the baseline level of natural ecosystem change.
- Recent examples of database queries that support MPA management include: (1) using ESRI ArcGIS spatial analysis tools to create kernel density ‘heat maps’ to quantify the intensity of sampling and survey activity within the MPA; and (2) quantifying high‐frequency variability in vent fauna and habitat using sensor and fixed camera data.
- Collaboration between researchers and MPA managers can help mitigate the logistical challenges of monitoring remote MPAs. Recognition at the policy level of the importance of such partnerships could facilitate the extension of scientific missions to support more formal monitoring programmes.
- The world's oceans are often perceived as barriers that separate countries. To counter these divisions and improve protection of ocean resources, marine protected area (MPA) managers have formed alliances that bridge jurisdictional boundaries to share strategies and resources with other protected areas.
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries has embraced this sister site approach to connect MPA management based on ecological and cultural links. Designed to strengthen the management of ecologically and culturally connected areas, these relationships between protected areas serve as catalysts for effective stewardship of the ocean's biological resources and show the important benefits of transnational cooperation.
- This paper summarizes the lessons from over a decade of sister site partnerships, including case studies from Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and four sites in the Caribbean working together to protect a shared population of humpback whales; the Gulf of Mexico Sister Site Network being developed by the USA, Mexico, and Cuba; Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and Rapa Nui in Chile; and broader collaboration among MPAs in the USA and Chile on the Pacific coast.
- Important marine mammal areas (IMMAs) are discrete portions of habitat, important to marine mammal species, that have the potential to be delineated and managed for conservation. Although IMMAs are not a blueprint for marine protected areas or other conservation designations, they are useful for providing a foundation for marine spatial planning and systematic conservation planning that can then lead to protected areas or special spatial regulations. To be most useful for supporting management and conservation, however, the information coming out of IMMAs needs to reflect current conditions.
- An ‘early warning system’ is proposed with a generic set of indicators to flag when marine mammal species in IMMAs require management interventions due to changing distributions or decreasing populations. Rather than signifying that quantitative thresholds have been reached, these indicators comprise alerting information derived from visual or acoustic census, satellite imagery analysis, whale‐watching logs, or increases in mortality reported by stranding networks that can trigger additional targeted research.
- Although it is possible that in some regions data will be sufficient to provide quantifiable indicators, the system is meant to rely on existing data sources, and be adaptable to the circumstances of each region.
- Regional expert groups can utilize early warning system information and feed it into IMMA‐related spatial planning in two ways: by nominating additional areas of interest, and by providing a scientific rationale for revising IMMA boundaries, to be considered at the next decadal IMMA regional expert workshop.
- IMMA‐driven consolidation of information that is as current as possible will prove valuable for enhancing regional cooperation to conserve marine mammals, and will be useful as countries implement new protected areas to conserve marine mammals and other marine biodiversity.
Multiple-use Marine Protected Areas are typically predominantly zoned for partial protection, allowing ‘acceptable’ exploitation activities. However, biotic responses to Partially Protected Areas (PPAs) are varied, and the effectiveness of this approach in relation to management objectives can be ambiguous. Few studies have compared different levels of partial protection to provide insight into this issue. Using remote underwater video methods (stereo baited video, drop-camera) we compared fish and invertebrate assemblages between two PPA types with differing levels of protection (Habitat Protection - HP; and General Use - GU) on unconsolidated substrata in the subtropical Solitary Islands Marine Park, Australia. While both Management Types are fished, trawling is only allowed in GU. Despite high levels of spatial variation across the scales of investigation, we found fish and invertebrate assemblages differed significantly between the two Management Types. The abundance of two fish taxa and low-mobility and sessile benthic macro-invertebrates, and the mean size of the commercially targeted bluespotted flathead Platycephalus caeruleopunctatus, were each significantly greater in the un-trawled HP. Contrary to expectations, abundance of a conspicuous habitat former (pennatulacean seapens) and elasmobranchs did not differ significantly between Management Types. While unconsolidated sedimentary habitats are more homogenous than reef, our study revealed high assemblage diversity at a range of scales. Although assemblages and some individual taxa benefitted from a higher level of partial protection, the broader merit of this management approach remains unclear. Globally, PPA benefits likely depend on social, regulatory, environmental, and site-specific ecological factors.
- A holistic approach to stakeholder participation is emerging where youth are increasingly being recognized as core stakeholders in community‐based conservation efforts.
- A growing number of youth‐focused marine conservation initiatives and representation at international marine conservation conventions demonstrate that youth are taking an active role in marine conservation worldwide.
- This paper surveys current best practices in youth engagement in marine protected areas (MPAs) in Canada, across 10 different engagement strategies. These are: facilitate learning through experiential education; include studies of MPAs in academic and community programmes; utilize multimedia opportunities, including social media, film, website, and apps; provide meaningful volunteer opportunities; deliver professional development sessions for youth initiative building; create youth councils to assist organizations in an advisory role; hire youth for employment in internships, co‐ops and junior positions within organizations; showcase young people as Youth Ambassadors of MPAs; share opportunities through effective outreach and promotion; and, integrate under‐represented perspectives in MPAs.
- Recommendations are drawn from the case studies within each engagement strategy. Collectively, they offer insight into the variety of ways the international community can support, highlight and advance youth participation in MPAs.
- Marine protected areas face numerous conflicts associated with the implementation of conservation measures. These conflicts generate costs, prevent progress, make cooperation between stakeholders difficult and create risks of ineffectiveness.
- Although they are often concealed or circumvented, they also offer opportunities for new connections and collective innovation. Rather than leaving them to these kinds of avoidance strategies, conflicts were the subject of a Knowledge Café event at the Fourth International Marine Protected Area Congress to compare the perspectives of managers, decision‐makers and scientists on dealing with conflict.
- This contribution presents the conceptual framework for discussions during and after the Fourth International Marine Protected Area Congress and the operational and research avenues they open up.
- Cross‐referencing the results of this collective approach and research contributions makes it possible to characterize the diversity and complexity of conflicts in marine protected areas and the driving forces behind them and analyse resolution strategies. Instead of avoidance strategies, the causes and consequences of the idea of understanding and valuing conflicts is explored, along with operational approaches to achieving this.
- The expansion of surfing as a multibillion‐dollar industry and sport has, on the one hand, increased awareness about threats posed to marine and coastal environments, but has also brought growing acknowledgement of the environmental, cultural and economic value that surfing provides. This has been accompanied by a growing movement of surfers and related stakeholders (e.g. communities and manufacturers that rely on the surf tourism and industry for income) that seek to protect surf breaks. This paper argues that certain emblematic surf breaks should be protected not only for their value to surfers, but also for the ecosystem services they provide and other benefits for marine conservation.
- Through a series of case studies from Peru, Chile and the USA, the paper discusses how, in areas where there is significant biodiversity or iconic seascapes, surf breaks can be integrated with marine conservation. Suggestions are given regarding the International Union for Conservation of Nature categories of protected areas that are most appropriate for such cases.
- The paper also explores how, in certain cases, several existing surf‐break protection mechanisms could qualify as other effective area‐based conservation measures, including Chile's proposed TURF–surf model, the international World Surfing Reserves, and Peru's Ley de Rompientes. In this way, certain surf‐break protection mechanisms could help contribute to countries' progress towards achieving the Convention on Biological Diversity's Aichi Target 11.
- Overall benefits of marine conservation groups and surfers joining forces are discussed, including how this can help reduce negative impacts of the sport on natural ecosystems.
- Ancient Hawaiians developed sophisticated natural resource management systems that included various forms of spatial management.
- The state of Hawaiʻi established its first legislated marine protected area (MPA) in 1953, and today there exists a patchwork of spatial marine management strategies along a range of sizes, with varying levels of governance, enforcement, and effectiveness.
- Approximately 12% of waters within the 50 m depth contour and 5% of waters within state jurisdiction (≤3 nmi) have some form of marine management. No‐take areas make up <0.5% of nearshore waters, and combined with highly protected areas account for 3.4% of this habitat. Most of the existing MPAs are small, with a median area of 1.2 km2 (confidence interval 0.2–8.1).
- Twenty‐five datasets, representing 1,031 individual surveys conducted throughout Hawaiʻi since 2000, were used to compare fish assemblage characteristics amongst a subset of MPAs using a regulation‐based protection classification scheme.
- Fully and highly protected areas had significantly greater resource fish biomass than areas with intermediate or low protection did. High human population density adjacent to MPAs had a negative influence on fish trophic structure within MPAs, whereas remote MPAs harboured higher fish biomass. Complex and heterogeneous habitats were important contributors to MPA effectiveness.
- Long‐term monitoring of select MPAs showed mixed and complex trajectories. Resource fish biomass increased after the establishment of the Hanauma Bay Marine Life Conservation District in 1967 but plateaued after ~15 years, followed by changes in assemblage structure from fish feeding and invasive species. The Pūpūkea Marine Life Conservation District, established in 1983, was expanded sevenfold in 2003 and showed dramatic increases in resource fish biomass following increased protection.
- This information is critical to improving effectiveness of existing MPAs, helping inform ongoing efforts to implement a network of MPAs statewide, and aiding in the development of comprehensive statewide marine spatial planning.