Are no-take Marine Protected Areas really as large as we say and think they are?
Posted by David Kushner | , United States
No-take Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) are designed to protect an area from fishing. These have been implemented worldwide for a number of reasons but often because fishing management regulations have failed to adequately conserve targeted resources as well as biodiversity. Many commercially and recreationally fished species are highly mobile moving hundreds of meters often crossing inside and out of the MPA’s meant to protect them. In addition, many near shore MPA’s are small and it is widely known by resource managers, law enforcement, commercial and recreational fishers that the best place to fish are along the edge of MPA’s. As a result of this increased fishing pressure many of the fish and invertebrates meant to be protected by the MPA’s are caught. This effectively makes these MPA’s smaller than the geographic boundaries they encompass and in turn protect a smaller proportion of a fished resource than was originally planned.
While some data as well as anecdotal information exists that suggests that MPA’s are not nearly as large as they are expected to be for some species, there have been no rigorous scientific studies conducted on the effective size of MPAs in California and other locations. A proper effective size evaluation of MPA’s is critical information needed to understand their effectiveness as a marine management tool as well as for planning of future MPA’s in around the world. Here we propose that a multi-species study be executed to look at the effective size of existing well established MPA’s like the ones within Channel Islands National Park to determine how large the MPA’s really are. This information in turn will greatly assist in future MPA planning as well as potential to modify existing MPA’s to be more effective in conserving fished resources and biodiversity.