Fishing guide

New guide to help assess marine protected areas


A new “MPA Guide”, resulting from a collaboration of 42 authors led by Kirsten Grorud-Colvert of Oregon State University, aims to facilitate communication and common understanding of marine protected areas.

The guide was featured in an article in the September 10 issue of Science magazine, “The MPA Guide: A framework to Achieve Global Goals for the Ocean”. In this document, the authors examine the consistency of MPAs and propose a framework for assessing and improving levels of protection.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are increasingly used as a conservation tool, to improve marine biodiversity and to promote sustainable fishing. However, the definition of an MPA is vague, making it difficult to assess actual progress in conservation. Some AMPs do not allow resource extraction, while others allow large extraction. Some MPAs exist in water, while others exist only on paper, without active management. The differences between MPAs can lead to controversies over the effectiveness of the conservation effort.

Protected Planet, which disseminates data on MPAs, reported that 7.72% of the ocean, or nearly 28 million square kilometers, is covered by 17,861 marine protected areas. Another source, the Marine Protection Institute’s Atlas of Marine Protection, shows that only 2.7 percent are fully or highly protected from the impacts of fishing.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which also participated in the development of the new guide, collaborated with the World Conservation Monitoring Center of the United Nations Environment Program (UN- WCMC) to produce the Global Protected Areas Database, which is the world’s most comprehensive database on terrestrial and marine protected areas. It has also already developed the “IUCN Protected Area Categories for Management Objectives and Types of Governance”.

The new MPA guide is intended to complement this work by including four elements: “stages of establishment” specify the status of an MPA – whether it only exists on paper or is operational; “Levels of protection” clarifies the degree of protection of biodiversity against extraction or destruction activities; The “enabling conditions” provide the principles and processes necessary to plan, design and manage a successful MPA; “Outcomes” describe the conservation and social outcomes that can be expected from an MPA at a particular stage and level, provided the right conditions are in place.

National trials are already underway in France, Indonesia and the United States, where MPA experts are using the guide to analyze and categorize existing MPAs so that communities and governments can make informed decisions.

In an online discussion on September 9 to promote the guide, Kirsten Grorud-Colvert said, “The guide is not a campaign. It does not advocate a specific type of AMP.

According to Estradivari Sant, researcher and doctoral student at the Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Research – who was involved in using the guide to classify MPAs in Indonesia, where most MPAs offer only mild levels of protection and few are actively managed – the guide’s objective approach is part of his strength.

“What we love about the MPA guide is that it doesn’t pass judgment on the desired or appropriate conservation intervention, which needs to be tailored based on the local context and national priorities,” Sant said. “Instead, it is a tool to assess, celebrate and support the constant improvement of MPAs.”

Photo courtesy of Grobler du Preez / Shutterstock