Posts Tagged MPA’s

Jun 1 2021

Ray Hilborn: MPAs aren’t the answer to ocean biodiversity, sustainability efforts

A global movement to create additional marine protected areas (MPAs) has been steadily gaining traction in recent years, with the initiative picking up milestone victories in the past few months.

In January, newly inaugurated U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order committing to a “30 by 30” goal, whereby the United States would designated 30 percent of its land and territorial waters to conservation by the year 2030. The move heightened the potential that MPAs will be used as a tool to tackle climate change.

A recent study supports the hypothesis that MPAs could be beneficial for climate change, maintaining biodiversity, and boosting the yield of fisheries. According to the study, strongly protecting at least 30 percent of the ocean – primarily in the 200-mile exclusive economic zones of coastal nations – would result in substantial environmental and commercial benefits.

But University of Washington Professor of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences Ray Hilborn told SeafoodSource that the study – and the concept of MPAs – are both flawed. The study, he said, made some assumptions and contains inconsistencies that effectively invalidate the conclusions it reached.

“It’s a classic example of where the peer-review process totally failed to identify inconsistencies, bizarre assumptions, and improper conclusions,” Hilborn said.

The study, he said, made different assumptions on different types of fishing effort.

“It happens that each of the assumptions they made about fishing effort is the one that makes MPAs look better,” he said.

A key example, Hilborn said, is how the study approaches trawling. The study made biodiversity calculations based on fishing effort shifting in geography as MPAs are put in place – which itself poses problems, he said. However, the study assumed that an MPA ban on trawling wouldn’t result in increased fishing effort in other areas.

“When it comes to the impact of trawling and the impacts on biodiversity, they assume when you close an area, the effort disappears,” Hilborn said.

The study found a ban on trawling in designated MPAs would have a carbon benefit – but that is true only if that trawling effort doesn’t move holds, Hilborn said.

“If you move the effort, the carbon benefit disappears,” Hilborn said.

Hilborn said the study also assumes an “instantaneous connection” between different species around the world – when in reality, species in separate oceans aren’t going to interact. And the analysis wasn’t actually global, as South Asia and Southeast Asia were not accounted for in the study.

“This isn’t a global analysis, because they don’t have trawl effort in Southeast Asia,” Hilborn said.

Protecting biodiversity is a key issue that needs to be tackled, and the core motivation behind MPAs and Biden’s 30 by 30 plan are sound, Hilborn said.

“[The] 30 by 30 [movement] is not ambitious enough,” Hilborn said. “We need to protect the biodiversity of 100 percent of our [exclusive economic zone].”

Protecting biodiversity in the oceans is not best accomplished via MPAs, especially in light of climate change, Hilborn said. In fact, while advocates have touted MPAs as a means to fight climate change, in reality, they do little to help, he said.

“They want to see 30 percent of the oceans permanently closed,” Hilborn said. “That’s absolutely the wrong thing to do. With climate change, things are shifting.”

Hilborn used the interactions between fisheries and the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale as an example of how a proposed MPA might not work as intended. In recent years, the species has been the center of an ongoing push for increased protections, and recently NOAA outlined new regulations to protect the species.

Climate change has forced the 400 or so remaining North Atlantic right whales to chase food sources that are now located in parts of the ocean with more fishing effort, primarily in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. That movement highlights how MPAs would struggle to protect species in the ocean, Hilborn said.

“If you had closed areas to protect northern right whales 20 years ago, they’d be in all the wrong areas,” he said.

Protected areas on land, he added, make sense because of the nature of human interaction with the land.

“The reason you want parks on land is that human use is transformative. If you put a city on it, or you farm it, it’s gone,” Hilborn said. “In the ocean, fishing doesn’t really change the structure of the ecosystem. We don’t kill the plants which is what farming does, we don’t harvest the second trophic level, we just harvest the top of the food chain.”

Plus, many of the actual threats to the ocean aren’t coming from the ocean itself, or from fishing.

“If you look at what the threats to the oceans are, they’re ocean acidification, climate change, invasive species, various kinds of pollution, land runoff, and none of those are impacted by MPAs,” Hilborn said.

A great example is the large dead zone that forms in the Gulf of Mexico every year.  The dead zone is created by excess nutrient pollution from agricultural areas – mainly related to fertilizers washed into the gulf through the Mississippi River and other inland waterways. NOAA makes annual predictions for how large the dead zone will be, based on things like rainfall. An MPA in the area to protect that environment, Hilborn pointed out, would have no effect on the biodiversity of the ocean in the region.

“You could make it an MPA and ban everything, you could ban shipping, you could ban mining, you could ban fishing, and you’d have no effect on the dead zone,” he said.

Protecting biodiversity is possible, but MPAs are the wrong tool for the job, Hilborn said.

“You don’t need no-take in order to protect the biodiversity. Again, high profile things, marine birds, marine mammals, turtles, sharks, those are things where there’s very specific – gear specific – things that impact them,” he said. “Closed areas aren’t going to help, because they’re all so mobile.”

The solution for those species, he said, is simple.

“Take sharks or turtles – all you have to do is stop killing them,” he said.

Current fisheries management agencies already serve as a tool for protecting biodiversity, and Hilborn said additional effort can be made using those existing agencies.

“What I would like to see is very explicit targets in what are we trying to achieve in biodiversity, and for each one of those targets, what’s the best tool to achieve it,” Hilborn said. “In almost every case, you’re going to be modifying fishing gear, and how fishing takes place, rather than closing areas to all fishing gears.”

MPAs, he said, are essentially just regulating a few activities in an area, without addressing wider issues.

“Fundamentally, all MPAs are doing is regulating fishing, and maybe oil exploration and mining,” he said. “It’s just the wrong tool. The illusion that you’re protecting the ocean by putting in MPAs, it’s a big lie.”

Original post:

Oct 22 2016

What I like about MPAs — Ray Hilborn

Oct 17 2016

A MPA skeptic speaks out on youtube

Oct 7 2016

Obama’s new ocean preserves are bad for the environment and for people

FILE - President Barack Obama speaks at the Our Ocean, One Future conference at the State Department in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016.

FILE – President Barack Obama speaks at the Our Ocean, One Future conference at the State Department in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016.  (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

By Ray Hilborn


Who wants to save the oceans? Short answer: everyone, especially politicians. A less frequently asked question is whether their high-profile efforts always work.

Right now, world leaders seem to want to see who can declare the biggest marine protected areas, or MPAs, in their territory. MPAs are kinds of national parks for sea life that extends from ocean surface to ocean floor. Commercial fishing and other undersea ventures are banned in them.

They are popping up everywhere. In August, President Obama announced one in the western Pacific Ocean that is 50 per cent bigger than Texas. In September he created another, more modest one off the coast of New England.

Britain announced yet another MPA in September around St. Helena Island in the south Pacific. It is half the size of the Lone Star State.

In fact, the MPA movement has become a religion with accepted articles of faith that more and bigger are better.  This current obsession is bad for the oceans, bad for the global environment, and bad for people.

Consider what the imposition of an MPA can do to the economy and livelihood of local fishers, who are unable to easily pick up and move elsewhere. Some fishermen in New England are warning that they could go out of business as a result of the new Atlantic marine preserve.

Large MPAs are also bad for people because reducing ocean fish production by itself will mean less high quality, nutritious food available for the poorest people in the world and less employment for fishing-dependent communities

Political leaders argue they are protecting the oceans with MPAs, but mostly they aren’t. The major threats to ocean health and biodiversity, including global warming, ocean acidification, oil spills, floating masses of plastics, pollutant run-off from land, and illegal fishing–all are not addressed by this conservation measure.

Ocean preserve  advocates emphasize that about one-third of global fish stocks are overfished, and use that as a reason for ever-larger MPA designations.  But there is also no evidence that MPAs actually increase the abundance of fish outside of the reserves, one of the chief motives proponents invoke to push for them.

MPA advocates like to use the analogy of a fish bank, and it works up to a point.  Certainly, fishery abundance rises inside well-managed areas that are closed to commercial fishing.

But without other measures to address  fishing effort, the same commercial boats that used to ply the newly protected waters can simply move across the boundary, increasing fishing pressure outside the MPA, although at increased cost. And fish don’t recognize MPA boundaries. They move beyond them.

In truth, some  MPAs can provide biodiversity benefits and increases in fish harvests in places that lack more comprehensive fisheries management.

Unfortunately those are the same places where MPAs are also often difficult or impossible to enforce, due to the cost of surveillance and of any legal efforts to bring offenders to justice.

A bigger fact is that in U.S. waters, fish stocks are increasing, and overfishing is declining rapidly, without a significant number of MPAs.

Why?  For one thing, we already have a myriad of well-enforced laws that protect fish stock health and marine biodiversity very well, through a science-based management system. They do it better than simply closing off large sections of the ocean.

Around the world we see fish stocks increasing in abundance when fisheries management is effectively applied, without MPAs playing a significant role.  Fish stocks in the U.S., Iceland, Norway, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia have all been shown to rebuild from overfishing through traditional fisheries management —  we don’t need MPAs to rebuild fish stocks.

In reality, redirecting hundreds of millions of dollars spent on MPA advocacy towards other threats to the ocean, or to improving fisheries management globally, would provide much more comprehensive and proactive protection.

The MPA advocacy movement needs to embrace the reality that closing ever-larger areas of the ocean to fishing, when it happens, should be guided by clearly stated objectives, independent scientific evaluation of alternatives, and public consultation on the impacts on people.

MPAs should be established where the problems are, not where it is politically expedient.  A race to see who has the biggest or the most is running in the wrong direction.

Ray Hilborn is a Professor of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. He leads several research projects on the status of global fish stocks and coordinates the RAM Legacy Stock Assessment Database, the largest repository of data on the abundance of fish stocks.

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Jul 14 2016

Ray Hilborn: Sound Fishery Management More Effective Approach Than MPAs to Protect Oceans

— Posted with permission of SEAFOODNEWS.COM. Please do not republish without their permission. —

Copyright © 2016

Seafood News

SEAFOODNEWS.COM Ray Hilborn – July 14,2016

On 1 September, government leaders, directors of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and others will meet in Hawaii at the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s World Conservation Congress to discuss environmental and development challenges. Twenty-three NGOs, including the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Natural Resources Defense Council, are calling on the IUCN to make 30% of the world’s coastal and marine areas fully protected from fishing and other forms of exploitation by 2030.

If this target were achieved, the abundance of exploited species in the areas that are closed off would undoubtedly increase1. It is not clear, however, whether the same would be true for marine biodiversity overall.

There are currently two very different views on the effectiveness of zones where fishing is either banned outright or tightly restricted. Many conservationists see the establishment of these marine protected areas (MPAs) as the only way to protect biodiversity. Others — me included — argue that the protection of biodiversity at sea can include recreational and industrial fishing and other uses of ocean resources. In fact, we think that closing waters to some kinds of fishing gear and restricting the catch of named species can offer much more protection than cordoning off even 30% of an area. We are concerned that MPAs may simply shift fishing pressure elsewhere2.

Opinions are so divided that the conservation expertise of fisheries managers is being left out of national and international drives to protect ocean resources. Likewise, the suite of threats to biodiversity besides fishing, such as from oil exploration, sea-bed mining and ocean acidification, are not being addressed in standard fisheries management.

The seas face myriad problems — climate change, development and the nutritional and other needs of a growing human population. To tackle them, conservationists and those involved in fisheries management must work together and answer to the same governing bodies.

Rise of protection
Calls for MPAs began in earnest during the 1990s, when overfishing was common in most of the developed world and collapses of fish stocks repeatedly made headlines. In the early 2000s, ecologists often assumed that biodiversity could flourish only inside protected areas. One group proposed in 2002, for example, that 40% of the ocean be made reserves, on the assumption that the replenishment of fish populations through reproduction could not happen outside them3.

Most ecologists and conservationists now accept — in theory — that even if as much as 20% of a region were cordoned off from fishing, most of that area’s biodiversity would exist outside the protected zones as long as effective fisheries management was in place. Yet the dominance of MPAs in conservation policy has, if anything, increased since the 2000s.

In the past decade especially, numerous environmental NGOs and conservation-funding groups have taken up MPAs as their preferred tool for ocean protection. Together, the conservation group WWF, Greenpeace and other NGOs have spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the past ten years lobbying for MPAs around the world. One effect of this was US President Barack Obama adding just over 1 million square kilometres (an area roughly twice the size of Texas) to the US Pacific territories national monument in 2014. Another has been President James Michel of the Seychelles promising to make 412,000 km2 of the Indian Ocean surrounding the islands a totally protected MPA.

MPAs also dominate the scientific literature on marine conservation. Researchers documenting the effects of MPAs on biodiversity, in my view, ignore or underappreciate the benefits of fisheries management. Jane Lubchenco and Kirsten Grorud-Colvert4 for instance, have equated biodiversity protection in the oceans to the establishment of no-take areas, writing: “Even lumping all categories together, only 3.5% of the ocean is protected” and “only 1.6% is ‘strongly’ or ‘fully’ protected.” And in 2014, Carissa Klein and co-authors5 evaluated the degree to which the ranges of more than 17,000 species are contained within MPAs. I interpret this as implying that species whose ranges do not fall within MPAs will be lost, although these authors concede that, for some species, “the best conservation outcome may be achieved with other strategies, including fisheries regulations”.

Management strategies
There are many other useful tools and legal frameworks designed to reduce overfishing, rebuild fish stocks and protect the biodiversity of the oceans. National and international fisheries agencies have been developing and enforcing these for the past two decades.

Problems are identified and tools selected to solve them in what is often a highly participatory process involving many stakeholders. If a certain fishing approach, such as bottom trawling, threatens a habitat, the area can be closed to that type of fishing. If a species is being threatened as a result of being caught unintentionally along with the targeted species, the fishery may be closed, fishing permitted at only certain times of the year, or catching techniques modified to reduce by-catch. Dolphin mortality fell almost 100-fold between 1986 and 1998 in the eastern Pacific6, for instance, after vessels changed fishing practice so that ensnared dolphins were released before the nets were hauled aboard. (The technology was developed by fishermen after the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission instituted limits to dolphin by-catch.)

The United States spends more than US$300 million per year on fisheries management. It does so through the implementation of key pieces of legislation, including the Magnuson–Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act. In Alaska, for example, more than 50% of the continental shelf waters are closed to specific kinds of fishing gear and the entire shelf is covered by species-specific catch restrictions. This is much more protection than could be offered by turning 30% of the region into MPAs.

Because of fisheries management, overfishing has largely been eliminated in US waters7. The proportion of fish stocks listed as ‘overfished’ — those in which abundance is lower than that needed to produce near-maximum yield — halved between 1997 and 2014 to 16% (see Overfishing has also largely stopped in the European Union’s Atlantic fisheries, New Zealand, Australia, Iceland, Norway and Canada (see ‘The fruits of fisheries management’)8. And management strategies recently implemented by major Latin American countries, including Peru, Argentina and Chile, have reduced the proportion of stocks that are fished above optimal rates from 75% in 2000 to 45% in 2011 (unpublished data).

In short, it is now clear that for those countries with effective fisheries management in place — a group of nations responsible for 45% of the global catch — fish stocks are stable, or increasing. Of course, most of the world’s fisheries, especially in Africa and in parts of Asia, have no protection of any kind.

Bridge the divide
Studies show that enforcing the closure of an area to fishing increases the density of fish in the reserve by around 166%1. Yet, at best, MPAs will cover a small fraction of the ocean and few studies have evaluated their effect on biodiversity outside their perimeters. Catch data, records of boat movements and other monitoring efforts indicate that fishing pressure may increase beyond MPAs2.

More pressingly, neither MPAs nor fisheries management alone can shield marine biodiversity from the panoply of current threats: climate change and ocean acidification, land-based run-off, oil spills, plastics, ship traffic, tidal and wind farms, ocean mining and underwater communications cables.

The enormity of the challenge calls for a change in approach. Instead of working at cross purposes, MPA advocates and those in fisheries management need to identify and solve area-specific problems together, and in consultation with diverse stakeholders. These may range from professional and recreational fishermen, park officers and environmental NGOs to developers, oil and gas companies and communications companies.

Regional coastal-management agencies, such as the California Coastal Commission, which operates as a quasi-independent government agency, are a potential model. But their mandate and membership would have to be significantly expanded if they were to deal with the impacts of fisheries and the establishment of MPAs. Such commissions have traditionally been confined to nearshore waters and have been able to regulate only development permits.

Marine spatial planning is a generic term for the process of resolving conflicts in the use of marine resources and would seem to be the obvious mechanism to integrate fisheries management and MPAs. Yet after more than a decade of discussion and some attempts at implementation, there are few examples of the process effectively bringing the two ‘tribes’ together to work towards common goals. I suspect that this is, in part, because insufficient efforts have been made to convince both parties that decision-making bodies represent their interests appropriately.

The best examples of MPA advocates and fisheries-management communities working together are small-scale. In the Philippines and Indonesia, for instance, communities are working with local governments and NGOs, using a mix of protected areas and other forms of regulation, to try to rebuild coral-reef fish stocks9. Here the principal aim is to make fishing more sustainable; the objective of protecting representative habitats is not typically considered.

In larger industrial fisheries, such as in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, it should be possible for MPA advocates to collaborate with national fisheries departments. This would require a clear elaboration of the objectives of each. It would also require the appointment of more conservationists and MPA advocates to fisheries-management organizations, which are currently dominated by regulatory agencies and fishing-interest groups.

Another way to foster collaboration on a national scale would be to merge the various government departments responsible for conservation and fisheries management into a single department of marine management. Such an organization could oversee the protection of biodiversity and the sustainable use of fisheries, and regulate competing marine uses. As a first step, a set of formal consultations, informed by case studies that measure the actual level of biodiversity protection achieved in different places through existing mixes of MPAs and fisheries management, could begin to identify clear measurable objectives.

At the local, national and international levels, biodiversity protection and fisheries management must be overseen by the same bodies if either is to be truly effective.

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Nov 21 2015

Are “Strongly Protected” MPAs the Future of Ocean Conservation?

A new paper in science by Jane Lubchenco and Kirsten Grorud-Colvert discusses the recent progress and advocates for creating and enforcing “strongly protected” marine protected areas (MPAs). For the purposes of this paper, strongly protected MPAs are those that restrict all commercial activity and allow only light recreational or subsistence fishing. Today only 3.5% of the ocean is protected but only 1.6% is strongly protected. The 10% protection goal for coastal marine areas by 2020 decided recently at the Convention on Biological Diversity is too loosely defined and should be specific to strongly protected MPAs or marine reserves. However it should be noted that significant progress has been made in establishing more strongly protected MPAs in the past decade, which, “reflects increasingly strong scientific evidence about the social, economic and environmental benefits of full protection.”

The authors highlight seven key findings suggesting that such MPAs are indeed needed in a greater percentage of global oceans. Successful MPA programs must be integrated across political boundaries but also with the ecosystems they assist – an ecosystem-based management approach is essential. Engaging users almost always improves outcomes. MPAs may improve resilience to future effects of climate change, but there is no question that, “Full protection works,” such that primary ecological goals are almost always met with strongly protected MPAs.

In conclusion, six political recommendations are outlined. An integrated approach is equally important in the political balance for successful MPAs – other management schemes must be considered and dynamic planning is most effective in preparation for changing ecological systems. There is no one-size-fits-all method for MPAs. Top-down or bottom-up approaches have been successful and to determine the right strategy stakeholders should always be involved in the process. Perhaps most importantly, user incentives need to be changed in order to alleviate the economic trauma of short-term losers.

Comment by Robert Kearney, Emeritus Professor,  University of Canberra

Lubchenco and Grorud-Colvert espouse a relationship between the declaration of “totally protected” areas and the science and politics of the provision of ocean protection. However, in the absence of description of the relationship between the threats to oceans and the protection being attempted, coupled with the lack of assessment of the effectiveness of outcomes, the association they assert is unjustified.

Ocean protection is indeed an issue of immense global importance. The myriad reports of declines in ocean health confirm that opportunities for policy progress need to be pursued.

Assessment of the effectiveness of the “science and politics” in any discipline is dependent on evaluation of outcomes against clearly defined objectives. Unlike politicians, scientists have a responsibility to define objectives and strategies unambiguously. The objective of the provision of “ocean protection” is not immune from this requirement.

Dictionaries define ‘protection’ as the action of protecting, with the clear implication (usually stated) that it is the result of action against a real or perceived threat or threats. In the absence of a threat ‘protection’ has no relevance. Evaluation of actual, or even anticipated, outcomes, such as the provision of protection, has little credibility in the absence of evidence-based assessment of cause and effect.

Normal scientific process dictates that determination of the appropriate ‘actions of protecting’ would be preceded by determination of the threats to whatever it is that is to be protected. Presumably the interests of efficient provision of protection would be influenced by addressing threats in some priority order, commonly related to the severity of the threat. The effectiveness of the provision of protection should then be based on assessment of the degree to which all threats, or at least those that pose the greatest threat, have been ameliorated.

While there is not international agreement on the ordering of the threats to the world’s oceans there is acceptance that they are many. They include: chemical and physical pollution in many forms, ocean warming, increased acidification, sea-level rise, destructive practices and alterations to physical habitats, inadequately regulated fishing and introduced and artificially translocated species. As the priorities for addressing threats are influenced by the perceptions of those informing management the projection of inadequately researched advice, and/or the provision of mis-information, to managers including politicians, are themselves also threats.

The Lubchenco and Grorud-Colvert article does not prioritise the many threats to oceans. The authors do, however, unambiguously give selected prominence to the regulation of extraction. Areas are stated to be “fully protected” if extraction is excluded. The primacy they attach to having more areas closed to extraction is confirmed by the signal prominence of their figure depicting “Growing Protection”. Their measure of ‘protection’ is the amount of area claimed as ‘fully protected’, i.e. all extraction is prohibited. This measure is, unfortunately, merely a descriptor of one form of input. It is not a measure of the level of protection (the required outcome) actually provided.

When directly addressing interpretation of ‘protection’ the authors lament the ‘loose definition’ provided in the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD). They provide as an alternative definition a series of degrees of protection based exclusively on the regulation of levels of extraction from selected areas. Importantly, they assert that areas be considered “fully protected” if there are “no extractive activities allowed”. Several forms of fishing are the only extractions specifically mentioned.

There are several fundamental inconsistencies in this basic assertion:

  1. Regardless of the absolute priority that might be given to individual threats to oceans there is no doubt that injection into oceans of many anthropogenic outputs (most obviously within the generic category of ‘pollutants’) constitutes great threat. In the light of growing recognition of the impacts of pollution, including the secondary effects on ocean warming and acidification, and in the absence of evidence to the contrary, injection directly and indirectly into marine environments should not be considered a lesser threat to total “ocean protection” than extraction from selected areas.
  2. Unless all threats are addressed and outcomes demonstrated to be effective an area should not be espoused to be “fully protected”. In the absence of demonstrated amelioration of at least the major threats categorisation as even “strongly protected” is highly questionable.
  3. Exclusion of even all fishing (and/or other forms of extraction) from part of an area does not render even that part of the total area ‘fully protected’, even from the impacts of fishing and/or other forms of extraction. Unmanaged fishing and numerous other forms of extraction adjacent to closed areas can significantly impact the contents of those areas and thus the level of ‘protection’ achieved.

Lubchenco and Grorud-Colvert acknowledge that “reserves cannot address all stressors.” They accept the need to “integrate reserves with other management measures” specifically identifying “issues such as bycatch, unsustainable and IUU fishing, climate change and ocean acidification.” Again the prominence they have given to fishing activities confirms bias in their prioritising of threats and objectives. It is surprising that the authors’ recognition that such fundament fishing activities as bycatch and unsustainable fishing will not be adequately addressed by reserves has not shaken their belief that even selected areas will be “totally protected” and effective “ocean protection” provided by regulating extraction.

The assertion that even parts of oceans can be “fully protected” by regulating extraction is not consistent with the available evidence. Acceptance of it distracts “the science and politics of ocean protection” away from evidence-based pursuit of amelioration of the real threats to the world’s marine environments.

Robert Kearney is an emeritus professor at the Fisheries Institute for Applied Ecology at the University of Canberra.

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Mar 14 2015

Updating the Master Plan for Marine Protected Areas


statewide-mpa-networkCalifornia’s MPA network

This year, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is updating the 2008 Master Plan for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The updated 2015 Master Plan will be a guidance document that shifts the focus from designing and siting California’s MPA network to setting a statewide framework for MPA management. CDFW will welcome input on the updated 2015 Master Plan through a public process which starts at the Aug. 2015 meeting of the California Fish and Game Commission.

California is home to the largest scientifically designed network of MPAs in the United States. This accomplishment was the result of the State Legislature passing the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), which required CDFW to redesign California’s system of MPAs through a highly participatory and stakeholder-driven MPA design and siting process that spanned eight years and four coastal regions.

The MLPA also required CDFW to develop a “master plan” to guide the adoption and implementation of MPAs. This master plan framework guided the incremental development of alternative MPA proposals in the first MLPA planning region on the central coast. Following the adoption of the central coast MPAs, the Master Plan for MPAs was approved as a living document by the California Fish and Game Commission in February 2008. The 2008 Master Plan then guided the development of alternative MPA proposals in the north central, south, and north coast regions.

CDFW anticipates taking a 4-step approach to update the Master Plan by the end of the year. This approach includes:

1. Working with Tribal governments over the next couple of months
2. Presenting a first draft to the Fish and Game Commission at their August 2015 meeting
3. Providing an update at the October 2015 Commission meeting, and
4. Presenting a final draft to the Commission for consideration of approval at their December 2015 meeting

For more information about the Master Plan for Marine Protected Areas and California’s network of MPAs, please visit the California Marine Protected Area website.

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