Conservation & Sustainable Management

What’s wrong with Marine Protected Areas?

It is with a heavy heart that I found myself agreeing with John Bruno’s take on the state of marine protected areas.

The papers by Nick Dulvy and Ray Hilborn highlighted by John are in my pile of ‘things to do once I have my dissertation handed in this week’.  I will get round to reading them, but for now I trust John’s synopsis – I have found his reporting (and considered opinions – whether I agree with them or not) second to none.

For me, it’s not that marine protected areas fail because they are unwarranted from an ecological/biological perspective – far from it.  But they do seem to have become the tool of choice for managers -the popular thing to do.  And now we can celebrate as yet more ocean is protected.

Simply calling an area of ocean a ‘marine protected area’ does not make it so.

As nations around the world are rushing to implement more and more marine protected areas in all their forms, they often fail to make them meaningful.  We forget that marine protected areas cannot by themselves reverse the degradation on the oceans.  We forget they need us to continue to monitor and adapt to new knowledge and situations if they are to function.  And we cannot continue to forget the human dimension.

Image:   Golfo de Corcovado in Chile.  If you look really carefully you can see blue whales blowing in the distance.  Credit Tom Crowley/Marine Photobank

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