Tag Archives: MPAs

Where the wild things roam: Dispersal, connectivity, marine protected areas, and my PhD project


In my last post I mentioned that I am starting a PhD.  I promised to tell you a little more about what my research will be looking at, so here we go!

The project outline

My research comes very broadly defined already – the work’s raison d’être if you like.  Here it is:

“Movement and dispersal connects marine populations, allowing restoration of depleted local populations by immigrants that renew genetic diversity. Although Canada’s Oceans Act prioritizes ‘linking Canada’s network of marine protected areas (MPA)’, connectivity has not weighed significantly in MPA network design in Canada. This study will optimize regional marine connectivity among protected areas in the Atlantic region by determining optimal locations for new MPAs and evaluating how commercially important species would be representative in the entire MPA network. To model species distribution based on larval dispersal, fishery pressure, and climate change, we will use 3-D ocean circulation models. Then, based on metapopulation theory, we will develop novel spatial network algorithms to optimise the number and spatial connectivity between MPAs under current and future scenarios of climate and fishery pressure that may alter larval supply”.

Sounds complex?  Yep, for me too. Continue reading Where the wild things roam: Dispersal, connectivity, marine protected areas, and my PhD project

On being MIA – and what’s next

Hello my fellow readers

You may have noticed that I have been away for some time.  Some of you have even gotten in contact with me to find out why, and encourage me back – thank you!  Your words of kindness and encouragement were very much appreciated.  I honestly did not mean to disappear for so long, but I did get incredibly busy.  I thought I’d share with you all some of the questions I’ve been asked during my time away – and my responses! Continue reading On being MIA – and what’s next

Community-based conservation to rebuild fish stocks

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind being there right now. This is one of the Fijian islands in the Pacific, and the second largest in the group.  As serene as the picture is, not all is serene for the Islanders.  Fishers in Nagigi, a small community based on the south coast of Vanua Levu Island have been noticing that the number of fish and the size of fish have been decreasing, and habitat degrading – a big problem for a community heavily dependent on its marine resources.  This decline isn’t necessarily down to big foreign boats coming in and taking the critters on which they depend.  Instead, overexploitation and habitat destruction seems to arise from the ever-increasing number of locally based fishers.  The source of this claim?  The villagers of Nagigi.

In this paper,  Abigail Golden from Columbia University and fellow researchers explore the idea of setting up a short-term no take marine protected area within Nagigi’s coastal tenure area (known aqoliqoli ).  This idea hasn’t come from the researchers nor from any top-down government as tends to happen in western countries.  Instead the idea has come from the village leaders themselves.  This sort of bottom-up governance is far from unheard of.  The Pacific Islands are small and numerous, and have a long history of small areas of land and coastal waters managed by local communities.  Some have worked well, some have not, and many have come under strain or been lost through both technological developments, increasing population, increasing demands for resources, and cultural change.  Still, a well-managed community based MPA can work well, particularly in these remoter locations, and especially were more rigorous research and recording is absent.  Regardless of where you are in the world, there are a number of vital steps needed for good management.  One involves getting as much information as possible – about the species that are there now, the fishing methods used, an idea of how conditions have changed, and perceptions towards different management methods.  The other involves bringing the local community into the conservation planning in a meaningful way.  So the team went out and conducted two types of surveys – one looking at the species living on the reef at the time, and one talking to some of the villagers themselves. Continue reading Community-based conservation to rebuild fish stocks

Old fishing line hints at fishing levels inside no-take marine protected areas

Dealing with overfishing and destructive fishing practices are a huge issue for marine conservation and management.  Tackling this problem, and trying to repair some of the damage is no easy task.  We know that if they are done properly, no-take marine protected areas can make an impact, not only reducing habitat degradation by removing damaging fishing techniques, but also increasing the density and even the individual size of species targeted by fisheries.   The benefits these no-take zones provide can spill over to fishers too.  And that’s not just a scientist point of view either – take a look at this short (5 minute video) focusing on lobster potter Geoff Huelin who fishes around Lundy Island – the UK’s first no-take zone.

There are many factors that can make or break a no-take zone.  In the video Geoff touches on just one of those factors – policing the zone to make sure that people are abiding by the regulations.  This is important.  It’s no good having regulations to protect an area from fishing if fishing happens there anyway.  It is the action of people – not the designation itself per se, that makes an appreciable difference to marine biodiversity recovery.  Geoff tells us that for the Lundy Island no-take zone enforcement isn’t a huge challenge because the no-take zone is viewable from the shore.  There is, Geoff tells us, usually somebody watching.  But this can’t be said for all no-take zones.  It’s not just distance from the shoreline that can impact on enforcement capabilities. Lundy’s no-take is small.  Some no-take zones are huge, and very often manager’s budgets and resources are limited.  Take the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park for example, which suffers hundreds of infringements of its regulations each year.  Sure both commercial and recreational fishers who break the regulations inside the Park are successfully caught every year using a host of different surveillance techniques, but many more are likely to go unnoticed.  Getting a handle on the scale of non-compliance is the very issue explored in this recent paper by David Williamson from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and fellow researchers.

The research team focused their efforts on several fringing coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park – those around the Palm Islands, the Whitsundays, and the Keppel Islands. You may have heard of these places.  Beautiful and fairly accessible from the mainland, these areas are popular with tourists and locals alike.  Although all managed by the Park authority, the fringing reefs around these Islands aren’t all no-take, and the Aboriginal people’s of the Palm Island group have fishing and hunting rights across the whole Park – including inside the no-take zones.  The researchers needed a way to estimate fishing effort inside the no-take parts of these reefs, and for this they needed some evidence… evidence in the form of derelict fishing line from hook and line fisheries.  The first thing to do was to calculate the density of derelict fishing line both inside the no-take zones and outside.  So in the water they went and surveyed the derelict line.  Some statistical analysis later, and the team had an estimate of hook and line fishing activity both in and outside no-take zones on the reefs across the three island groups.

In the Whitsundays and the Palm Island, the no-take zones that had been around for over 20 years had the lowest density of fishing line within them compared to zones established 5 years before the surveying, and ‘normal’ sites.  Interestingly no-take zones that had been established for only 5 years didn’t show any significant difference in line density when compared to ‘normal’ sites.  But fishing line is typically made from hardy stuff, and doesn’t easily break down.  The researchers note that 99% of the fishing line found had accumulated algae and sessile organisms on them, and/or become partially embedded in the reef matrix itself.  This indicates that most of the line had been there for months or even years, but ascertaining just how long is difficult.  Some of the line likely was there prior to establishment of the no-take zones but just how much… well that is a difficult question to answer.

The team did not stop with simply working out the density of fishing line though.  Around the Palm Islands the researchers used the assistance of Reef Check Australia – a citizen science organization that is heavily involved in marine monitoring – to remove derelict fishing line from both no-take zones and monitored the sites to see just how quickly fishing line accumulated in the no-take zones and in the areas outside them for some 3 years.  Here the rates of line accumulation between the no-take zones and the other cleaned ‘normal’ sites were, statistically speaking, “marginally non-significant”.  In arguably more real terms, the researchers note that the rate of fishing line that accumulated inside the cleaned no-take zones was 32.4% of that accumulated inside the ‘normal’ cleaned sites. And 32.4%, say they researchers, is worrying for a zone that is supposed to be a no-fishing area.  But what about those Aboriginal fishers that have a right to fish inside the no-take zones – couldn’t some of the line be from them?  Well yes, though the authors note that at least from personal observations not all of the no-take zones they cleaned and monitored were regularly used by Aboriginal fishers.  What all this points to, the researchers argue, is that non-compliance with no-take zones isn’t just an issue in the more remote parts of the Great Barrier Marine Park.  They also note that when assessing how effective a no-take zone is in restoring marine biodiversity, it is worth taking into account the level of non-compliance with regulations as best one can.

This paper (including an open access link to their data) was published in the open access journal PLOS ONE.  You can read it here http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0114395

Image:  The Whitsundays.  Credit Richard Rydge/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Ocean protection for humans and other animals

People are funny things.  For years and years marine conservationists have been pushing for marine protected areas, but have often struggled to get sites designated.  Then began a trickle of very large marine protected areas, which in more recent years has gained momentum.  For example, in 2010 we saw a giant reserve around Chagos.  2012 came with the announcement of two large areas in the waters of Australia and South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands.  Then earlier this year, the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument was announced.  In a political sense, bigger has become better and it seems many a nation want in on this game.

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are a very diverse tool.  Just look at the IUCN  definition of protected areas….

“A protected area is a clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values”

That’s a pretty big remit, which presents a challenge for MPA managers. Providing conservation value AND providing benefits to human communities is not an easy thing to do, and perhaps not possible in every single case.  For example, if you want to restore a heavily overfished reef, then it’s best not to allow fishing.  On the other hand, if you want an area that can produce a sustainable fishery, then fishing needs to occur.   This is not to say that all MPAs can’t provide any benefits for conservation AND human communities simultaneously.  Indeed in situations where human populations are heavily dependent on marine resources, conservation is vital for sustaining long-term human benefits.  Understanding how win-win (or as close to as possible) situation can come about is hugely important for successful conservation management.  There has been a wealth of papers that show how well thought-out, well-managed MPAs can achieve their objectives – whether those objectives primarily focus on ecological/biological benefits, or improving human welfare.  There is also a host of literature that is highlighting how poorly designed and managed protected areas have reduced conservation value – both for people and the animals that reside in them.  Contrary to what World leaders may thing, when it comes to MPAs, quantity is not everything.  For researchers like Nathan Bennett of The University of British Columbia and Phil Dearden of the University of Victoria  ensuring that MPAs are quality products that benefit all species that use the ocean ecosystem – that is to say humans and other animals, is of vital importance.  So what are the factors that can contribute towards MPAs that have both positive ecological AND socio-economic outcomes?

Every MPA is different, and not just in terms of their objectives.  They are situated in different environments, with different collections of flora and fauna.  The threats MPAs face (or are attempting to mitigate against) also vary in type, frequency, and magnitude.  How humans use MPAs and the surrounding areas also varies, and the communities that utilize the ocean resources are also very different from each other.  The governance structures are different, and the resources available to managers and stakeholders are different.  The result is that there cannot be a one-stop framework on developing better MPAs, but there are some overarching themes for increasing MPA success.  Focusing on MPAs in ‘Low Development Countries’, Nathan and Phil divided these themes into three overarching – and indeed related inputs: governance, management, and local development.  Very human-centric yes, but we can only manage our interactions with the environment so if we want to look after it better, it is on ourselves we need to focus management.  There is a fair bit of information in this paper, so here’s just a quick look at what comes under each of these inputs:

Nathan and Phil define this as ”the structural, institutional, ideological, and procedural umbrella under which development programs and management practices operate” .  Some of the indicators of effective governance in terms of MPAs are pretty specific, like clearly defining any rights and tenure arrangements, having a broader scale form of management in which the MPA sits, like ecosystem-based management, or inter-coastal zone management plans.  Some are more related to good governance in itself, like having laws, policies, and local norms clear and consistent, transparency in the decision-making process, and stakeholder participation.

It’s pretty obvious isn’t it -a successful MPA needs effective management.  Unfortunately there are many a MPA without a management plan let alone an effective one.  Management is influenced by, among many things, the “ availability of resources, legislative and public support, levels of cross-scale coordination and cooperation ”.  So let’s just say that there is actually a management plan in place.  This needs adequate financial and human resources to carry the management out.  There needs to be effective enforcement, baseline data collection, and ongoing monitoring and evaluation – and not just of the MPA, but of the management plan itself.  Is it achieving the objectives?  Are those objectives realistic? Do we need to adapt the plan?  Then there is the people-side like conflict resolution processes, ensuring that there are sufficient facilities for visitors, education and environmental awareness programs, and effective communication.

Local Development
If we want to reduce our pressure on marine ecosystems then we need viable alternative livelihood options for those who depend on marine resources.  For fishery dependent communities, such alternative may be few and far between.  So we need to create them.  And by we, I mean a participatory process, not just because it is the ethical thing to do, or because including local knowledge and systems into conservation management is extremely useful for effective MPAs, but because ” Rarely are livelihoods initiatives imposed by organizations from the outside sustained over the long-term” .  Conservation isn’t just about places and non-human animals, it’s also about people.  Aside from participation, things like capacity building programs to provide people with new skills, ensuring that the MPA benefits result in a benefit to local people equitably, and of course monitoring and crucially evaluating the socio-economic outcomes of local development to ensure that they are on track.  And if things aren’t shaping up so well, we need to adapt again.

Nathan and Phil have by no means produced an exhaustive framework.  Give it a few years and I would expect to see some alteration as our understanding of what factors produce successful MPAs increases.   Sure, increasing our understanding of these factors won’t mean that creating MPAs with both positive ecological AND socio-economic outcomes suddenly becomes a walk in the park, but it could make the journey for managers and stakeholders a little less rocky.

The open access paper is published in the journal Marine Policy – you can have a read of it yourself here http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2014.05.005

Image: Small-scale fishers from Koh Yao Noi on the Andaman Coast of Thailand.  Credit: Nathan Bennett.

Marine conservation and the human equation

People are as much a part of this planet as any other species.  We are ecosystem engineers, modifying and creating new environments to suit our needs.  We are incredibly adaptable, and our ability to make tools – both simple and technologically complex – has allowed us to prosper and rise above many of the restrictions that limit other species.  This doesn’t mean we can now act completely in isolation from the rest of the world.  Many of our activities have altered ecosystems in ways that mean they are less likely to meet our current and future needs.  Conservation efforts are attempting to remedy many of the problems we have created, but conservation isn’t just about nature – it’s about people too.

Nathan Bennett has been actively researching the links between the environment and human societies for many years.  His work takes a perspective that historically has often been forgotten in conservation management; what about humans.  This isn’t about developing opportunities of industry – it’s about conservation initiatives that look to sustain environment and communities together.  This week he has shared three of his papers on his blog – one from 2013 and two from this year.  Thanks to Nathan, all three are now open access…all three very much worth a read.  Here’s a brief overview of each paper to whet your appetite.

The trouble with marine protected areas
So here’s the deal.  We can find an area of the ocean that is becoming heavily degraded because of human activities.  To try to reduce the damage and allow recovery we can place a boundary around that area and place restrictions on the sorts of activities that take place inside.  But what of those people whose activities have been displaced?  We aren’t just talking about recreational fishers here.  In some circumstances, communities which are heavily dependent on the marine environment can be affected.  In this paper, Nathan and his colleague Phil Dearden surveyed coastal resource dependent communities living on the Andaman Coast of Thailand – an area which boasts 17 National Marine Parks.  The perspective of these people makes for grim reading.  They saw little benefit in the parks for their community, they felt that fishing and harvesting was negatively impacted by the parks, and they felt little incentive to support let alone participate in conservation efforts.  What needs to happen, writes Nathan and Phil, is for managers to start including socio-economic development considerations within protected area management planning.  This won’t just be better for the communities, but better for marine conservation.

It’s not just about how vulnerable you are, it’s what you can do to adapt
We’re back to the Andaman Coast of Thailand again, this time to consider their vulnerability and ability to adapt to climate change.  There are a whole host of different factors that can affect a community’s ability to adapt to climate change – and indeed any other sort of stressor.  Some of these are biophysical – climate change related impacts such as coral bleaching, or increasing number of storms, as well as environmental impacts such as marine pollution and overfishing.  Some of the factors are economic – like increasing costs of fuel, social – like increasing immigration, and some are related to governance, like corruption, policies, or illegal fishing.  Nathan and the team wanted to find out how communities felt about stressors.  They surveyed 237 households across 7 coastal communities to ascertain which of the 36 stressors identified in the region were considered having highest impact on the communities.  The results were a bit of a mixed bag, and despite the communities being just 10 km apart, differed between each community.  There were a few common factors though.  Many of the stressors were heavily intertwined.  Climate change impacts like more extreme storms and changes to rainfall were rated highly in the stress-rankings.  Economic factors – particularly rising costs – also came out as a major concern among all the communities.  Interestingly somewhat in contrast to the study above, marine protected areas were not really felt to be causing too much trouble.  What about overfishing?  Not a concern either… but then again the fish populations declined long ago, so overfishing isn’t really an immediate concern any more.  The thing about these sorts of stressors is that they aren’t really something that the community can deal with themselves.  They are part of wider regional and global problems.  From an adaptation perspective, this raises a number of issues.  There is not a ‘one adaptation plan to fit all’, but there are common factors that need to be looked at beyond the communities themselves.  Equally important, if we want to help communities to adapt, we cannot treat one stressor as separate from another.  A more integrated approach is vital for the success of any adaptation plan.

The eco-social economy:  How conservation can aid social and economic development
In this final paper the focus is turned to the Northwest Territories Canada and the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation.  There have been plans afoot for their traditional territory…plans for a national park/protected area.  This is an old idea, and one that back in 1969 when the Government of Canada (Federal Government) tried to implement met with the opposition of the local people, who were successful in preventing the creation of a park.  In 2006, the First Nation and the Government of Canada signed a Memorandum of Understanding to look at implementing a park on those very same territories.  So what happened?  This new proposal has come from the local people themselves – a bottom up rather than top-down approach to conservation.  Through this collaborative process the park is taking an eco-social perspective to conservation.  Here, people aren’t just seen as the cause of degradation, but are seen as part of the ecosystem, impacted by the degradation.  The national park is not yet set up but is moving forward.  When it is, it is hoped that the park won’t just protect nature and the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation culture, but work to meet social and economic development goals.

If you want to follow more of Nathan’s work head over to his blog http://nathanbennett.ca.  There is a follow option which will automatically update you of any new posts.  Now there’s some emails worth getting.

Image:  The Lutsel K’e Dene on  Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territories, Canada.  Credit:  Leslie Philipp/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Are marine protected areas protecting the places that need protecting?

Marine protected areas (MPAs).  They sound like a pretty good thing for biodiversity conservation…right?  As always the devil is in the detail.  It first starts with what a MPA actually is.  Well we have already stumbled into slightly tricky ground here, because there is not one single globally recognised definition of MPAs.  For arguments sake we’ll go with the International Union for Conservation of Nature definition:

“A protected area is a clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values”

Ok… seems pretty straightforward, but look carefully – it’s a little vague isn’t it.  What are these ‘other effective means’ that you can manage the area?  What about the phrase ‘long-term’ – what scale are we talking here?  What do we do if there is conflict between ‘ecosystem services and cultural values’?  The IUCN have categorised MPAs into seven different types, based on the primary management objective of the area.  These range from fully protected areas where no extraction of any kind is allowed, right down to “sustainable use” zones.  If you want full details including the sorts of activities that are allowed in each MPA type, I’d recommend reading the ‘Guidelines for Applying the IUCN Protected Area Management Categories to Marine Protected Areas’.

So to sum up, MPAs differ if how much protection they offer, and some may in reality not offer much more protection than you get in the rest of the ocean anyway.  This might seem a little daft – after all, why bother setting up a MPA if it really isn’t adding any substantial conservation value – to biodiversity of cultural values?  The answer, as it often does, may lie in politics.  There is a wealth of transnational and international agreements set in place through which nation states have agreed to implement MPAs – and with good reason.  MPAs are one of several excellent tools we have through which we can manage our interactions with the ocean, reducing our footprint on it.  The problem comes when nations set MPAs that are meaningless in terms of conservation purely to meet targets.  This includes placing MPAs in areas where even under strict protection, the conservation benefit is minimal.

Rodolphe Devillers of Memorial University of Newfoundland and colleagues in the USA and Australia have recently analysed the motivation behind the placement of MPAs.  The areas of the ocean under the greatest threat are by virtue the areas of the ocean that are most highly utilised – and not just by fishers.  There are a number of human activities that take place in and around the ocean that harm the ocean environment including oil and mineral extraction, and dumping.  Understandably, these are the areas where MPA placement will receive the most resistance.  Conversely, placing MPAs in areas that aren’t really used – and thus not necessarily as threatened as other places – would likely meet less resistance.  Such areas are ‘residual’ to commercial purposes.  The placement of the MPA has little to no impact of stakeholders.  In other words, it’s business as usual.  So which is it?  Are managers going for the path of least resistance, or are they battling to protect the areas which need the most protection?

The researchers assessed this question from a decidedly Australian perspective.  First, the looked at MPAs located across the globe.  They then took a much more regional approach, looking at MPAs within Australian waters.  Finally for a more local look, they assessed the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.  What they uncovered was (perhaps unsurprisingly) a little damning for managers.  At both a global and regional scale, MPA placement was largely done following the path of least resistance, placed in the areas where human activities were not so prevalent.  This includes all of these very large MPAs that we see being set up across the world.  Whilst large in scale, different parts of the protected areas allow different activities (known as multiple use).  The areas that are the most restrictive tend to be located in the places where we aren’t busy extracting resources.  But all is not lost.  The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park – a multiple use zone – was called ‘exemplary’ by the researchers for its planning and zonation.  Although there were some discrepancies between bioregions (large-scale areas defined by features and processes ) covered by the Park, overall protection was placed at a scale for the area it covered.  It might be worth noting here that the research for this paper and it’s acceptance by the journal for publication occurred before the recent ‘dumping fiasco’ within the park boundaries.

An argument can be made that protecting areas not currently heavily exploited, and thus not as threatened as areas heavily exploited is a form of pro-active management.  Pro-active management is a good thing – and should be encouraged.  Pro-active management means that we aren’t sitting around waiting for an ecosystem to be so severely damaged (sometimes with no chance of recovery) before trying to do something about it.  It may very well be that some of the ‘residual’ MPAs are placed under the goal of pro-active management, but this is not the case for the majority.  Balancing social, political, economic, and ecological needs and concerns is a difficult business.  Invariably in any decision-making process some aspects will come out as ‘more important’ than others, but to consistently ignore the ecological side is, in the long-term, pure folly.  And it is wrong to claim that we as a species are effectively conserving the very resources on which we depend when we are in fact merely paying lip-service.

This open access paper was published in the journal Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems.  This is a very well written paper and unlike some science papers, not overly verbose.  It explains the complexities of ocean management well – very much worth a read.  http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/aqc.2445

Image:  Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, located off the coast of Georgia.  Credit: NOAA

Everything has an economic value… but how do we work that out?

It is becoming increasingly common for ecosystem services – services provided by the natural environment that benefit people – to have a financial value attached.  The idea is that it can help with management decisions relating to the environment.  For example, if we can say how much something is worth, then we can work how just how much to charge organizations like say BP when damage to the environment occurs through say an oil spill.  One of the main problems with valuing ecosystem services lies in how they are valued, because there is no one set procedure for doing so.  What you can end up with is a value that only reflects what you chose to place a value on.  This is further complicated by unknown ecosystem services, and links between ecosystems which are yet to be fully understood. Continue reading Everything has an economic value… but how do we work that out?

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

US citizens – just how much of your waters is afforded strong protection?

So my lovely readers living out in the USA, just how much of the marine ecosystem in your state waters is afforded strong protection?

Probably not that much.

In this collaboration between the Marine Conservation Institute and Mission Blue, states have been ranked based on what percentage of their waters they strongly protect in ‘No Take Zones’ or ‘Reserves’
The best-protected states and territories are Hawaii (22.9% of its state marine waters as a ‘No Take’), California (8.74%) and the US Virgin Islands (5.69%).

The report does note that many states offer lower types of protection such as marine protected areas that still allow extraction of fish and other resources within its boundaries.  These haven’t been included as ‘strong protection’ because as the report points out these measures fail to actually offer protection against the most damaging of activities.

You can read an overview and download the full report here  http://www.seastates.us/


Image:  Dry Tortugas, Florida (NASA, International Space Station Science, 05/29/08).  Credit NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Image in text:  Overview of the results! Credit Marine Conservation Institute