Are MPAs becoming fashionable?

Pitcairns...KermadecsNazca-DesventuradasEaster Island and now Palau.

All these Marine Protected Area designations or proposals have sprung up in the last year or so. It seems that the MPA movement is gaining momentum and with more and more countries proposing or designating large proportions of their national waters to be protected from damaging human activities, it seems almost fashionable to be doing so.

Pew have calculated that, since June 2014, 1.5 million square miles of ocean have been protected, which is 62% of all fully protected MPAs. This is amazing because it means that recognition of the importance of protecting the ocean is spreading rapidly worldwide, and that countries are playing the long game and designating now to ensure that their marine environment is protected for the future.

Just designating it isn’t enough though. Marine conservationists are optimistic about this huge step forward, but the key to success will be ongoing effective management of these designated areas. When such vast areas are designated it doesn’t make any physical difference to the marine environment unless fishing is closely monitored, human activities are properly zoned, local communities are involved and not excluded from the process, and other local factors are considered. An MPA which has been designated on paper but which doesn’t make any actual difference on the ground is called a ‘Paper Park’ and these are useless. Fully protecting a marine reserve, and preventing all these great designations becoming Paper Parks, will require a lot of resources and coordination, but phasing the management in should make these targets more achievable.

Explore global MPAs here.

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