Marine Fisheries Service undertake a study of what such management would entail from a fishery management perspective. The study produced a list of key policy objectives “to change the burden of proof, apply the precautionary approach, purchase insurance against unforeseen adverse ecosystem impacts, learn from management experiences, make local incentives compatible with global goals, and promote participation, fairness, and equity in policy and management.” The report recommends that fishery management councils “use a zone-based management approach to designate geographic areas for prescribed uses. Such zones could include marine protected areas (MPAs), areas particularly sensitive to gear impacts, and areas where fishing is known to negatively affect the trophic food web” (NMFS, 1999).
Networks of marine reserves, where the goal is to protect all components of the ecosystem through spatially defined closures, should be included as an essential element of ecosystem-based management. Incorporation of MPAs, including marine reserves, into a broader plan for coastal and ocean management offers an opportunity to revise current fragmented management approaches and provide for more inclusive representation of stakeholders concerned about the health of marine ecosystems. The performance of MPAs as a conservation tool is best viewed in the broadest context of management objectives that encompass the full range of human interests in the sea. In this sense, management for direct use (e.g., fisheries), for indirect use (e.g., heritage and existence values), and for ensuring protection of essential ecosystem services ultimately must be accomplished through zoning, which requires designating different areas to meet different goals.
The design of MPAs should proceed through four stages: (1) evaluate needs, (2) set goals, (3) assemble data on the region to be served by the MPAs, and (4) outline various options for siting areas that meet the previously agreed-on goals. Each stage of this process should involve the broad community of stakeholders—users, managers, scientists, conservationists, homeowners, and other concerned members of the public—such that the final MPA plan represents a joint effort between affected communities and management agencies.
Establishment of networks of marine reserves and protected areas will provide an ecosystem-based approach for meeting the multiple objectives of coastal and marine area management. These objectives include protection of habitat, biodiversity, and fisheries and promotion of research to increase the effectiveness of various conservation and management measures such as empirical determinations of fishing and natural mortality rates to improve the accuracy of stock assessment methods used for fishery management.