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There is broad recognition that the oceans and their living resources are under stress. Increasing use by humans, especially in the coastal zone but increasingly offshore as well, have damaged marine habitats and led to overfishing of many marine fish stocks. Significant numbers of marine organisms, including mammals, birds, and turtles, as well as some commercially harvested fish and shellfish, are now threatened or endangered. The threats of further habitat damage, loss of species, and loss of genetic diversity—all attributable to human actions—in addition to increasing problems from overfishing, loom imposingly on the horizon. Clearly, new management approaches or options must be considered to stem the damage and ensure that marine ecosystems and their unique features are protected and restored. In this regard, marine reserves and protected areas are more often proposed as major tools to relieve stress on marine resources and ecosystems. This report evaluates the use of protected areas and reserves for the conservation of living marine resources, and makes recommendations on their potential implementation as a management tool in marine waters of the United States.1
The oceans occupy more than 70% of the earth's surface and 95% of the biosphere and once were thought to be so vast that it was judged inconceivable that human activities might significantly alter the structure and functioning of
1 Marine waters in the United States refers to the exclusive economic zone of the coastal states and territories.
marine ecosystems. However, it is now obvious that the seas feel the stamp of heavy human use from industries such as fishing and transportation, the effects of waste disposal, excess nutrients from agricultural runoff, and the introduction of exotic species. The cumulative effect on marine ecosystems has attracted public attention and enhanced public concern for ocean resources, unique habitats, and the threats to continuing marine ecosystem productivity.
Most of the world's fish stocks are now heavily exploited. As many as 25 to 30% are overfished, and another 44% are fully exploited (Garcia and Newton, 1997; FAO, 1999; NRC, 1999a). In Europe, the impact of fishing on fish population abundance became evident when naval activities and extensive minefields closed the North Sea fishery during World Wars I and II. While catches prior to the wars were declining, there were dramatic recoveries immediately afterwards when it was safe to resume fishing activity (Gulland, 1974; Cushing, 1975). These recoveries supported the idea that time and area closures could be estabfished to restore and protect overfished stocks.
Given the growing perception that current management of marine resources and habitats is insufficient, interest is growing in approaches to ensure the continuing viability of marine ecosystems. Over the past century, concern about the rapid loss of wilderness lands led to establishment of protected areas, reserves, and parks in terrestrial ecosystems where human activities are much restricted or at least curtailed. Generally, the objective in these areas is to protect or restore ecosystems, to preserve the natural beauty of the landscape, and to support the survival of native species. The public accepts these concepts and cherishes protected areas such as national parks and wildlife refuges. Yet this approach has not transferred to the marine environment. The effectiveness of marine reserves and marine protected areas (MPAs) is debated passionately by advocates and detractors, even though more than a thousand MPAs have been established around the globe. Similar to terrestrial protected areas, advocates promote their benefits as insurance against overexploitation, conservation of biodiversity, and protection of habitat. Their potential as tools for fisheries management is recognized by many scientists (Bohnsack, 1998). However, few MPAs have been evaluated critically to determine to what extent they benefit exploited species.
There have been numerous attempts to develop terms and definitions to encompass the array of applications of MPAs in marine conservation. In principle, the committee accepts the classification scheme developed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN, see Appendix F) which applies to both terrestrial and marine protected areas (IUCN, 1994). The six categories in this scheme provide a mechanism for assessing the status of protected areas internationally. However, the specificity provided by the IUCN classification makes it impractical for quick reference to the more general goals of MPAs described in this report. Therefore, the committee defined a simplified list of terms for the various types of protected areas, listed here in order of increasing levels of protection:
Marine Protected Area—a discrete geographic area that has been designated to enhance the conservation of marine and coastal resources and is managed by an integrated plan that includes MPA-wide restrictions on some activities such as oil and gas extraction and higher levels of protection on delimited zones, designated as fishery and ecological reserves within the MPA (see below). Examples include the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and marine areas in the National Park system, such as Glacier Bay.
Marine Reserve—a zone in which some or all of the biological resources are protected from removal or disturbance. This includes reserves established to protect threatened or endangered species and the more specific categories of fishery and ecological reserves described below.
Fishery Reserve—a zone that precludes fishing activity on some or all species to protect critical habitat, rebuild stocks (long-term, but not necessarily permanent, closure), provide insurance against overfishing, or enhance fishery yield. Examples include Closed Areas I and II on Georges Bank, implemented to protect groundfish.
Ecological Reserve—a zone that protects all living marine resources through prohibitions on fishing and the removal or disturbance of any living or non-living marine resource, except as necessary for monitoring or research to evaluate reserve effectiveness. Access and recreational activities may be restricted to prevent damage to the resources. Other terms that have been used to describe this type of reserve include “no-take” zones and fully-protected areas. The Western Sambos Reserve in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary provides an example of this type of zoning.
Defining the goals and objectives from among the myriad that may exist is a prerequisite for determining the appropriate level of protection for an MPA (Agardy, 1997; Allison et al., 1998). The objectives must be clear with respect to expectations of performance and the degree to which human activities, including extractive uses and tourism, must be restricted to achieve goals. Promoting fishery management goals and objectives may require different criteria for designating and implementing MPAs, than for protecting unique habitats or biological diversity.
Decisions regarding location, size, and linkages between MPAs and other components of ecosystems must be considered. Adopting MPAs as a major management tool will require a shift in management emphasis from single-species management to spatial management. Oceanographic features, bathymetry, hydrography, and the transport of organisms into or out of MPAs can be critical factors in MPA design. The human element, including stakeholder involvement in the planning and implementation stages for MPAs, is critical in determining whether an MPA will successfully meet its objectives or whether it will result in resentment and noncompliance by individuals and communities that face restrictions on current and future uses.
Although MPAs currently occupy less than 1% of the marine environment, their use is increasing throughout the world (Kelleher, 1999). Recent recognition that fishing activities, especially bottom trawling, but also dredging, fish traps, and longlines, can alter or destroy habitat and that many fisheries in the United States and globally are overfished (Dayton et al., 1995; NOAA, 1996b) demonstrates the need to explore alternative approaches for protecting and managing the sea. Many studies are now under way to evaluate the potential of fishery reserves as a complementary or alternative approach to conventional fishery management and to determine if reserves can successfully conserve fish stocks, while preserving biodiversity and protecting habitat. Degradation of marine ecosystems also results from coastal land use and watershed problems. Establishment of MPAs and reserves can prompt improved management of land-based activities that impact estuarine and marine habitats. Advocates argue that only reserves can provide insurance against management failures resulting from insufficient research or uncertainty intrinsic to complex and poorly understood marine ecosystems. This argument has been challenged by others who view conventional management approaches, if rigorously applied, as both effective and less disruptive to resource users. In this sense, it is important to distinguish between the different objectives of marine reserves, some focusing on issues of biological diversity and others directed at managing fisheries, when evaluating them as management tools. Highlights of that debate are captured in this report.
As management becomes more integrated and holistic, MPAs will take on greater importance as a tool for conserving marine resources. In particular, MPAs have been proposed as an integral component of marine and coastal zone management, with establishment of regional networks of MPAs as a means to improve overall governance of the coastal ocean (Done and Reichelt, 1998). However, implementation has been hindered by a lack of consensus on how to design MPAs to maximize their utility. The extent of current threats to marine resources may justify establishment of MPAs and reserves, despite the lack of experience, using an adaptive management approach to modify the design as knowledge and experience increase.
Declines in biological diversity and productivity can be precipitated in many cases by fishing and other human interventions (e.g., dams, dredging, coastal development, and wetland losses, introduced species, tourism and recreational activities). These declines have spurred efforts to institute alternative management approaches that will conserve and, where needed, restore biological diversity and productivity. MPAs, like their counterparts in terrestrial ecosystems, can be used to protect critical or threatened habitats in order to foster restoration of biological communities and their productivities. Importantly, establishment
of MPAs may motivate communities to increase their stewardship of the ocean through stricter land use policies and pollution controls.
Many observers believe that conventional management has not supported sustainable marine fisheries (Ludwig et al., 1993). Further, scientists have found that habitats on the seabed, along with the diverse communities of organisms that they support, are being degraded by fishing and other human activities (Watling and Norse, 1998; Langton and Auster, 1999). In response, there are demands for new resolve in the form of precautionary management and adoption of ecosystem approaches to fisheries management (NMFS, 1999; NRC, 1999a). The challenges are to prevent overfishing, protect marine habitats, and restore biodiversity. In the United States, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (NOAA, 1996a) requires the elimination of overfishing and protection of essential habitats. Marine reserves are proposed as one tool that can provide insurance against uncertainties in fisheries science and promote the conservation and restoration of fish habitats.
Users of marine resources do not always embrace the concept of MPAs or welcome them when instituted. Stakeholders may distrust managers and scientists, especially when confronted with the possibility of losing their customary access privileges. Also, competing users (e.g., commercial fishers, recreational fishers, divers, farmers, developers, realtors, industrial concerns) may perceive inequities in the allocation of privileges in MPAs. These problems are especially prevalent when stakeholders are not fully involved in the design and planning of MPAs (Kelleher and Recchia, 1998) and often lead to opposition and hostility.
This report reviews the state of knowledge of marine reserves and protected areas and evaluates their utility for promoting and conserving biodiversity, improving fishery management, and protecting habitats in the sea. The scope of the committee's task was broad. With respect to fisheries, it included a comparison of reserves with conventional “command-and-control” fisheries management (regulating catch and fishing effort) and also with emerging “rights-based” approaches, such as individual fishing quotas (IFQs) (NRC, 1999b). Reserves also were evaluated with respect to societal needs and concerns. The potential for MPAs and reserves to affect both direct and indirect users of marine resources was recognized, and the need for adaptive responses by managers with respect to design was noted. As defined in the Statement of Task below, the focus of this study was on conservation of living marine resources; hence, other potential goals of MPAs such as protection of cultural artifacts, increased educational opportunities, and enhancement of tourism, although mentioned, are not examined in detail.
STATEMENT OF TASK
The prospectus for this study defines four tasks for the committee as follows:
1. examine the utility of marine reserves and protected areas to conserve marine biological diversity and living resources, including fisheries;
2. compare benefits and costs of this approach to more conventional tools;
3. explore the feasibility of implementing marine reserves and protected areas; and
4. assess the scientific basis and adequacy of techniques used for the location, design, and implementation of marine reserves and protected areas, including their successes for management of fisheries.
The project reviews the design, implementation, and evaluation of marine reserves and protected areas, using examples from the United States as well as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and other countries in which they have been implemented. The adequacy of current efforts to use marine protected areas and reserves is assessed both as a management approach for restoring declining fish stocks and as a tool for conserving marine biological diversity. This report recommends ways to improve the implementation of marine protected areas and reserves, and identifies future research that could assist in implementing these tools more effectively.
STUDY APPROACH AND REPORT ORGANIZATION
This study evolved from a confluence of interests in the timely and controversial topic of setting aside areas in the ocean for the conservation and preservation of living marine resources. Primary funding was supplied by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service and National Marine Sanctuaries Program, with additional funds from the Department of the Interior's Fish and Wildlife and National Park Services. The committee held four information-gathering meetings at the following sites: Washington, D.C.; Islamorada, Florida; Monterey, California; and Seattle, Washington. Speakers from each region were invited to address the committee and time was allowed for public comments (Appendix D).
In organizing this report, the committee sought to cover the more difficult issues surrounding the design and implementation of marine reserves and protected areas. Chapter 2 describes the differences between marine and terrestrial ecosystems that influence both the goals and the design of protected areas. Specific goals for establishing protected areas in marine environments are also described in that chapter. Because much of the interest in reserves and MPAs has emerged from the perceived failure of conventional fisheries management strategies, the strengths and weaknesses of these conventional approaches are explored in Chapter 3. Chapter 4 describes the values, expected costs and benefits, and need for stakeholder involvement in identifying goals and establishing management plans for MPAs and reserves. Chapter 5 presents both the theoretical arguments and the empirical evidence for marine reserves in the form of a litera-
ture review. Planning and design are critical steps for successful establishment of MPAs and reserves, and these issues are presented in Chapter 6. After a marine reserve has been established, monitoring and research are needed to evaluate the effectiveness of the reserve in attaining management goals. Chapter 7 describes approaches that can be used to evaluate reserve performance. Chapter 8 describes the international history of MPAs and critiques the current system of MPAs and reserves in the United States. Finally, in Chapter 9, the committee presents its conclusions and recommendations.