Journal Exercise 2: Global Conservation Outcomes Depend on Marine Protected Areas with Five Key Features

Who researched:
Graham J. Edgar, Rick D. Stuart-Smith, Trevor J. Willis, Stuart Kininmonth, Susan C. Baker, Stuart Banks, Neville S. Barrett, Mikel A. Becerro, Anthony T. F. Bernard, Just Berkhout, Colin D. Buxton, Stuart J. Campbell, Antonia T. Cooper, Marlene Davey, Sophie C. Edgar, Günter Försterra, David E. Galván, Alejo J. Irigoyen, David J. Kushner, Rodrigo Moura, P. Ed Parnell, Nick T. Shears, German Soler, Elisabeth M. A. Strain & Russell J. Thomson
Where researched:
87 Marine Protected Areas worldwide
When researched:
Received September 9, 2013
Accepted for publication January 13, 2014
Published online February 5, 2014
The five key features:
No take (no fishing), well enforced, old (over 10 years of being an MPA), large (over 100 kilometers squared) and isolated by deep water or sand
Research methods used:
Using underwater survey data from “effective” MPAs (with four or five of the key features) and predictions based on survey data from fished coasts, the researchers compared effective MPAs to fished areas–total fish biomass, total shark biomass and amount of large fish (larger than 250 mm in total length).
What they found:
59% of the Marine Protected Areas studied had only one or two of the key features needed to make an MPA effective. These ineffective MPAs were ecologically indistinguishable (the fish and shark biomass were equivalent and the number of large fish were equivalent) from the fished coasts studied. However, effective MPAs had twice as many large fish, a five times larger fish biomass and a fourteen times larger shark biomass than the fished areas surveyed.
What this means/Why it’s important:
Considering most (59%) MPAs share similar data on fish/shark biomass with regularly fished areas, more effort and enforcement needs to go into our Marine Protected Areas. It is thought that our oceans have only one third of the total fish biomass than historical levels and if we want to ensure a decent level of marine biodiversity in the future, we need to make sure that our Marine Protected Areas have the five key features presented by these researchers.