A new study on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) shows that a major problem for many MPAs is the lack of staff and funding to properly monitor and manage

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24 Apr

A team of scientists has studied 433 MPAs to assess the effects of MPAs on fish populations, and relationships between management processes and ecological effects. They concluded that “continued global expansion of MPAs without adequate investment in human and financial capacity is likely to lead to sub-optimal conservation outcomes.”

The team has published this article about their findings “Capacity shortfalls hinder the performance of marine protected areas globally”. The scientists found a strong link between staff and budget capacity on the one hand and conservation impact on the other. MPAs with adequate management capacity provide a better outcome than understaffed or underfinanced ones. This is no surprise to those working in this field, but it is the first time that a meta-analysis of this kind has been conducted to show how MPAs management influences outcomes. 

The investigated MPAs included both no-take MPAs as well as MPAs open to (some) fishing. The findings showed that MPAs contribute to increasing fish populations, also when some kinds of fishing activities are allowed. On average, fish biomass was 1.6 times higher in MPAs than in matched non-MPA areas. However, the scientist stress, that “Although 71% of MPAs positively influenced fish populations, these conservation impacts were highly variable. Staff and budget capacity were the strongest predictors of conservation impact: MPAs with adequate staff capacity had ecological effects 2.9 times greater than MPAs with inadequate capacity.” 

The European Anglers Alliance (EAA), has stressed time and again that it is ‘easy’ to decide to put MPAs in place, but difficult to find the funding and manpower needed to look after them properly. In a worst case scenario a poorly managed MPA will only attract and serve the poachers by saving them some time and fuel on catching fish in the area. The EAA has continuously plead that angling should be allowed in as many MPAs as possible. This secures the presence of some “eyes and ears” within the MPAs without any cost. And, as important, angling provides low impact, sustainable economic activity in and from these areas. 

More information on the study can be found here

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