Archives - What MPAs Provide
MPAs are internationally
recognized as a means for conserving natural, historic, and
cultural marine resources. Through protection of marine species
and habitats, MPAs provide social and economic benefits, including
sustainable recreational and commercial use of marine resources
and enhanced research and educational opportunities. MPA networks
can help individual MPAs achieve conservation goals, providing
additional social and economic benefits. Like most actions,
achieving benefits usually involves costs or tradeoffs. In
the case of MPAs, some human activities may be prohibited
or restricted in order to achieve the benefits of establishing
Historic and Cultural Resource
Social and Economic Benefits
Benefits of MPA Networks
The loss of marine resources as a result of
human induced changes in the marine environment is a growing
problem globally and in the U.S. More than one quarter of
the worlds coral reefs are effectively lost (Wilkinson,
2000). Between 69% to 74% of fish stocks globally are
overfished or fully exploited (FAO, 1998).
Forty-five percent of U.S. fish stocks whose status is known
are either overfished or approaching an overfished condition
(NMFS, 1999). Coastal wetland loss in
the U.S. exceeds 20,000 acres per year (Brady
and Flather, 1994 and Johnston et al., 1995). Nearly one-third
of U.S. coastal waters used for the harvest of oysters, clams,
and mussels are classified as "harvest-limited"
due to contamination from pollution (NOS, 1995).
||Two humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliea),
an endangered species, swim in the waters of the Hawaiian
Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. [Congress: in consultation with the state of Hawaii, designated the sanctuary on November 4, 1992.]
MPAs can address these problems by managing
human activities in certain areas. MPAs generally create a
level of management over and above existing authorities that
apply outside of MPAs, and can provide a more focused, ecosystem-based
approach to resource management. Activities that are permitted
or regulated by law outside an MPA may be prohibited or severely
curtailed within an MPA. Oil exploration and production, dredging,
dumping, certain types of vessel traffic, fishing, and placing
structures on the seabed are examples of types of activities
that may be restricted in certain types of MPAs (Code
of Federal Regulations, 2000).
Effective MPA management can help protect and restore various
components of the nations marine environment, including
natural ecosystems, biodiversity, habitat, and endangered
and threatened species. Managing for one of these elements
often means protecting the others. Similarly, to effectively
manage endangered or threatened species, the habitat they
rely upon must also be preserved.
Historic and Cultural
MPAs also preserve and protect important historical
and cultural resources of our marine heritage. These include
archeological sites that contain significant cultural artifacts;
sunken ships, aircraft, or other vessels; and areas of significance
to specific cultures or time periods. Specific examples include
Thunder Bay Underwater Preserve and National Marine Sanctuary
which includes over 100 shipwrecks in Lake Huron; the U.S.S.
Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, which protects a Civil
War ship that sunk off the shore of North Carolina in 1862;
the Midway National Wildlife Refuge, which encompasses the
site of the World War II Battle of Midway; and the Salt River
Bay National Historic Preserve which was the focal point of
various European attempts to colonize the Virgin Islands.
Protecting cultural resources in MPAs reduces the chance that
artifacts will be removed or damaged from modern day commercial
or recreational activities. Unlike many biological communities
that have some level of resilience to recover from degradation,
once they are damaged, underwater historic and cultural resources
usually cannot recover. Using MPAs to conserve historical
resources can help to stabilize deteriorating structures and
to encourage actions to find, preserve, and place on public
display artifacts that may otherwise be inaccessible. By protecting
marine sites that were important to different time periods
and cultures, a part of history is preserved for future generations.
||Fort Jefferson National Monument was
established to protect historic Fort Jefferson. The area
was changed to Dry Tortugas National Park in 1992, to
provide additional management protection of the area's
subtropical marine system, including coral reefs, fisheries,
nesting birds, sea turtles, and other wildlife.
Social and Economic
Many social and economic benefits of MPAs
derive from the resource protection and high quality environment
that effective MPAs can afford. Some of the social and economic
- Enhancing non-consumptive uses
- Maintaining fisheries
- Providing opportunities for research and
Enhancing Non-consumptive Uses. As
with overall ecosystem protection, protecting particular plants
and animals, and the habitats they depend on for survival,
will help ensure that future generations are able to enjoy
the benefits that these resources provide. Many economic activities
in coastal areas rely on peoples enjoyment of marine
resources. For example, in Monroe County, Florida, location
of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and other marine-related
parks and wildlife refuges, the estimated total tourist contribution
to the economy (1995-1996) is over 60 percent (English
et al., 1996). Non-extractive uses of the marine environment,
such as scuba diving, snorkeling, wildlife watching, boating,
and surfing rely on healthy marine environments. Good water
quality, abundant living resources, and scenic ocean habitats
attract visitors to coastal areas around the globe to pursue
marine activities. MPAs can help ensure that these marine
resources survive and continue to draw the recreational users
that are critical to many coastal economies.
The site of the first national marine
sanctuary, established in 1975 by an act of Congress,
is the Civil War ship USS Monitor. It rests upside down
on a sand-covered seafloor approximately 16 miles SSE
of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina in 240 feet of water.
By protecting natural, historic, and
cultural resources, MPAs also provide intangible benefits
such as the pleasure of viewing particular species, habitats,
or artifacts. Other examples include the enjoyment of knowing
that a particular marine species is less likely to become
extinct or that a cultural or historic treasure has been preserved.
While it is difficult to put dollar values on these benefits
(NRC, in press), many feel it is important
to maintain these benefits for both current and future generations.
Maintaining Fisheries. MPAs can also
help ensure sustainable commercial and recreational fisheries
by controlling fishing rates, protecting critical stages in
the life history of fishery species, conserving genetic diversity
of exploited species, reducing secondary impacts of fishing
on essential fish habitat and other species, and ensuring
against fisheries collapse (Murray et al.
1999; NRC, in press). MPAs may allow
site-specific regulation of selected species, selected gear
types, or fishing methods. Certain MPAs or zones within MPAs
may be fishery reserves that protect all or nearly all species
from fishing. Many studies indicate that abundance and size
of target species increase in marine protected areas that
limit extractive use (Dugan and Davis, 1993;
Crowder et al., 2000; Halpern,
in press). In 76 studies of reserves around the world,
densities of fishery species increased in 69% of the reserves,
average body size increased in 88% of reserves, and biomass
increased in 92% of reserves (Halpern,
in press). In Looe Key, Florida the abundance of snappers
nearly doubled and that of grunts more than quadrupled after
fishing was closed for only two years (Clark
et al., 1989). In addition, rare species previously absent
from these sites were found in the MPA (Clark
et al., 1989). Increased size and abundance within MPAs
may lead to a spillover effect, potentially increasing fish
abundance and fishery yield in nearby waters outside of the
MPA boundaries (Russ and Alcala, 1999;
Crowder et al., 2000) and dispersing
larvae that replenish more distant fishing grounds (Bohnsack
1998; NRC, in press).
||Non-extractive uses of the marine environment
such as scuba diving, snorkeling, wildlife watching, boating,
fishing, and surfing rely on the results of resource protection--good
water quality, healthy habitat, and abundant living resources--to
attract visitors. This is particularly important for maintaining
the economic and social fabric of fishing, recreation,
and tourism-based economies.
Providing Opportunities for Research
and Education. MPAs furnish opportunities for academic
and applied research and monitoring of short-lived events
and long-term trends. Applied research is especially important
for MPA resource management needs and even for biomedical
applications (Salm et al, 2000). MPAs
with broad resource protection can be stable, long-term
venues for ongoing studies of the same group of organisms
or same area of habitat (Salm et al, 2000).
They can provide baselines against which to measure management
efforts. MPAs can also provide comparative areas to measure
the effect of an activity that occurs outside an MPA, but
is limited within the MPA. Examples of MPAs with strong
monitoring programs are sites in the National Estuarine
Research Reserve System . The 25 sites participate in a
system-wide monitoring program to detect changes in the
status, integrity, and biological diversity of estuaries.
Similar monitoring programs take place in individual MPAs
such as the Virgin Islands National Park.
Students at all levels are drawn toward
natural areas as places to learn about fascinating marine
organisms and their habitats. MPAs provide hands on experience
and outdoor laboratories for bringing classroom studies
to life. With the majority of the nations population
living in coastal regions, MPA educational programs have
the potential to help a large segment of the public understand
the importance of marine ecosystems and the impact of human
activities on them. However, access to some MPAs can be
difficult due to their underwater and offshore locations.
Trips to visitors centers, classroom presentations, educational
curricula, videos, and teacher training are some of the
ways that marine educators bring MPAs to students. MPAs
also serve to educate and train users and interest groups
such as divers, fishermen, boaters, and wildlife watchers
on ways to enjoy marine environments without damaging the
features that make them attractive and valuable.
Benefits of MPA
A network of MPAs is a group of sites that
are linked in some ecologically meaningful way. MPA networks
can address the problem of how to protect important and/or
representative areas without limiting human uses of vast areas
of coast and ocean. They share and enhance many of the benefits
of individual MPAs, providing opportunities to preserve marine
biodiversity, resolve user conflicts, and restore degraded
or over exploited areas (Agardy, 1999).
Networks allow scientists to use MPAs more effectively for
research, providing opportunities for replication, where research
in similar habitats in the same region "would increase
the precision for all types of data and enable statistically
valid conclusions" (Ballentine,
1991). Well designed networks of MPAs can make overfishing
a regional population or stock more difficult, where protecting
a single area of sufficient size to provide equivalent protection
might not be feasible or may be politically unpalatable (Dyer
and Holland, 1991). Networks can be used to protect the
entire range of habitat types within a region when all habitat
types are not concentrated in a single MPA.
Networks can also help to link marine areas
with adjacent land areas and their protected area networks.
The impacts of land-based activity on even offshore MPAs can
be significant, especially for issues like maintaining water
quality. Establishing an effective link with land management
is essential to conserving marine resources, and networks
can help make this connection (Barr, 2000).
From a practical perspective, MPA networks
can increase the pool of available financial and personnel
resources to address issues and problems common to more than
one site. Within networks, common issues and concerns can
be easily identified. Pooled resources and a shared agenda
for action promote swift and effective responses to shared
problems. Collective and collaborative actions in outreach
and education can mobilize support for individual sites and
the concept of marine protected areas generally. The shared
experiences of site managers and agency administrators can
be critical to avoiding duplication of effort when a site
in the network encounters situations that others have already
resolved. Opportunities for MPA managers, scientists, and
educators to share experiences, look for partners in regional
initiatives, and pass on the latest advance or innovation
in their discipline, all provide tangible benefits to MPA
practitioners involved in regional, national or international
networks (Barr, 2000).
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Havens for Marine Life. Issues in Science and Technology
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University of Waterloo. Ontario, Canada. May 14-19, 2000.
Bohnsack, J.A. 1998.
Application of marine reserves to reef fisheries management.
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Brady, S.J. and Flather,
C.H. 1994. Changes in wetlands on nonfederal rural land of
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Clark, J.R., B. Causey,
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