Establishing Marine Protected Areas

  • When determining the location of a MPA, there are some characteristics of the site to consider:
    •  Areas that are still in good condition, so there is potential that they will be able to thrive again.
    • Contributions the site can make to the ecosystem such as spawning, nursery or feeding areas for multiple species.
    • Areas of high biodiversity that support rare species and/or areas that have species that are unique to that area.
    • If the area is particularly vulnerable to natural and human impacts, such as pollution.
    • Areas that could provide additional income through tourism opportunities.
    • The practicality of managing the area.  For example, how will an area far from shore be managed?
  • For many of our ocean tracks species, you know by now that they travel great distances. In the ocean, the habitats these organisms share are connected through the movement of these animals and the exchange of nutrients. Most marine animals use more than one habitat during their life span. When thinking about how to best protect these species it is important to think about the different habitats that are used throughout the animal’s entire life span.
  • The Size of the MPA. Even small MPAs can have an impact on the biodiversity of animals. The larger the MPA, however, the greater number of habitat types and number of individuals that can be protected. We know that fish and other marine organisms don’t recognize the boundaries of the MPA, so the amount of protection they receive depends on how far and how often they travel outside of the MPA. But even for species that leave the MPA frequently, the MPA still helps protect food sources and areas necessary for mating and spawning.
  • Networks of MPAs. Another strategy that is sometimes employed is to create several smaller reserves that are part of a network instead of one larger reserve. Species traveling from one reserve may be protected if when they encounter another reserve. These networks work well when there are multiple habitat types represented in each reserve and the reserves are located within close proximity to each other.
  • For the long term a well designed network of marine reserves protects valuable ecosystems services and will generate economic benefit in the future. For example, there are opportunities to increase tourism in MPAs as sightseers, scuba divers, whale watchers and other tourists that can generate income for the local economy.
  • It is necessary to monitor the MPA over the long term . The ecological benefits that can be created through an MPA can be wiped out if the area is not maintained and enforced. Consideration should be made for how people currently use the area whether it is for fishing, aquaculture, or energy production to reduce the negative effects of MPAs on the economy


Back to Top