Marine Protected Areas

Marine Protected Areas, or MPAs, are aiding in the fight to combat the problem of overfishing. These areas are set aside by local governments around the world, much in the way that a national park on land is reserved, in order to protect and conserve the ecology and environment of an ocean area. A list of almost 6,000 such protected environments can be found at the World Database on Protected Areas, and they currently cover 1.17% of the world’s oceans.

MPAs help in the fight against overfishing by protecting a species natural environment and regulating the amount of fish, if any, that can be caught in that area. Problems that come about from overfishing include depleting a species to the point that it can no longer reproduce, or fishing a species caught before maturity, leading to a smaller and weaker species. MPAs combat both these problems by allowing the ocean species to grow and develop in its natural environment. These mature and stable populations then produce an abundance of fish that will migrate to other areas of the ocean where they can be caught. The “Ocean Conservancy Project” compares it to capital and interest. As long as you build up the capital (fish population under protection) and leave it alone to become stable, then you can spend the interest (the fish that migrate out of the MPA). A healthy reserve will produce a healthy return.

Consumers can do their part to support Marine Protected Areas by respecting the rules and regulations laid out by their government and by calling on their government to create more MPAs throughout the world’s oceans. MPAs do work. Their success rate at re-growing a depleted population is outstanding. Studies have shown a “1,000 percent increase in biomass and population density of heavily fished species.” For more information on one such successful MPA, check out the Tortugas Ecological Reserve off the Florida Keys where they have been instrumental in helping to recover depleted lobsters and reef fish in the area.

Wikipedia: Marine Protected Area. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 17 May 2012. Web. 1 Jun 2012.
Ocean Convservancy: Start a Sea Change. Ocean Conservancy, 2012. Web. 1 Jun 2012.
World Database on Protected Areas. World Commission on Protected Areas, 2010. Web. 1 Jun 2012.
Tortugas Ecological Reserve. Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 1 Jun 2012.