Thank You Ocean Reports:
The first major study of California’s marine protected areas shows they are on track to help to improve ocean health. Scientists, fishermen, resource managers and environmentalists gathered recently to share results from the first five years of monitoring in the Central Coast region. We spoke with Liz Whiteman, Director of the MPA Monitoring Enterprise program at California Ocean Science Trust, who says monitoring is showing promising results for marine life and the ocean economy.
Marine Protected Areas
What are Marine Protected Areas?
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are special places designated to help protect and restore marine life and habitats in the ocean, much like state and national parks protect wildlife and habitats on land. MPAs are among the most useful tools for helping protect the ocean, complementing other conservation efforts by providing a place for marine life to recover and thrive. Some of California’s MPAs are fully protected “no-take” areas while others may allow limited fishing. MPAs typically provide excellent opportunities for a wide range of recreational activities like bird watching, boating, SCUBA diving, and kayaking.
Why are Marine Protected Areas Important?
The waters off the coast of California are some of the biologically richest in the world, but the ocean is showing significant signs of overuse and declining health due to habitat destruction, climate change, and depleted fisheries. By protecting ocean ecosystems rather than focusing on individual species, MPAs are powerful tools for conserving and restoring ocean biodiversity. These special ocean areas also provide benefits to cultural and geological resources and can help sustain local economies. In addition, MPAs contribute to healthier, more resilient ocean ecosystems that can better withstand a wide range of impacts.
Scientists have studied more than 124 no-take marine reserves worldwide and have monitored biological changes inside the reserves. A global review of these studies has revealed that fishes, invertebrates and seaweeds in marine reserves usually had increases in:
- Biomass, or the mass of animals and seaweeds, which increased an average of 446%
- Density, or the number of animals and seaweeds in a given area, which increased by 166%
- Body size of animals, which increased on average 28%; and
- Species diversity, or the number of species, which increased an average of 21% (PISCO, 2007)