Marine protected areas (MPAs) were set up with the dual purpose of conservation of marine life and improving fisheries productivity. But recent findings prove that marine conservation around the world is a blatant lie. The global oceans face a grave threat from illegal, unreported, and unregulated methods of fishing.
But destructive trawling appears to be even more concentrated in the marine protected areas even as the protected species of fish are found in greater numbers outside these sanctuaries.
The findings have exposed the claims about the efficacy of the marine protected areas as most of them are totally open to trawling. With satellite tracking devices mandatory on ships, it was easy for researchers to track the activities of fishing vessels in great detail.
These findings along with the data on the life in the over 700 marine protected areas were looked into. MPAs cover 29% of the European waters. Illegal fishing is damaging to such areas as these areas generally have an abundance of ocean life.
Marine Protected Areas Critical For Survival Of Species, And Its Abundance In Non-Protected Areas
Advocates of marine protected areas have for long harped on the spillover of marine life from protected areas to nearby areas where commercial fishing is permitted. This ensures the survival and thriving of the species inside the marine protected areas, and also an increase in the product in open areas immediately outside it.
Thus it could be a win-win situation both for fishermen and the species. But overfishing illegal fishing in restricted areas is disturbing this finely tuned system. This has led to 50% of the MPAs failing in their chosen purpose. The study initiated by Tel Aviv University suggests that the negative impact of illegal fishing and overfishing can be negated by a few effective steps that participating countries need to agree.
Commercial trawling activity has been found to be 40% higher in the protected areas when compared to the open seas. And areas outside the marine protected areas reported an abundance of critically endangered fish species such as rays and sharks.
Areas that are protected have been delivered. The variety and number of species have increased dramatically. The biodiversity has increased and the fisheries have benefitted in the bargain as an abundance of marine life has ensured that areas outside also teem with produce.
Multiple findings have supported this claim through the sampling of varieties inside and also outside the marine protected areas. But the intermediate areas have not been given the required attention.
Ensuring Protection Against The Edge Effect Vital For Thriving Of MPAs
A comparison of invertebrate and fish populations in 27 marine protected areas found that a consistent and pronounced edge effect extends around 0.62 miles (1 kilometer) within the protected areas revealed fish size to be 60% smaller when compared to core areas.
Overfishing is the main reason for this alarming difference. It reveals that the marine protected areas are not as protected as envisaged. This is more true for smaller marine protected areas.
These small MPAs with less than an area of 3.86 square miles (10 square kilometers) cover 64% of the protected areas where commercial fishing is banned. And 40% of them are less than 0.39 square miles (1 square kilometer). This effectively indicates that the ’edge effect’ affects the entire protected area.
Marine protected areas that had no-fish buffer zones surrounding them were less affected by the edge effect. Strict enforcement of the bans also served as a deterrent in some areas. This suggests that the no-take areas for commercial fishing need to be extended much beyond the current habitats. It could bolster the marine life population in these areas.
It is encouraging that placing buffer zones around the MPAs, improving enforcement, and monitoring commercial fishing close to the zones could replace marine life in these areas.