World crosses 5% MPA coverage target

The latest update to the Protected Planet Report — the regular assessment of global data on protected areas — finds that there are now nearly 15,000 MPAs worldwide, covering 18.5 million km2 of ocean. That is more than 5% of the global ocean — the first time the 5% threshold has been crossed for MPAs. If only national waters are counted (excluding the high seas), the figure rises to 13% coverage. Announced in December, the updated figures are here and a press release is here.

Canada to designate MPA off Atlantic coast

In December, Canada proposed the designation of a 4363-km2 MPA off the country’s Atlantic province of Nova Scotia. The St. Anns Bank Marine Protected Area will feature a range of systems from shallow banks to a deep channel, and provides important habitat for leatherback sea turtles, deep-sea corals, sponges, commercially valuable fish species, and marine mammals. The Canadian Government proposed regulations for the MPA on 16 December, and these regulations are undergoing a 45-day public consultation period. The regulations would allow some commercial and recreational fishing in certain zones of the MPA, as well as seal hunting. Oil and gas activities and bottom trawling would be off-limits.

Large MPA designated in US to protect deep-sea corals

In December, NOAA Fisheries and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (which manages US federal fisheries off the Mid-Atlantic coast of the US) designated a 98,000-km2 protected area for deep-sea corals. The Frank R. Lautenberg Deep-Sea Coral Protection Area encompasses sites in which coral presence is known or highly likely in underwater canyons or slope areas along the continental shelf edge. It also includes deeper areas where the presence of corals is uncertain, but where little or no fishing effort currently occurs. Most bottom-contacting fishing gear is off-limits in the new MPA; gear types that do not contact the seafloor are allowed. The announcement of the new protected area is here.

He‘eia National Estuarine Research Reserve is last MPA designated under US President Obama

On 19 January, just hours before the inauguration of new US President Donald Trump, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration designated a 5.6-km2 MPA in Kāne‘ohe Bay, on the Hawaiian island of O‘ahu. The new He‘eia National Estuarine Research Reserve contains upland forests and grasslands, wetlands, reefs, and seagrass beds, as well as the largest sheltered body of water in the Hawaiian Island chain.

Africa’s oldest MPA has been partially reopened to fishing

Designated in 1964 and managed wholly as a no-take area since 2000, South Africa’s Tsitsikamma National Park (TNP) has been partially reopened to fishing following a decision by South Africa’s Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa in December. The decision concludes more than a year of intense dispute over the site — with pressure from local anglers to reopen the 639-km2 MPA to fishing, and counter-pressure from conservationists and scientists to keep it closed to protect biodiversity. MPA News reported on the dispute last year.

Under the new regulations for the park, which is Africa’s oldest marine protected area, local communities will be able to fish 20% of the coastline in three areas of the MPA. The government press release is here. News coverage of the decision is here and here.

Philippines to give award to coastal community with best marine conservation/management

The Philippines Government is expected in February to award a winner in its national search for the coastal community that has most sustainably managed its local fisheries and marine environment. Community criteria for the new ‘Malinis at Masaganang Karagatan’ award include the absence of illegal fishing; a community-designated closed fishing season to allow fish to spawn; a designated marine sanctuary; a mangrove protection area; and no garbage in coastal waters. The winning community will win P20million (US $400,000).

Report on future of World Heritage Convention for marine conservation

A new report from UNESCO analyzes the progress achieved by the Marine World Heritage Programme since its formal launch in 2005, as well as the challenges and opportunities ahead of it — including managing for climate change, assessing marine gaps in World Heritage, and addressing World Heritage on the high seas. The Future of the World Heritage Convention for Marine Conservation: Celebrating 10 years of the World Heritage Marine Programme is available here.

IUCN guidelines for assessing species’ vulnerability to climate change

The IUCN Species Survival Commission has released guidelines for assessing the vulnerability of species to climate change. The publication provides advice on setting approaches and methods, interpreting results, working with uncertainty, and communicating the findings, among other aspects. The guidelines are here.

Study: Waters off Fukushima are serving as de facto MPA for flounder, other species

A study of Japanese flounder off the coast of Fukushima, Japan — an area that suffered a major tsunami and nuclear power plant accident in 2011 — finds that the local waters “have effectively been serving as a marine protected area” for the fish, which is growing in abundance in the area. Fishing has been restricted in the area since the disaster. The finding follows earlier studies showing that biomass of sea raven and stock size of Pacific cod have also increased in the area since 2011. The flounder study is here. Media coverage of the study is here.

MPA Science Corner: Recent open-access articles on MPA-related science and policy

Article:Temporal patterns in the soundscape of the shallow waters of a Mediterranean marine protected area”, Scientific Reports 6, 34230 (2016)

  • Finding: Studies of marine soundscapes are an emerging field of research. This study of the soundscape patterns of a Mediterranean MPA found that — with 13 vessel passages per hour on average, causing acoustic interference with fish choruses 46% of the time — the MPA cannot be considered to be protected from noise.

Article:Potential Benefits and Shortcomings of Marine Protected Areas for Small Seabirds Revealed Using Miniature Tags”, Frontiers in Marine Science 3 (2016).

  • Finding: This tagging study of a seabird species (the brown noddy) in the southeastern US found that existing MPAs in the region are inadequate for protecting a large portion of the species’ key foraging habitat.

Article:Conservation social science: Understanding and integrating human dimensions to improve conservation”, Biological Conservation, Volume 205 (2017).

  • Finding: This study examines the scope and purpose of 18 subfields of conservation social sciences, and describes 10 contributions that the social sciences can make to understanding and improving conservation.

From the MPA News Vault:

Features and news items from yesteryear

Five years ago: January-February 2012

  • Paper Parks Re-Examined: Building a Future for “MPAs-in-Waiting”
  • On the Current State of MPA Science: An Interview with Joachim Claudet

Ten years ago: December 2006 – January 2007

  • In an Era of Climate Change, How Can Managers Ensure that Today’s MPAs Remain Relevant Over Time?
  • The Sea Search Partnership: A Community-Based Monitoring Program for MPAs in Victoria, Australia

Fifteen years ago: December 2001 – January 2002

  • Putting No-Take Marine Reserves in Perspective
  • Special Section: Insights on MPAs and Indigenous Peoples — Part Two

For these and all other issues of MPA News, go to