Canada Designates Hydrothermal Vents as First Official MPA
Canada has designated the Endeavour Hydrothermal Vents as its first official Marine Protected Area under the country’s Oceans Act. The site, which features four known vent fields covering roughly 93 km2, was first selected as a pilot MPA in 1998 due to scientific interest in the area’s ultra-high temperatures, geologic structures, and associated life forms (MPA News 2:11). The MPA designation ensures the ecosystem remains relatively undisturbed for scientific study.
Located at a depth of 2250 meters, 250 km southwest of Vancouver Island on Canada’s Pacific coast, the vent fields consist of large, chimney-like structures that spew water heated to more than 300 degrees Celsius, filled with microbes able to withstand the boiling temperatures. The surrounding, cooler waters are home to large tubeworms, crabs, and spiders, among other organisms. The principal human impact on this deep-sea ecosystem comes from extraction of samples for research, including chunks of the chimney structures. All research activity in the MPA will require permission from the Canadian government.
For more information on the designation and the Endeavour Hydrothermal Vents, including photos, visit http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/infocus_e.htm.
New Zealand continues push on marine reserves
In March, the New Zealand government approved plans for a new 7-km2 marine reserve near the city of Auckland, in Te Matuku Bay off Waiheke Island. The new reserve, to be gazetted later this year, will adjoin protected land on the foreshore, effectively preserving a sequence of habitats from forest on land to wetlands, mangroves, intertidal mudflats, and deep water environments. Also in March, the government proposed the designation of a 528-km2 marine reserve along the coast of Great Barrier Island, also near Auckland. The latter reserve, if approved, would become the largest marine reserve close to the New Zealand mainland. The national Department of Conservation is seeking comment on the proposal. Fishing is prohibited in the nation’s marine reserves.
In January 2003, New Zealand Conservation Minister Chris Carter announced government approval of a 4840-km2 marine reserve around the offshore Auckland Islands, to be the first new marine reserve in the country in four years (MPA News 4:8). Carter has said he hopes to have decisions on “a further four marine reserves” by the end of this year. For more information on the Waiheke Island announcement and Great Barrier Island proposal, visit the Department of Conservation website (http://www.doc.govt.nz) and click “latest news”.
New report on fishery effects of no-take areas
A new report from WWF provides an update on the state of scientific knowledge on the fishery effects of no-take marine reserves and fishery closures. Authored by biologists Fiona Gell and Callum Roberts of the University of York (UK), the 89-page report examines the rate of spawning stock build-up from reserves, the appropriate size of no-take areas, why reserves sometimes do not work, and other questions. It also features 16 detailed case studies from no-take areas around the world. The Fishery Effects of Marine Reserves and Fishery Closures is available free of charge in PDF format at http://www.worldwildlife.org/oceans/fishery_effects.pdf.
Roberts says the report reflects the marked improvements in the quality of data pertaining to reserve effects in recent years. “We felt it was time to shine the spotlight on the fishery values of marine reserves,” he said. The report supplements a book he co-authored with Julie Hawkins in 2000, titled Fully Protected Marine Reserves: A Guide, also published by WWF (MPA News 2:6).