Leasing submerged lands: new conservation tool?

Leasing or acquiring submerged lands may provide a valuable new tool for coastal and marine conservation, particularly when paired with shellfish restoration, according to a new report from The Nature Conservancy (TNC), a US-based nongovernmental organization. The 32-page report Leasing and Restoration of Submerged Lands: Strategies for Community-Based, Watershed-Scale Conservation suggests such strategies could provide several benefits, including long-term habitat protection, restoration of ecological processes in coastal watersheds, and economic benefits for local communities and fishermen. The report is downloadable for free from the TNC website at http://nature.org/files/lease_sub_lands.pdf.

“It is commonly assumed that strategies for marine conservation must be substantially different than those for terrestrial conservation, in part because it is not possible to ‘buy’ the seas,” said Michael Beck, team leader for the report. “This is a misconception.” In a US nationwide analysis, his team identified that submerged lands are available for lease and/or acquisition in every coastal state. Of those available lands, shellfish habitats are especially amenable to restoration and management of native species in natural habitats, according to the report.

In October, TNC acquired 46.5 km2 of submerged lands in Great South Bay, New York, from an oyster-processing company and is developing new approaches to managing the property in a sustainable way. Beck said TNC is now looking outside the US for examples of submerged-lands leasing. For more information: Michael Beck, The Nature Conservancy, Univ. of California, 100 Shaffer Rd., Santa Cruz, CA 95060, USA. Tel: +1 831 459 1459; E-mail: mbeck@tnc.org.

No-take zones designated for Channel Islands

Following four years of study and debate, a network of no-take and limited-fishing areas has been designated in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, off the Pacific coast of the US. The new zones – consisting of 10 fully closed areas; one recreational-fishing-only zone; and one zone with limited commercial and recreational fishing – will comprise roughly 10%, or 453 km2, of the sanctuary’s waters. The network includes sites only in state waters within the sanctuary; a separate process to designate additional closures in the sanctuary’s federal waters, beyond three nautical miles from land, is now set to follow.

The federal process could take up to two years to complete, according to sanctuary officials who will consider a range of alternatives including a plan that would set aside a total of 25%, or 1100 km2, of the sanctuary as protected from fishing. In 2000, a panel of scientists recommended that 30% or more of the sanctuary be set aside as no-take areas to protect dwindling fish stocks (MPA News 2:10). For more information on the network of reserves, refer to http://www.cinms.nos.noaa.gov/marineres/main.html.


There has been a change in website location for the WWF-published report Policy Proposals and Operational Guidance for Ecosystem-Based Management of Marine Capture Fisheries, described by MPA News in its September 2002 issue. The new web address, from which the report may still be downloaded for free, is http://www.panda.org/news_facts/publications/marine/index.cfm.