Fishery managers vote to close 950,000 km2 of North Pacific to bottom trawling

Managers of US fisheries in the North Pacific voted in February to prohibit bottom trawling in nearly one million square kilometers of water in an effort to minimize the effects of fishing on sensitive coral and sponge habitat.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which recommends management actions to the federal fisheries agency (NOAA Fisheries), voted to close 950,000 km2 of its Aleutian Islands management area within the US Exclusive Economic Zone to bottom trawling. This would leave 4% of that management area, or 43,000 km2, open to such gear. Additionally, six areas with especially high-density coral and sponge habitat would be closed to all bottom-contact fishing gear, including longlines and pots. The recommended measures await NOAA Fisheries approval, and would be permanent if approved.

The region’s trawling industry has voiced its support for the closures, which would not significantly impact the sector in the near term. Most current and historic trawling activity has occurred in the 4% of areas slated to remain open. David Witherell, deputy director of the council, says the proposed closures have jagged topography on which trawls are easily snagged. “There isn’t much incentive to fish there, given the abundance of fish elsewhere,” he says. Still, in the future, should trawl vessels have difficulty finding fish schools on traditional grounds, the closures would prevent vessels from spreading out to new grounds. If approved, the closures would be required to be implemented by 13 August 2006.

The council also recommended that vessel monitoring systems (VMS) be required on all fishing vessels in the Aleutian Islands management area, to aid enforcement of the closures. Pending NOAA Fisheries approval, this would take effect concurrently with the closures.

The 950,000-km2 closure would be nearly three times the size of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, widely considered the world’s largest MPA at roughly 350,000 km2.

For more information:

David Witherell, Suite 306, W 4th Avenue, Anchorage, AK 99501-2252, USA. Tel: +1 907 271 2809; E-mail:

Report: Using protected areas to reduce poverty

A new report examines how protected areas can be used to help reduce poverty in surrounding communities while still meeting the primary goal of biodiversity protection. A collaborative effort among IUCN, WWF, CARE, and the World Bank, the publication points out practical measures for resource managers and other stakeholders to apply, while cautioning against the potential pitfalls of integrated conservation and development projects.

“Protected areas are seldom designed specifically to alleviate poverty, but this does not mean that they are therefore isolated from sustainable development and the alleviation of poverty,” writes IUCN Chief Scientist Jeffrey McNeely in the report’s foreword. “This paper suggests many possible approaches that can be taken to deliver a greater share of the benefits of conservation to the rural poor, and thereby strengthen public support for protected areas.”

The 60-page report features several very brief case examples from around the world, including MPAs. Can Protected Areas Contribute to Poverty Reduction?: Opportunities and Limitations is available for GBP 10.50 (US $20) from the IUCN bookstore. For directions on how to order, go to

Ship owner fined US $500K for coral damage in MPA

A ship owner has agreed to pay more than US $500,000 in fines related to a 2002 incident in which its freighter – the MSC Diego – dropped anchor in a no-anchor zone of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (US). The anchor and its chain caused damage to 1175 m2 of coral, an area slightly smaller than an Olympic-size swimming pool. While admitting no fault, Mediterranean Shipping Company and its insurer will pay to reimburse the federal government for the costs of damage assessment and response ($100,000) and future monitoring and compensatory restoration ($465,796).

Attorney Sharon Shutler of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) suggests the assessment would have been greater had the responsible party not responded as it did. Through a contractor and under FKNMS supervision, the shipping company and its insurer reattached more than 1000 overturned corals, paying for the effort out of pocket. “This was an expensive proposition entailing rental of large boats and expert divers,” says Shutler.

Anne McCarthy, a sanctuary biologist who helped assess the cost of the damage, says the reattached corals could recover to their previous functional state in approximately five years, provided environmental conditions are good. NOAA will use the compensatory funds to restore crushed parts of the site or to undertake grounding prevention efforts, such as encouraging the use of various navigational aids.

For more information:

Sharon Shutler, 1315 East West Highway, Building 3, Silver Spring, MD 20910, USA. Tel: +1 301 713 1220; E-mail:

Anne McCarthy, 216 Ann St., Key West, FL 33040, USA. Tel:+1 305 360 1654; E-mail:

MPA newsletter available for Western Indian Ocean

MPA practitioners in the Western Indian Ocean – consisting of Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Reunion, Seychelles, South Africa, and Tanzania – have a new resource to help share their ideas and knowledge. The WIO-MPA Newsletter, to be produced quarterly, will provide readers with news on MPAs in the region and notices of events. It was launched this past January, with the second issue set for release in April.

Keith Spencer, manager of De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa, is coordinating the project. “We hope the newsletter will contribute to raising awareness and informing key stakeholders on how MPAs in the region are doing,” he says. Spencer is relying on contributed articles and notices from fellow managers to comprise the publication.

To receive the WIO-MPA Newsletter, you must join a listserv called E-wiompaf (Western Indian Ocean Marine Protected Area Forum). The newsletter is distributed via the listserv. For instructions, go to

For more information:

Keith Spencer, De Hoop Nature Reserve, Private Bag X18, Bredasdorp, 7280, South Africa. Tel: +27 28 542 1254; E-mail: