Names of newly discovered species to be auctioned for MPA-related conservation

Looking for new ways to raise funds for your MPA? If so, take note of “The Blue Auction”, occurring 20 September in Monaco. The event will sell the rights to name several species of fish discovered during surveys of the Bird’s Head Seascape region of Indonesia. The surveys, conducted in 2006, were part of an ongoing initiative to establish ecosystem-based management in the region, including designation of MPA networks (MPA News 8:4).

Proceeds from the auction will go to fund the initiative, which is a partnership of Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, WWF-Indonesia, local and national governments, and local NGOs.

For sale are the naming rights to each of 12 items: 10 endemic species of fish as well as a patrol vessel and a future research expedition in the region. The high bidder for each fish species will gain the right to provide the species name in Latinized form. Suggested starting bids for the fish range from US $45,000 for a species of rainbowfish, to $500,000 for a unique shark species that crawls on its pectoral fins. Suggested starting bids to name the patrol vessel and the future research expedition are each $200,000.

The Bird’s Head Seascape region encompasses an area of 180,000 km2 and more than 2500 islands and submerged reefs. In May 2007, the Indonesian government designated a network of seven MPAs, totaling 9,000 km2, in one archipelago of the region (MPA News 8:11).The Blue Auction will be held at the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco. More information is available at

Guide available for MPA practitioners on ecological gap analyses

A new report offers advice on analyzing gaps in conservation coverage for use in planning MPA networks. Featuring brief case studies from four nations (Ecuador, Grenada, Jamaica, and Palau) and best practices learned to date, the guide serves as an introduction and overview to ecological gap analyses. “An ecological gap assessment is the basis for developing a clear vision of the scope and future direction of [a] protected area system,” states the report. “[The] assessment can be a compelling, science-based framework that ensures that a protected area network is truly viable and representative.”

The 21-page report, A Quick Guide to Conducting Marine Ecological Gap Assessments, is published by The Nature Conservancy and is available in PDF format at

Funding available for coral reef conservation

Pre-applications are due 6 November 2007 for the NOAA International Coral Reef Conservation Grant Program, operated by the International Program Office of the (U.S.) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The program provides grants to international, governmental (except U.S. government agencies), and non-governmental entities working to conserve coral reefs. Grants for fiscal year 2008 are available in four categories:

  • Promoting watershed management;
  • Enhancing regional MPA management effectiveness;
  • Encouraging development of national MPA networks; and
  • Promoting regional socioeconomic training and monitoring in coral reef management.

Country eligibility varies by grant category, and proposed work must be conducted at non-U.S. sites. For details on categories and eligibility, go to

Publication describes emerging technologies for reef fisheries research, management

A report by the (U.S.) National Marine Fisheries Service offers articles on newer technologies for use in research and management of reef fisheries. Several of the articles feature research in MPAs, including the use of multibeam bathymetry and submersibles to survey, respectively, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the U.S. Another article describes the use of passive acoustic telemetry to design marine reserves. The 116-page report Emerging Technologies for Reef Fisheries Research and Management is available in PDF format at

Research spotlight: Paper finds loss of coral cover in Indo-Pacific

A paper in the August 2007 edition of the online journal PloS ONE reports that live coral cover in the Indo-Pacific region has declined significantly over the past two decades – from a region-wide average of roughly 42% in 1984, to 22% in 2003. Live coral cover is the percentage of a reef that consists of live coral, and is a key measure of reef habitat quality and quantity. Authors John Bruno and Elizabeth Selig of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (U.S.) analyzed more than 6000 quantitative surveys of Indo-Pacific reefs performed since 1968. The Indo-Pacific encompasses three-quarters of the world’s shallow-water coral reefs.

“Climate change is certainly a primary cause of the decline,” says Bruno. “But there are several other equally important factors including outbreaks of disease and Acanthaster (crown-of-thorns starfish), sedimentation from poor land usage, and destructive fishing practices.”

He and Selig acknowledge the rate of loss could be exaggerated by the possibility that early reef surveys focused on high-cover reefs and subregions (i.e., the most spectacular coral sites), whereas recent surveys may be more comprehensive in sampling. Still, Bruno says, the decline is too significant to be explained by sampling bias alone. The decline was even found on some of the Pacific’s most intensively managed and researched reefs, including in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

“Quality of management is paramount in mitigating local threats, like sedimentation and destructive fishing,” says Bruno. “However, I am not surprised that managers have been far less successful in battling regional-scale stressors. Like many of my colleagues, I think that we have to directly confront the regional causes of coral loss by augmenting strong local management with global policies to reduce anthropogenic ocean warming and acidification.”

The paper “Regional Decline of Coral Cover in the Indo-Pacific: Timing, Extent, and Subregional Comparisons” is available in PDF format at

For more information: John Bruno, Department of Marine Sciences, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, U.S. Tel: +1 919 962 0263; E-mail:

Book describes history of ocean resource exploitation and early calls for marine reserves

In his new book The Unnatural History of the Sea, biologist Callum Roberts explores the dawn and growth of commercial fishing from the 11th century to today, and how the abundance of marine life described by early seafarers exists no more. He also traces the history of calls for marine resource conservation – including the use of no-take marine reserves, which Roberts recommends as a critical tool for restoring marine life populations. The book is available in hardcover on for US $18.48 plus shipping.

MPA News: In your book, you draw on firsthand accounts of early explorers, fishermen, and others to recreate what the oceans of the past looked like, with waters teeming with marine life. You write that today’s oceans are “empty” compared to the oceans of the past.

Callum Roberts: In places like Britain, it is hard to imagine looking out to sea from the beach and seeing dozens of porpoises playing amid the waves, or watching the blow of whales and the splash of giant tuna tearing into shoals of fish. Most shallow-water trawler captains have never fished on virgin grounds and seen the net come to the surface bursting with corals, sponges, and seafans. Scientists are now reconstructing marine ecosystems of the past from sources that were until recently shunned as unscientific, and therefore unreliable. There is a shift in worldview among some parts of the science community, and it will take time to filter through to the public and decision makers. I wrote this book to bring the oceans of the past alive again for modern generations. I hope it will spark in them a desire to recover some of what has been lost.

MPA News: In your research, you encountered a book written in 1912 by a French fishery scientist named Marcel Hérubel. In it he argued the merits of designating no-take marine reserves as a way to sustain commercially fished stocks. You say that book predates by several decades the first paper written on marine reserves by a modern author.

Roberts: I found Hérubel’s book in the library of the Port Erin Marine Station on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea. The book in Port Erin library didn’t look like it had been opened for about eighty years. Standing among the bookstacks I read through it with growing excitement to discover such an early, detailed picture of the principles behind the use of marine reserves in fishery management.

Hérubel obviously had come across considerable skepticism of his views, because he wrote: “The exigencies of theory often accord ill with corporate interests, and the multiplication of coastal reserves would quickly arouse the anger of fishers.” Even given the evidence of the impacts of fishing that was available at the time, I think it was possible then to ignore the idea of conservation of resources. There were still plenty of fish in the sea, and fishers responded to local depletion by fishing farther afield or fishing for something else. It is increasingly hard today to adopt these approaches. In my view, reserves have become a necessity for sustainable fisheries, and can no longer be ignored.

For more information: Callum Roberts, Environment Department, University of York, Heslington, York, YO10 5DD, United Kingdom. Tel: +44 1904 434066; E-mail: