Zoning plan and license-buyback program announced for Moreton Bay (Australia)

The government of the Australian state of Queensland announced its rezoning plan for Moreton Bay Marine Park in October, featuring an expansion of no-take zones in the state-run MPA. Taking effect on 1 March 2009, the plan increases the no-take percentage of the 3400-km2 park from less than 1% to 16% of its total area. “With this plan we protect more of Moreton Bay, we protect marine habitat and therefore marine species, and we protect the legitimate rights of recreational and commercial fishers,” said Queensland Premier Anna Bligh.

The plan includes an AU $15.1-million (US $10-million) program to buy back licenses from local commercial fishers who voluntarily leave the industry, easing the stress on Moreton Bay’s fish population. Moreton Bay is home to 750 species of fish, 120 species of coral, several cetacean species, and reportedly the world’s largest population of dugong next to a capital city (Brisbane). For more information, go towww.epa.qld.gov.au/parks_and_forests/marine_parks/moreton_bay_marine_park_zoning_plan_review.

Argentina bans fishing on Burdwood Bank

In September 2008, the government of Argentina banned commercial fishing on Banco Burdwood (Burdwood Bank), an 1800-km2 undersea plateau that lies 220 km off the southern Argentine coast. The area is rich in hard and soft coral species and is an important spawning ground for commercially valuable fish species, including southern blue whiting and Fuegian sardine. It is also a feeding ground for sea lions, penguins, albatross and other top predators. Burdwood Bank has been identified by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) as a critical wildlife area under its Sea and Sky initiative, which seeks to promote precautionary management of the Patagonian Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem. A WCS press release on the Burdwood Bank designation is at www.wcs.org/353624/46954812.

Report: Gender and equity in West African protected areas

A new report from IUCN and the Fondation Internationale du Banc d’Arguin (FIBA) examines the role of gender equity in protected area management in West Africa. Featuring several case studies of marine and coastal protected areas, the report discusses the relationship between conservation and social equality between the sexes. It also offers several recommendations for applying an equity-based approach to protected area management in West Africa and elsewhere. Gender and Equity in the Protected Areas of West Africa is available online at www.lafiba.org/var/plain/storage/original/application/0d396aabbb9ce4b97f43a306803c0add.pdf.

UK report: Gauging public opinion on MPAs and undersea landscapes

A new report commissioned by Natural England, the UK government’s statutory body for nature conservation in England, analyzes public attitudes toward the undersea landscape. It is intended to aid NGOs and other institutions engaged in building public support for MPAs in the UK. The reportQualitative and Quantitative Research into Public Engagement with the Undersea Landscape in England is available online at http://naturalengland.communisis.com/naturalenglandshop/docs/NERR019.pdf.

The study differs from other polls on marine issues, state the authors. “The existing polls and studies used by marine conservationists to support proposals for MPAs…do not generally relate to ‘place’ or landscape even though MPAs are place-based measures,” they write. “Such surveys often show strong concerns about ‘marine issues’ or the ‘marine environment’ but in the form of pollution, litter, and overfishing, not the marine landscape. As such they are of limited use in predicting robust support for, or constructing communications about, MPAs.”

Malagasy conservationist receives award for work with no-take areas

Roger Samba, a community leader and conservationist in Madagascar, has received a US $200,000 prize from conservation organization WWF in recognition of his work to establish community-managed fishing closures in his country. Samba organized what is believed to be the world’s first no-take zone to protect octopus, a species of economic importance to his local community. Samba’s work became the model for more than 30 seasonal and year-round closures in the region, and also inspired the development of alternative livelihood and environmental education initiatives. The prize money will go to fund scholarships for undergraduate and postgraduate study in conservation and environmental science in Madagascar. For more information, go to www.livewiththesea.org/in-the-news/getty-award.htm

South Africa designates estuarine MPA

In October, the South African government designated the nation’s 20th MPA, the Stilbaai Marine Protected Area. The site includes the entire 15-km-long Goukou estuary and marks the first time an estuary has been purposefully included in an MPA in the Western Cape of South Africa. Most of the MPA, including 75% of the estuary and 20 km2 of adjacent ocean, is closed to fishing and is intended to provide shelter for overexploited fish species like kob, which use both environments. Fishing will be allowed in the remainder of the MPA.

For more information: Jean du Plessis, CapeNature, Stilbaai MPA, South Africa. E-mail: jdp@telkomsa.net