UK launches consultation on MPA around Chagos Archipelago

The UK government has launched a consultation on designating an MPA around the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean. The archipelago, also called the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), has an Exclusive Economic Zone of 636,000 km2. The consultation seeks views on whether the BIOT should become an MPA and what regulations would be appropriate, such as whether it should be completely no-take. The archipelago lies about 500 km due south of the Maldives, its nearest neighbor.

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband said, “This is a remarkable opportunity for Britain to create one of the world’s largest marine protected areas, and to double the global coverage of the world’s oceans that benefit from full protection.” Information on the consultation is at

CCAMLR designates first high seas MPA in Antarctic waters

The international body that governs living resource management in Antarctic waters has designated a 94,000-km2 marine protected area in waters south of the South Orkney Islands. The Commission for Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living resources (CCAMLR) approved a UK proposal for the MPA’s designation in early November. No fishing and no discharge or refuse disposal from fishing vessels will be allowed in the area.

The goal of the MPA is to allow scientists to better monitor the effects of human activities and climate change on the Southern Ocean. Phil Trathan and Susie Grant of the British Antarctic Survey, who led the scientific work in planning the South Orkneys MPA, called it “the first link in a network that will better conserve marine biodiversity in the Antarctic.” It is the first high seas MPA in Antarctic waters, and will enter into force in May 2010.

Mozambique forms transboundary MPA with South African site

The East African nation of Mozambique has designated a 678-km2 MPA – the Ponta do Ouro Marine Reserve – along the southernmost part of its coast, adjacent to the nation’s boundary with South Africa. There, the newly designated site forms a transboundary protected area with South Africa’s existing iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site that abuts the border from the other side. Mozambique has nominated Ponta do Ouro for consideration to be added to the World Heritage list as well. Together, the two sites form the largest MPA in Africa, according to iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis.

A transfrontier task team, consisting of relevant agencies from both countries, is coordinating oversight of their shared resources. Jointly, the protected areas comprise important habitat for turtles, dugong, marine mammals, and migratory birds. Activities such as commercial fishing, fishing on coral reefs, and fishing with explosives are banned in both protected areas.

For more information: Andrew Zaloumis, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa. E-mail:

Bartolomeu Soto, Director, Transfrontier Conservation Areas Unit, Ministry of Tourism, Mozambique. Email:

Sweden and Norway designate adjacent MPAs

In September, Sweden and Norway designated side-by-side marine national parks to protect a deep marine trench that crosses the countries’ shared ocean boundary. The marine national parks of Kosterhavet (Sweden) and Ytre Hvaler (Norway) cover a total area of 800 km2 in the Skagerrak Strait. Two hundred meters deep, the trench contains over 6000 marine species, including corals and marine mammals.

The ecosystem supports an important inshore fishery for prawns and lobster, while the nearby coast is a major tourism destination for both countries. The new MPAs aim to ensure sustainable use of the environment and are the first marine national parks for either nation. An OSPAR press release on the new parks is at

Resort company helps designate MPA in Jamaica; has plans for more through Caribbean

Sandals Resorts International, which operates 22 coastal resorts throughout the Caribbean under the Sandals and Beaches brand names, has partnered with the Jamaican government to designate a no-take marine reserve in waters adjacent to the Beaches Boscobel resort. The MPA, called the Boscobel Fish Sanctuary, is roughly 1 km2 in area. It will be patrolled by the resort’s water sports crew, which will include a warden. The goals of the MPA are to curb damage to coral reefs from fishing and restore marine life populations.

Fishing is the only activity banned in the sanctuary; the site will remain open to snorkeling and other resort activities. Previously there was trap fishing and spearfishing in the area by local fishers, says Heidi Clarke of Sandals Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts. “The idea will be to work with the fishermen and the community to educate them as to the importance of this area,” says Clarke. Sandals Foundation aims to help designate similar no-take areas at each of its resorts. More information on the new sanctuary is at

Coral and sponge closures off Newfoundland

In September, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) closed 11 areas of coldwater sponge and coral habitat to bottom fishing. The closures, which cover a total area of more than 8500 km2, are in international waters more than 200 nm off the Atlantic coast of Canada. “This action reconfirms NAFO’s commitment to protect vulnerable marine habitats and species,” said the organization in a press release. NAFO has now closed a total of 12 significant coral and sponge locations and five seamount areas to bottom fishing. The organization is an intergovernmental fisheries science and management body, and has 12 contracting parties from North America, Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean. The NAFO press release on the closures is

Palau declares EEZ a shark sanctuary

Palau has designated its 620,000-km2 Exclusive Economic Zone as a shark sanctuary, banning the commercial fishing of sharks in Palauan waters. It is the first nation to outlaw shark fishing entirely. President Johnson Toribiong, who announced the designation of the sanctuary in a speech to the UN General Assembly, invited other world leaders to follow suit, saying many shark species are at the brink of extinction due to shark finning. Globally, 32% of pelagic shark and ray species are threatened with extinction, according to the IUCN Shark Specialist Group. President Toribiong also called for a global ban on shark finning. For a copy of President Toribiong’s announcement, visit Shark Talk (a blog dedicated to championing the idea of a Palauan shark sanctuary) at

Consultation to identify an Area of Interest off Nova Scotia

In October, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) initiated a public consultation to identify an Area of Interest for a future MPA in waters off the province of Nova Scotia. DFO proposed three marine sites off eastern Nova Scotia as candidates for public comment. Based in part on the feedback, DFO will recommend one site to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans for announcement as an Area of Interest.

Selecting an Area of Interest is the first step in establishing a statutory Marine Protected Area under Canada’s Oceans Act. Once selected, the Area of Interest will undergo detailed evaluation, research, and public consultation before a Marine Protected Area is designated. Canada has committed to establishing a network of protected areas in its marine waters, including a goal of designating six new Marine Protected Areas across the country by 2012. More information on the consultation is at

“Human chain” along MPA boundary aims to raise awareness

On 16 September, a chain of more than 1000 students, teachers, and community members linked hands along the 1236-meter shoreward boundary of the Whangarei Harbour Marine Reserve in New Zealand to celebrate the MPA’s third anniversary since designation. The event also aimed to raise awareness of the site, and particularly its boundaries. Since 2006, there have been 37 prosecutions for illegal activity in the no-take reserve, which comprises less than 3% of Whangarei Harbour. Organizers of the human chain hoped the event would help educate the community on what areas were off-limits to fishing. Several boats assembled to mark the seaward boundary of the MPA. The event was organized by the Experiencing Marine Reserves program of the Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust, supported by the NZ Department of Conservation.The MPA was first proposed by students of nearby Kamo High School in 1990, and formally designated by the NZ government in October 2006. It covers 2.4 km2 and includes rocky reef and intertidal habitats. More information on the human chain event is at

Compensation program approved for fishermen affected by Papahanaumokuakea MPA

The US National Marine Fisheries Service has instituted a final rule on how it will compensate eligible and interested fishing-permit holders who have been displaced by fishery closures associated with the 362,000-km2 Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. The compensation program is open to holders of lobster permits and bottomfish permits. The final rule is the same as a draft version released for comment in April 2009 (MPA News 10:10).

Commercial fishing is minimal in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, where the MPA is located. There are just eight remaining permit holders for bottomfish, and the lobster fishery has been closed by federal fishery managers since 2000 – six years before the MPA was designated – due to low lobster populations and potential impacts of the fishery on endangered monk seals.

Fishing for lobster in the MPA will remain off-limits, while fishing for commercial bottomfish and associated pelagic species will be prohibited after 15 June 2011. Permit holders who voluntarily accept compensation under the rule must immediately surrender their permits and leave the fisheries. By buying up permits from existing permit-holders, the compensation plan intends to speed up the phaseout of fishing. The compensation rule is at

US advisory committee delivers guidance on evaluating national MPA system

The US Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee (MPA FAC) has developed and recommended a planning tool for evaluating the effectiveness of the national system of MPAs. The tool evaluates context, planning, inputs, processes, outputs, and outcomes of the national MPA system, and is based on a framework produced by IUCN in 2000 (i.e., Evaluating Effectiveness: A Framework for Assessing the Management of Protected Areas). Information on the recommended tool is available at

Queensland releases coral stress response plan for fisheries

The government of the Australian state of Queensland has released a plan that allows for application of temporary fishing bans in cases when coral reefs are severely stressed. Designed to aid coral recovery after stressful events, the Coral Stress Response Plan applies to two fisheries in particular – live coral and marine aquarium fish. Both fisheries operate on the Great Barrier Reef off the Queensland coast.

Queensland Fisheries Minister Tim Mulherin said freshwater runoff and elevated sea surface temperatures were usually the cause of coral stress for Queensland reefs. “At these times, the Coral Stress Response Plan aims to promote recovery by reducing any further stress that may result from harvesting coral and aquarium fish,” said Mulherin.

The plan allows for a range of management actions. In cases of low stress, for example, there might be no changes to coral and aquarium fish collection practices. However, for extreme coral stress events, no commercial harvesting of any corals or aquarium fish in the impacted region will be permitted. Development of the plan was a collaborative effort among industry, fishery managers, and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. The Coral Stress Response Plan is available at

WCPA and Sylvia Earle write letters to world leaders on marine protection

In October, underwater explorer Sylvia Earle and the Marine Programme of the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA – Marine) partnered to send personalized letters to leaders of more than 100 coastal nations, inviting them to join together in protecting and restoring the world’s oceans with MPAs. The letters cited commitments already made by nations – through the Convention on Biological Diversity and the 2003 Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development – to designate networks of MPAs. The letters also cited Earle’s receipt of the 2009 TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Award, which grants awardees a “wish to change the world”. Her wish was for industry to help build public support for a global network of MPAs, or “hope spots” as Earle calls them. A press release on the letters is at

New tool available for analyzing protected areas in Pacific Canada

A new online tool is available to help analyze the characteristics of current marine protected areas off the coast of Pacific Canada. Called the MPnA Decision Support Tool, it allows users to produce detailed reports and statistics on the social, cultural, and ecological values of more than 180 protected sites. It was produced through a partnership between Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the provincial government of British Columbia. Roughly 2.8% of Pacific Canada’s marine waters are under protected area status, as well as 28% of the British Columbian coastline. The tool is available at