Transcript available from debate on environmental impact of marine reserves

More than 800 audience members attended our 8 October 2013 online debate on the total environmental impact of no-take marine reserves, featuring Callum Roberts and Ray Hilborn. Roberts argued that the impact of reserves is positive, while Hilborn argued it could be negative.

The debate transcript is at The transcript also includes the parallel discussions that occurred within the audience during the debate.

England gets 27 new MPAs

In November, the UK’s Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced the designation of 27 new marine conservation zones (MCZs) in English seas, covering a total area of 9700 km2. The new sites include coral reefs, oyster beds, and an array of other features. However, they represent four fewer sites than UK ministers proposed, and less than a quarter of the 127 zones recommended by the government’s own consultation, which included its leading science advisers. Furthermore they include no no-take zones – they are all multi-use.

“We very much see the new MCZs as the beginning and not an end,” said Environment Minister George Eustice. He added that consultation on two more phases of MCZs would start in 2015.

Similar programs are operating in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland to contribute to a UK-wide network of MPAs. The Defra announcement for England, including a map of the 27 sites, is at

CCAMLR again fails to reach consensus on large new MPAs in Antarctic

International efforts to reach consensus on designating large new MPAs in Antarctic waters failed for the third time in a row at the October 2013 meeting of the Commission on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). At the meeting, a proposal from New Zealand and the US to designate a 1.34 million-km2 no-take MPA in the Ross Sea (MPA News 15:2) and a separate proposal from Australia, France, and the EU for a network of MPAs in East Antarctica were each stymied by continued opposition from major fishing nations – namely Russia and Ukraine.

Supporters are expected to try again at the next CCAMLR meeting, in October 2014. CCAMLR, which consists of 25 member nations, sets conservation policy in the Southern Ocean. To pass new regulations, all delegates representing the member nations must reach consensus.

Draft report calls for “net benefit policy” on coastal activities next to Great Barrier Reef

A draft strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef, released in November by the Australian and Queensland governments, analyzes the issues facing the reef and states that “urgent and immediate” action is required to reduce sediment, nitrogen, and nutrient flows into the reef ecosystem. “Water quality in the region has declined markedly, especially in inshore areas adjacent to the developed coast,” says the report. The reef has lost about half of its coral cover in the past 30 years. The report calls for a “net benefit policy” to ensure coastal activities produce an overall benefit to the reef.

The draft assessment provides extensive detail on management approaches taken by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority on water quality and several other issues. It is open for public comment until 31 January 2014, and is available at

Report available on US MPAs

A new report from the US National MPA Center provides a snapshot of the coverage, level of protection, protected resources, and ecological representativeness of MPAs in the nation’s waters. “Marine Protected Areas of the United States: Conserving Our Oceans, One Place at a Time” also features brief case studies in MPA management from around the country. US MPAs protect natural and cultural heritage in approximately 8% of the nation’s waters. The report is at

Legal aspects of connectivity conservation

Protected areas, if not complemented by conservation initiatives outside their boundaries, are at risk of becoming ecological islands. As such they can face even greater threats from development and climate change than they otherwise would. Protected areas need to be “connected” to their broader landscapes and seascapes if they are to survive and maintain their biodiversity values and functions over time.

A new publication from IUCN analyzes the legal and policy aspects of this connectivity – conservation initiatives outside protected areas that are needed to sustain and increase those protected areas’ resilience. With chapters on basic principles of connectivity conservation and legal issues, as well as a special section on marine connectivity, the report is among the first of its kind. The 217-page The Legal Aspects of Connectivity Conservation – A Concept Paper is available at

Note to readers: Revision to LMMA Lessons piece

The LMMA Lessons piece in the September-October 2013 MPA News – “Appropriate ground rules for non-local partners in community-based management” – was revised in October to reflect more up-to-date insights on the subject matter. The revised version is available here.