Mexico designates three marine biosphere reserves

On 5 December the Mexican Government designated three new marine biosphere reserves totaling more than 647,000 km2. All three sites are multiple-use, with some zones that are strictly protected and others that are sustainably managed:

  • The 11,600-km2 Pacific Islands Biosphere Reserve, off the west coast of the Baja Peninsula, will protect the habitat of marine mammals and seabirds while sustainably managing fishing grounds on which local fishing cooperatives depend;
  • The 578,000-km2 Pacific Biosphere Reserve is Mexico’s largest MPA and focuses on the deep ocean. Mining and deep-sea fishing will be off-limits in certain zones of the MPA but will be allowed in other areas.
  • The 57,500-km2 Mexican Caribbean Biosphere Reserve is off the east coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and includes coral reefs, coastal wetlands, and deep-sea habitats. The exploration and extraction of petroleum will be off-limits in the MPA.

The new MPAs were announced during Mexico’s hosting of the 13th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (held 4-17 December 2016). The Nature Conservancy partnered in planning the new biosphere reserves, and a press release from The Nature Conservancy is here.

Trump and MPAs, continued

The November 2016 issue of MPA News contained an article that speculated whether the election of Donald Trump as President of the US might bring a rollback of some MPAs — namely three large MPAs that were designated or expanded by current President Barack Obama using executive powers contained in the US Antiquities Act. For readers interested in the legal issues involved in such a rollback, MPA News Editor John Davis added a comment to the article that explores the potential obstacles that President Trump could face if he attempts to abolish or otherwise modify these protected areas.

23% of US waters now closed to commercial extraction

The US has set aside 23% of its federal and state waters in MPAs that are off-limits to commercial extraction, according to the latest SeaStates report from the Marine Conservation Institute. That compares to 13% coverage at the end of 2015. The increase in 2016 was largely due to President Barack Obama’s expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in August. The SeaStates 2016 report is the latest installment in an annual accounting of strongly protected marine areas in federal, state, and territorial waters of the US.

Canada to designate its first marine National Wildlife Area

On 3 December, the Canadian Government announced its intent to designate the 11,546-km2 Scott Islands National Wildlife Area, located off the northern end of Vancouver Island on the country’s Pacific coast. It will be the first marine area protected under the Canada Wildlife Act. (Canada already has several marine protected areas designated under other national laws.) The site contains five islands and their surrounding waters. Although the islands already have varying degrees of protection under laws of the province of British Columbia, the surrounding marine environment has not been previously protected. The site provides habitat for more than two million seabirds. A backgrounder on the Scott Islands National Wildlife Area is here.

News from the Great Barrier Reef

  • On 1 December, the Australian and Queensland governments released an update on progress so far in implementing the actions of the Reef 2050 long-term sustainability plan for the Great Barrier Reef. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee requested such an update at its meeting in 2015.
  • In late November, the ARC Centre for Excellence in Coral Reef Studies released a report that assesses bleaching damage to the Great Barrier Reef in 2016.
  • Graeme Kelleher, AO, who served for 16 years as the first chief executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, has called for a ban on new coal mines in Australia as a move to protect the Great Barrier Reef from climate change. Kelleher is leading a petition calling on Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to implement such a ban.

Study: Five key attributes of MPAs for small-scale fisheries management

A study in Scientific Reports offers guidelines for planning and managing small-scale fisheries within MPAs. From a review of 25 Mediterranean MPAs, the authors identified several attributes that appear to determine ‘win-win’ results: effective conservation and productive fisheries (as measured by healthy fish stocks, increased fishermen incomes, and greater social acceptance of management practices).

The five key attributes are:

  • Strong MPA enforcement;
  • The presence of a management plan;
  • Engagement by fishermen in MPA management;
  • Representation of fishermen on the MPA board; and
  • Promotion of sustainable fishing.

The study “Five key attributes can increase marine protected areas performance for small-scale fisheries management” is available for free here. The lead author is Antonio Di Franco of the Université Côte d’Azur in France.

From the MPA News vault:

Features and news items from yesteryear

Five years ago: November-December 2011

  • Marine Debris and MPAs: Managing the Impacts of Litter on Marine Ecosystems
  • MPA Perspective: Promoting Peer-to-Peer Dialogue to Achieve Successful MPA Targets

Ten years ago: December 2006 – January 2007

  • In an Era of Climate Change, How Can Managers Ensure that Today’s MPAs Remain Relevant Over Time?
  • Results from the MPA News Reader Poll: The Relationship between MPAs and Ecosystem-Based Management

Fifteen years ago: December 2001 – January 2002

  • The Spillover Effect: What Do the Reserves in St. Lucia and Cape Canaveral Tell Us?
  • Results from the Reader Challenge: Which MPA is the Oldest?

For these and all other issues of MPA News, go to