More than 400 people from 46 countries gathered in September in Murcia, Spain, to discuss the use of MPAs for ecosystem conservation and fisheries management, mainly in temperate waters. The European Symposium on Marine Protected Areas ( provided a wide range of findings and perspectives, drawn from a mix of researchers, managers, government officials, and representatives of fishing industries, environmental NGOs, and international organizations.

The symposium was organized by two EU-funded research projects – PROTECT ( and EMPAFISH ( – that address ecological, economic, and social dimensions of MPAs, including tools for design and evaluation. The project sites range from offshore MPAs and fishing closures in the northeast Atlantic and North Sea, to coastal MPAs in the eastern Atlantic and western Mediterranean.

MPA News attended the symposium and will feature selected presenters and findings in this and next month’s editions. The symposium’s central themes were the search for common ground across fisheries management and nature conservation in the context of MPA development, and the integration of MPAs within broader ecosystem-based management. This month MPA News offers lessons from two presenters, Mark Mellett and Carissa Klein, who addressed different aspects of the relationship between fisheries and MPAs.

The importance of planning MPAs to be enforceable: Interview with Mark Mellett

Mark Mellett is commander of the Irish Naval Service and associate head of the National Maritime College of Ireland. He is active in the PROTECT project, addressing enforcement and compliance aspects of coldwater coral MPAs. In his decades with the Irish Navy, he has had to enforce a range of fisheries regulations, including closures. Speaking at a roundtable discussion at the MPA symposium, Mellett remarked on the importance of planning MPAs so that they are enforceable. MPA News followed up with the interview below. Mellett offered these comments in a personal capacity.

MPA News: You said that it is more important to have an enforceable system of MPAs than an ecologically perfect system of MPAs. Why do you draw this distinction?

Mark Mellett: If you have a perfect MPA that is easily enforceable then there is no problem. However, if enforcement costs rise because of the complexity of the MPA, you have to consider costs versus benefits. Complexity can be a function of many things, such as the number of stakeholders, geographical location of the MPA, objectives of the MPA, etc. This boils down to choices. For example, in the case of an offshore MPA, the marginal benefit of letting one actor into an MPA to extract resources must be weighed against the increased costs of enforcement, as well as against any benefits that might apply if the MPA were to operate instead as a no-take zone. In addition, allowing some activity, which in itself may have little impact, may generate resentment among those who are excluded.

MPA News: It is commonly believed that involving stakeholders fully in MPA planning is the primary way to achieve greater regulatory compliance and lower costs for enforcement. Can such involvement ever eliminate the need for enforcement?

Mellett: Ultimately it depends on the objectives of the MPA and where it is to be located. In principle, the closer to the coast an MPA is sited, the greater the value from stakeholder engagement and the greater the likelihood of consequential regulatory compliance. In such cases, depending on the activity, the value of co-management as a means of reducing enforcement costs is significant.

Of course, there will be a need to underpin the powerful contribution that civil society can bring by dealing quickly and effectively with “free riders”. Stakeholders who make a sacrifice will not tolerate a regime that allows free riders to reap the reward of others’ sacrifice.

MPA News: What characteristics make an MPA most and least enforceable?

Mellett: The most enforceable MPAs have simple and fair rules, clear objectives, stakeholder engagement, good enforcement technology, good data, and clear leadership. The least enforceable MPAs have stakeholder resistance, unfair rules, complexity in design, no action toward “free riders”, poor enforcement technology, poor data, and lack of leadership.

For more information

Mark A. Mellett, National Maritime College of Ireland, Ringaskiddy, Cork, Ireland. Tel: +353 21 4970 650; E-mail:

How software can help design MPAs with lesser impact on fishermen

The use of software tools is increasing in the field of MPA design due to their ability to perform complex tasks. By incorporating an abundance of data on species, habitats, and other biodiversity features, programs like MARXAN can help identify networks of sites to meet biodiversity targets while minimizing potential negative impacts on resource users (“Using Computer Software to Design Marine Reserve Networks”, MPA News 6:4).

The ability of MARXAN to help lessen the costs of new no-take areas to fishermen was presented by Carissa Klein of the University of Queensland (Australia). Klein analyzed a new network of no-take areas along the central coast of the US state of California, designated in 2007 as part of implementing the state’s Marine Life Protection Act. Using MARXAN, she designed an alternative network of no-take areas that achieved the same level of habitat representation as designs for the new network, but at 20%-50% less cost to fishermen (both commercial and recreational).

Klein measured the cost to fishermen in “total fishing effort lost” across 19 fisheries: i.e., the amount of fishing effort that would be lost if an area were closed to all types of fishing. She assumed that lost fishing effort would not be redistributed to other, unprotected areas in the region. (She acknowledges that in reality some of the “lost effort” would be displaced to other areas.) In a parallel analysis, Klein also designed an alternative network that assumed the same level of impact on fisheries as the California network, but was able to incorporate as much as 9.5% more of each habitat in her closed areas.

Key to Klein’s research was the inclusion of spatially explicit, fine-scale data from fishermen in her models – namely, the spatial distribution of their fishing effort. She says California’s process of designing the actual network was not privy to the same amount of socioeconomic data because it revealed confidential information on individual fishing grounds. Without comprehensive data on current fishing effort, planning processes have more difficulty gauging the expected impact of various network designs on stakeholders.

Despite the effectiveness of MARXAN in designing optimal reserve networks, Klein says the software should not take the place of stakeholder-driven planning processes. “Stakeholders play an important role in designing marine reserves,” she says. “For example, they are needed to define biodiversity conservation and socioeconomic objectives, address any objectives that are not incorporated in the software, and support the final outcome. If the planning objectives are clear, MARXAN can support stakeholders in designing marine reserves that represent biodiversity features for a minimal cost.” Klein conducted this research in collaboration with Charles Steinback and Astrid Scholz (both of Ecotrust, an NGO) and Hugh Possingham of the University of Queensland.

For more information

Carissa Joy Klein, The Ecology Centre, The University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia. Tel: +61 7 3365 3539; E-mail:

BOX: In next month’s MPA News

The November 2007 edition of MPA News will feature additional coverage of the European Symposium on MPAs, including:

  • How and why should you factor risk into MPA planning?
  • Is it necessary to involve stakeholders in all MPA planning and management processes?
  • Why is it useful to have prearranged agreements between fisheries and conservation agencies on MPAs?
  • And more.