The decline of marine habitat destruction, decline in fisheries resources and loss of precious aquatic life like sea turtles have raised concern and the need to establish Marine Protected Ares. The advocacy for the marine protected areas is to bring back the natural environmental conditions for the aquatic life as a way of solving socio-economic and environmental problems.
National ocean service (2014, para 3) ‘restrictions’ clarifies that: marine protected areas are established for the conservation of natural resources, while there can be restrictions of certain activities on MPAs. Similar to wildlife sanctuaries and parks, marine protected areas are expected to help increase the population of the wildlife, hence restriction to access these protected areas should be re-enforced by the standing environmental conservation policies.According to Diegues (2005), the aim of restricting access to marine protected areas is to ensure productivity and biological diversity of the marine ecosystem. The drive to achieving the aim is through the enhancement of the consistency of the policies that exist between the marine and the land to come together in the management of the precious marine organisms. The conservation and protection of marine resources from being accessed by the public is to bring several benefits, including socio-economic gain, ecological and cultural benefits.
Marine protected areas are necessary for research for various institutions and capacity building. Proper management of marine protected areasrequires policies designed under a systematic approach for the planning and management of these resources. The conservation institutes have to enhance a good relationship with the public by providing information that will help in the monitoring and managing the marine protected areas (Cohen & Govan, 2008). The establishment of marine protected areas in meant for conservation purposes, hence the need for restrictions for the general public to access. The planning and the establishment of the protected area follow detailed analysis and precise understanding of the ecological, social and oceanographic observations.
Data from national Geographic (2014) on marine protected Areas show that only 2% of the ocean is currently protected. The promoters of marine protected areas go through intensive debates between the researchers and the local fishing community and later get government support to help formulate the law. Management of marine MPA is an important conceptual demand for the marine ecosystem management against regular access by the public as a way of protecting the rare, vulnerable and endangered marine species.
Marine protected areas must have a well-established boundary and closure periods that are well known by the community to allow for the regeneration of the species. Despite the management plans to incorporate a large number of organisms in the marine protected areas and balance with the ecosystem, there are still various challenges in identifying and establishing the MPA in several countries (Diegues, 2005).
Considering the United Kingdom, it has taken a joint corporation of Natural Conservation Committee to play a vital role insafeguardingthe marine natural resources. Critical areas are identified within the habitats while breeding and feeding periods to gather adequate information for the conservation.
Benefits of marine protected areas
National oceanic and atmospheric administration (2014) on the stories of special places; state that MPA are special places in the oceans that are set aside to protect endangered species, sensitive habitats and cultural heritage, hence should be conserved.Establishing marine protected areas have several benefits to the local community depending on the resource, financial sustainability for the fishers and many benefits for the biodiversity. Marine protected areas are beneficial in the alleviation of poverty within the community and provision of alternative source of income. Protected areas will enable the fish and other organisms of economic importance to regenerate overtime, hence becoming abundant during harvesting. There will be an increase in thein fishcatch in the fishing grounds for the fishers by the time fishing activity is permitted in the protected areas.
Allowing time for fish population to mature is a positive impression to the environment and to the local communities. Fish stock will increase and at the same time ensuring sustainable delivery of marine services. Marine protected areas serve as a benchmark in assessing the uninterrupted natural marine ecosystem and the general yield of fish in a particular area. The data collected during the specified period of tome can then be applied in drafting a good management program for the resource.
Marine protected areas are necessaryfor the protection of juvenile and spawning grounds for both fish and turtles. Frequent access to these impotent grounds by humans will lead to the destruction of fish habitats. Fish species must spend the most time in the protected waters so that they can fully benefit from the protection against fishers and pollutions effect on the result from human activities (Salm et al., 2000). Marine Protected Areas safeguards fish during the delicate stage of life cycle by providing safe grounds for spawning in undisturbed ground.
The effort to protect the marine ecosystem against human interruption will ensure fair proportion of economic benefits, both extractive and non-extractive activities when the areas finally become operational after some time. Marine ecosystem comprises of several habitats supporting various organisms such as rock reefs, sea grass meadows, rocky shores and sandy shorelines that are most suitable for turtle spawning (Sobel & Craig, 2004). It is important to protect such habitats due the support for the rich diversity of aquatic flora and fauna. Some of the habitat support rare species of organisms such as the leafy sea dragon that occur only in the sea grass meadows and reefs of Encounter Bay and along the coastal Kangaroo Island.
Marine protected areas are critical in increasing the survival chances of organisms such as cuttlefish, whales, sea turtles and blue gropers. With the protection program, the organisms will be able to tolerate the high level of human influence on habit and population(Cash et al., 2006). The move to enhance the establishment of marine protected areas has been widely accepted in Australia with the local community getting involved in the conservation programs.
In the year 2003, all states in Australia come to a common understanding and established marine advisory committee to assist in the development plan for zoning marine parks. The public take an active role through contribution in the development of the management plan and later approved the move to ensure conservation of the marine ecosystem. The agreements made in the Marine protected areas plans include valuing of live marine resources for the conservation of aquatic biodiversity along the coastal protected areas(Cohen & Govan, 2008). To ensure public participation in the conservation practices, strong leadership and commitment in marine activities is required with incentives being availed for the program. Complete compliance by the local community entails the promotion of mutual respect for the ecosystem and integration of basic knowledge in designs of marine protected areas and monitoring processes.
National Academy of Science (1999) reviewed scientific evidence and concluded that marine protected areas are a useful tool in sustainable fisheries. As stated under “Marine and Maritime Studies” p 83.In the conservation program, various stakeholders involved are mandated to carry the responsibility of establishing, protecting and managing the marine protected areas. Transport ministry also takes apart in the conservation by controlling and managing the policies related to transportation of marine resources. Fisheries related activities are monitored by the ministry of agriculture who are tasked to the legal regulation that are agreedupon.
The overall stakeholders in the conservation and management of marine protected areas is the ministry of environment. The ministry is responsible for general supervision, management, resource mobilization, visitors management, and monitoring the carrying capacity of the protected areas(Cohen & Govan, 2008).
Marine protected areas have been established by the commonwealth waters where the Australian Government has developed national representative system of marine protected areas along the coastal line of Australia. The conservation program objective is to protect the crucial marine habitats that represent major ecological regions comprising of flora and fauna.
Challenges of Marine protected areas
There has been endless effort to establish marine protected areas after findings that the terrestrial conservation is doing well compared to marine conservancy (Spalding et al., 2008). The question to find out the success of marine protected areas success can be very challenging. Marine ecosystem is diverse and taking responsibility of a small border may not be that useful. Most organisms that occupy the aquatic environment are mobile and change habitats depending on the conditions.
One challenging aspect of marine protected areas is the identification of critical criterions that lead to the establishment of marine ecosystem conservation. In order to come up with well-established boundaries and conservation strategies, intensive research work has to be conducted to determine the relevant type of organisms in the locality. The establishments are expected to follow steps towards an ecosystem approach (Sobel & Craig, 2004). Most of The existing marines protected areas have failed to comply with this principle. The policies that have been established have failed to meet the required standards of expectations.
A significant challenge is the identification of the ecosystems that should be represented under conservation area. The definition of an ecosystem according to Hoban and Brooks (1987), ecosystem is the relationship between living and non-living organisms within a well-defined borderline of space. In the case of marine ecosystems, there is no existing boundary for the ecological processes in marine protected areas since protected organisms can move past the established boundaries.
Another risk involved in marine protected areas practices involves land regulations of various states. The establishments of protected areas are fully accomplished when the area under protection is considered under the state belongings. Making alterations in the land tenure system among countries have made the conservation of marine protected areas to be a challenge.
Lack of financial and human resources is a threat that is facing MPA in most states. Lack of skilledworkforces in the field of marine conservation poses a high risk in the success of marine protected areas (Salm & Siirila, 2000). Amazon forest in Brazil is one of the richest ecosystem in terms ofspecies biodiversity, but there have been an enormous crisis when it comes to hiring staff to manage the resources. The available staff also lacks modern marine management techniques hence creating a barrier in engaging in standard management processes.
In some countries, there are conflicts resulting from the establishment of marine protected areas. Lack of community involvement while making conservation programs may not be realistic for the community to take part in the conservation practices. The success of ecological and social outcome for the conservation practices that is not achievable without involving the local community. The local communities may resort to physical violence when they are locked out of fisheries that they have depended on (Almudi, 2008). Another form of conflict may arise from the community that is left outside the protected areas and the one that still uses the resources. Countries that have a common border may fail to get intoa standard memorandum of association when it comes to restricting access to the protected areas.
Government failure to incorporate adaptive management techniques is a risk influencing the management of Marine Protected Areas. Lack of adaptive management can alter the protection objectives from complete conservation to sustainable use. These changes may not be accounted for since there are no facilities to quantify the degree of degradation and adopt the principle of sustainable use (Kalikoski& Seixas, 2006). The challenge may be harmful to the conservation area of interest by discouraging the local communities from actively participating in the conservation programs.
The successes of marine protected areas in most part of the world depend on the level of engagement between the legal authorities. Marine protected areas require that the local community get engaged in the conservation activities (Sobel & Craig, 2004). Lack of self-confidence and trust for environmental agencies has discouraged the local communities hence they go back to ways of improving lives hence neglecting conservation activities. Lack of capacity building and motivation for the local communities has lead to a decline in the importance for conservation activities by the local communities.
Marine protected areas also result to ecological effects on the water reserve. Fishing activities once access to the protected areas are permitted will have aneffect on the population abundance of fish. Extraction of large older fish and leaving juveniles will change the age structure of the species’population being exploited.
Tools for Sustaining Ocean Ecosystems(2001)point out that the movement and connectivity of fish species will be significantly affected since the migration patterns, and the spatial connection to the marine ecosystem will get altered. The organisms are are expected to travel from one habitat to another hence a need for the fundamental management techniques. The population density of fish in the reserves should be in a balance with the areas that is not under protection. Isolation of fish may affect the generic pattern of the entire fish population and also contribute to the spread of diseases within the ecosystem.
An indirect effect that can get realized from marine protected areas is on the ecosystem predator-pray interaction within the ecosystem. The increaseinpopulation of fish species in the protected areas will lead to high competition for food available within the ecosystem. Anincrease in species’ population in the conservation areas will interfere with the habitat structure hence increasing the effect on the marine protected area. The effect on the habitat will contribute to the effect on the assemblage structure of the species’ population. Fish in the protected areas will differ from fish in unprotected waters since they occupy different environmental conditions such as warm nd cold waters and waters.
Many people currently in the world depend on the marine ecosystem, either directly or indirectly. There are many developments along the shores due to the beautiful sceneriesoffered by these environments. A lot of aquatic resources are harvested as food, for example, seagrass, seaweeds, shrimps, fish and octopus. Human population has increased over time and has seen much pressure being subjected to the marine ecosystems. Due to the external pressure of exploiting the marine organisms, there is aneed to conserve these resources and restrict human access to some of the shorelines that provide essential habits. The effect of climate change and the ever growing human population has significantly impacted the survival of themarine ecosystem.
Traditionally, fish was being served as a local delicacy but the current trend is the over-exploitation of the resource for commercialgain. The program on marine protected areas is beneficial to the environment hence should be adopted by all the countries and states bordering water resources. The main threat to aquatic resources is fishing that has developed new techniques that do not comply with the existing legislation (Cohen & Govan, 2008). Fisherusuallytargets the larger fish sizes which are necessaryfor the regenerationof the fish populationto ensure sustainability of the resource. When the adult fish size isover-exploited, the population may get affected thereby reducing the survival chances. Algae and corals that take very many years to grow also depend on other organisms for growth, for example, herbivores help in clearing algae growing on the corals that would lead to the death of corals.
It is important to maintain the marine environment supporting various species that come fromfunctional groups within the ecosystem.Human activities on the environment such as tourism and anthropogenic disturbances affect the ecosystem balance hence prompting a move for environmental conservation (Salm & Siirila, 2000). Marine protected areas are beneficial for the support and maintaining a sustainable habitat for aquatic resource. Restrictions and regulations to these habitats create a safe environment for natural resource to continue offering food and financial income to the human population.
The development of marine protected areas should be adopted worldwide due to the deteriorating environmental conditions and adverse human effect on the aquatic environment. Pollution of oceans through oil spills and dumping of toxic substances would never exist in both open and protected waters. Marine resources provide grounds for research, and the most appropriate ground exist in the protected and undisturbed environments.
The success of establishing and managing marine protected areas are through the adoption of a participatory approach that involves a support for the existing community organizations that deal in conservation activities. Fishing accords should be designed with the aim of ensuring aquatic resource sustainability, and the same time meets the errands of the fishing community. Restricting access to the marine protected areas should be observed both by the national legislation and use the local rights of the community.
Research conducted on marine protected areas in every corner of the globe is to come up with strategies to improve on the fish resources for economic growth and environmental sustainability. The management strategies should adequately control both commercial and non-commercial fisheries. Ensure there is no interruption of the marine habitat as a result of infrastructural development and develop contingency plans to combat activities that negatively impact and stand as a threat to the marine protected areas(Cohen & Govan, 2008).Degraded ecosystems should get rehabilitated through the conservation program and appropriate education and capacity building installed in the local communities on the importance of marine conservation practices. The use of public media services and promotions are necessaryfor the distribution of conservation information.
Cohen, P, A D. Valemei, and H Govan (2008).Socio-Economic and Ecological Impacts of Marine Protected Areas in Pacific Island Countries: Reef-base Pacific: 2008. Penang, Malaysia: WorldFish Center.
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2001, Marine Protected Areas: Tools for Sustaining Ocean Ecosystems. Washington, D.C: National Academy Press.
Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/books/0309072867/html/
Salm, Rodney V, John R. Clark, and E.Siirila (2000). Marine and Coastal Protected Areas: A Guide for Planners and Managers. Gland, Switzerland: International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
Retrieved from; http://marineprotectedareas.noaa.gov/helpful_resources/archives/
Sobel, Jack A, and Craig P. Dalgren (2004). Marine Reserves: A Guide to Science, Design, and Use. Washington, D.C: Island Press.
Electronic source http://www.coris.noaa.gov/geoportal/rest/document