2012 is quickly racing towards us. It’s a crucial year because the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development set internationally agreed targets to establish extensive networks of MPAs around the world by 2012.
Whether the 2012 target turns out to be to ambitious will soon become clear as many of the proposed MPAs will need to be on track during 2011 to meet the 2012 deadline.
Daniel Cressey writing in Nature (Vol. 469, No. 7329, 13 January 2011) quotes Tundi Agardy, the lead author of a paper published in Marine Policy (35, 226-232 (2001)) [one of the other authors is a friend of WDCS, Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara], warning of ‘blind faith’ in the ability of MPAs to stem biodiversity loss.
Agardy is not opposed to MPAs. Indeed it appears that the paper is highly supportive of MPAs, but is critical of policy makers who end up designing MPAs that are too small to be effective and that create an illusion of protection when none is actually occurring. The paper also points out that poor management and the fact that degradation of waters outside an MPA can mean that the MPA is ineffective.
The paper goes onto illustrate the MPA for the vaquita porpoise in the Gulf of California has not been successful because the paper claims that it missed a major area of the species core range.
WDCS is campaigning for MPAs for cetaceans around the world, but some policy makers seem ready to repeat the list of mistakes that Agardy and her colleagues outline. I am concerned that proposals for MPAs that policy makers may accept will be too small and too limited to make a difference.
In the same edition of Nature the lead editorial calls on policy makers to think big when considering protected areas. Whilst the leader looks specifically at terrestrial national parks and the impacts of climate change, it also notes that ‘landscape scale’ conservation initiatives are necessary to adapt to the impacts of climate change where many species will need to be able to move to adapt.
I remain concerned that policy makers may believe that the oceans of the world are ‘big enough’ to allow for such movements and adaptations by cetaceans, but how will small protected areas be flexible enough to accommodate such changes? Only if we look at larger ocean landscape protected areas - that address multiple threats to cetaceans - will we really begin to create the necessary frameworks to manage human impacts and so allow these creatures to flourish in such highly dynamic environments.
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