Last Updated 28 Jan 2021

Marine Protected Areas: Are They Generally Effective

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Whether coral reef marine protected areas actually protect at risk species is an important issue to consider. Knowing the answer could lead to a better ability to answer other questions about marine environments. For example, a more defined correlation could be made between the increasing number of shark attacks in coastal areas and the overfishing of marine populations on which sharks subsist.

The effectiveness of marine protected areas (MPAs) is of key importance in assessing whether certain efforts to protect at risk species actually work. Given that 70% of the planet is covered in ocean, species in terrestrial habitats are certainly affected by the biological status of marine environments. The growing degradation of biodiversity and biomass in earths’ marine ecosystem could be driving sharks to find more fulfilling meals in non-traditional feeding areas – coastal areas that humans use for recreation.

The topic therefore deserves research because the very actions of terrestrial species, like humans, may generate harmful long-term effects. In essence, users of marine resources are demonstrably interested in the relative short-tem gains from marine ecosystems while ignoring long-term effects of over-usage. Yet, setting aside areas to protect after or from over-usage does not necessarily mean all marine species are protected. More important, the enforcement of marine protected areas (MPAs) conflicts with socio-economic issues in communities that currently fish them or did so in the past.

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The mainstream article “Marine-protected Areas: It Takes a Village, Study Says,” looks at just how much society may assume about the extent of protection at risk species receive. When told an area is protected it is logically assumed that no fishing takes place in an MPA. To that end and by way of explanation, this article posits that the issue of protection actually depends on the consideration of at least three factors. The factors are as follows: (1) how affective is the management of a MPA; (2) whether management takes into account socio-economic effects on local communities; and (3) whether the socio-economic effects will complicate enforcement of an MPA.

In essence, the article attempts to tell the audience that MPAs are made more effective for the consideration given local socio-economic issues. The article implies that on average MPAs are not as effective as hoped and even hazards and explanation. For example, government controlled MPAs, invisible to a community; propose two immediate dangers to the MPA by reason of invisibility. The community is both unaware of the benefits of avoiding overfishing and equally ignorant of methods of MPA enforcement.

The article ultimately surmises that on a large scale, consideration being given to all marine protected areas, the most effective means of preserving species diversity, number and size would involve applying both the methods of traditionally managed systems (MPAs for small areas) and permanent marine protected areas (usually large). In such a scenario permanent MPAs would benefit species with slow overfishing recovery times while rewarding small communities for their efforts at conservation and allowing them to see its direct benefits.

The source for the mainstream article was a study published in Current Biology, entitled “A Comparison of Marine Protected Areas and Alternative Approaches to Coral-Reef Management.” This article naturally takes a more scientific approach in making its argument. Therefore, it is unsuitable for a mainstream audience reading at different levels of comfort with scientific and statistical terminology.

It looks at four types of MPAs in addition to four reasons why the areas presumably offer ineffective protection for certain species. Its use of graphs and tables, largely meant to reify the study’s argument for a scientific audience, all support the argument that the success of MPA enforcement decides its effectiveness.

The mainstream article apparently makes use of the summary and conclusion in the scientific article’s content but glosses over its conclusions. The scientific article never implicitly states, as does the mainstream, that a combination of traditionally managed systems and permanent MPAs are important to protecting biodiversity. Rather, the mainstream article calls for a more simplified approach to what the scientific article implies is quite complicated. The institution of effective MPAs are complicated by how enforcement will be carried out in the face of the social, economic, and cultural context of communities in the center of areas designated as important to the maintenance of coral reef biodiversity.

To some extent the mainstream article captures the essential points of the scientific article. For example it accurately conveys to readers that enforcement of MPAs is more complicated than designating an MPA. The mainstream article, despite its brevity, also manages to inform readers that there are different kinds of MPAs and that they work differently to solve problems.

Take permanent MPAs which protect species at risk from overfishing. However, the mainstream article is guilty of minor sensationalism. The research this article is based upon looks at solutions for small, isolated communities as well as the benefits of permanent MPAs. It does not, as the mainstream article erroneously extrapolates, propose a combination of methods of traditionally managed systems and permanent MPAs, toward achieving biodiversity.

A possible improvement upon the essentially good summarization, provided by the mainstream article, would include a definition of an MPA at its beginning. A more satisfactory conclusion would include a reminder that the findings of the study it summarized, applied to small, economically isolated communities. The conclusion could also inform readers of the larger implications of the study by referencing the fact that California is enjoying moderate success in its establishment of MPAs along its entire coast (“Transforming Ocean Policy,” 2006). The above would then provide supporting evidence for the highly probable tendency of mainstream readers to assume findings in the study are applicable outside of the small communities it examines.

With regard to California’s efforts to establish MPAs along its coast only time will indicate success, hence, the importance of routinely researching the effectiveness of any efforts in wildlife conservation. It is particularly important to assess the enforcement of MPAs in the effort to maintain coral reef biodiversity as terrestrial and marine species do not operate in mutual exclusivity of each other.

To that end, enriching one’s understanding of the interdependence of terrestrial and marine ecosystems requires a measure of caution. Mainstream readers may get a fairly accurate but slightly sensationalized view of a scientific finding. In essence, readers are tempted to consider findings applicable beyond the parameters of the experiment for which they exist. In my experience, media representations of science deserve a measure of skepticism and any findings consideration only within the parameters of the study they relate to.

McClanahan, Timothy R., Marnane, Michael J., Cinner, Joshua E., & Kiene, William E. (2006).

A comparison of marine-protected areas and alternative approaches to coral-reef

management. Current Biology, 16, 1408-1413.

“Marine protected areas: it takes a village, study says.” (2006). Wildlife Conservation Society.

Retrieved October 4, 2006

“Transforming ocean policy: doing for oceans what Teddy Roosevelt did for the land. (2006).

The Ocean Conservancy. Retrieved October 4, 2006 from http://www.oceanconservancy .org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8731&news_iv_ctrl=0&abbr=issues_&JServSessionIdr007=hg383i2kx3.app7b.

Marine Protected Areas: Are They Generally Effective essay

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Marine Protected Areas: Are They Generally Effective. (2017, Mar 21). Retrieved from

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