Human effects on marine ecosystems are increasing and compounding to produce significant cumulative impacts.
Activities such as urban development, pollutants, habitat loss and fishing are creating long-lasting effects in ocean ecosystems.
What are Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)
One mechanism to shelter populations from habitat change and fishing pressure is the use of spatial management through the establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs) and other similar spatial and temporal regulations on fishing.
What are some of the problems?
The knowledge used to establish MPAs is limited and often flawed, and their efficacy is rarely evaluated. MPA designation is also not without costs – after all what is the need for further conservation action if an MPA is in place. The existence of “paper” parks (those that fail to be enforced or which do not appropriately regulate threatening activities such as fishing) could become a significant hidden barrier to shark conservation and recovery.
Additionally, despite almost one third of all MPAs being designated for the protection of sharks in 2015, there is a lack of knowledge about the extent to which these types of protections benefit shark and ray populations
Without this type of knowledge it is impossible to evaluate if they have been effective. Nor is it possible to identify places where spatial protections may provide benefits for conservation efforts in the future.
There are a range of factors that can affect the success of MPAs, which must be considered in evaluating and planning future management and conservation efforts.
size and placement of reserves relative to movement patterns and lifecycle,
proportion of the population protected
likelihood that human communities will comply with the regulations governing the protection.
MPAs are also used to achieve a range of outcomes and it is important that there is a clear understanding of the conservation outcomes that different forms can and will achieve.
How does our project help?
Understanding what is required to establish an effective and efficient MPA is crucial to gaining public support and creating successful conservation programs.
By addressing current knowledge gaps we will be able to provide a set of objective products that conservation decision makers, policy makers, funders, advocates and scientists can use to make informed decisions about the use of MPAs to improve population outcomes for sharks and rays.
Head over to the Project page fore more information