Symposium Focuses on MPA Performance
|Professor Callum Roberts of the University of York, England,
presents his MPA mantra at the symposium.
The topic of the 2010 Kathryn Fuller Science for Nature Symposium—New Perspectives on MPA Performance: Linking Knowledge to Action—was particularly pertinent to our work at CORAL, and we were pleased to be able to participate. Organized by WWF and hosted at the beautiful Carnegie Institution for Science, the symposium drew conservation practitioners from around the world to discuss what we know and, perhaps more importantly, what we need to know about MPAs (marine protected areas) as a conservation and resource management tool.
CORAL's Rick MacPherson attended the conference along with colleagues from across the country and as far away as Indonesia, the Philippines, the Caribbean, and eastern Africa. The entire proceedings were also webcast around the world for those unable to attend.
Overall, the conference was a resounding validation of MPAs as effective tools. From Dr. Callum Roberts's keynote introduction and call for more MPAs ("More, Bigger, Better, Faster!") to Sylvia Earle's keynote closing, in which she debuted never-before-seen hypothetical maps of the ocean at 15%, 30%, and 50% protection, the take-home message was clear: MPAs are working, and we will need more of them to effectively protect marine ecosystems.
The symposium's most frequently cited study, Biological effects within no-take marine reserves: a global synthesis, convincingly demonstrates that the abundance, diversity, biomass, and size of fishes, invertebrates, and seaweeds increase dramatically inside no-take marine reserves. The paper's lead author, Dr. Sarah Lester from the University of California, Santa Barbara, presented a drill-down of the findings in her talk, and the study was cited in no fewer than four of the other presentations throughout the day. Although more research on MPA effectiveness is certainly needed, the trends brought to light through this meta-analysis create a compelling argument for the rapid escalation of MPA creation around the globe.
Other presenters at the conference focused on the human side of MPA effectiveness, addressing the question of which social factors best lead to MPA success. The answer to that question is certainly complicated, site-specific, and under-researched, but the fundamental message that ran through all of the presentations was that community involvement, understanding, and buy-in are critical for the long-term success of any marine reserve.
It was gratifying to see such overwhelming support for CORAL's approach from the scientific community and other professionals in the field. Once again, the principles of CORAL's community-based Coral Reef Sustainable Destination model are being touted as the best way forward. Now we just need to expand our reach to create effective, community-supported MPAs in more parts of the world.