Marine Protection Pays Off

One recent study monitored heavy-fished species including the blue rockfish (pictured) at marine reserves near Los Angeles. Closed in 2003, these reserves now show an increase in the fish species by 50%.

A recent special issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences presents several studies conducted on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). MPAs around the world have proven to be a successful way to preserve and maintain the stability and health of the organisms in those locations. Most demonstrate that over time species living there are able to replenish. One recent study conducted within a network of 12 marine reserves near Los Angeles monitored heavy-fished species including the blue rockfish. Closed in 2003, these reserves now show an increase in the fish species by 50%.

And research demonstrates that MPAs can benefit the fisheries outside of protected areas, too. Preventing fishing in spawning areas allows for fish to reproduce without a threat of being captured before the cycle can be adequately completed. Fertilized fish eggs can then drift with sea currents, thus replenishing populations inside and outside the reserves. With more MPAs, there is hope that rapidly falling fish stocks across the country can begin to replenish. We do have a long way to go, however. Approximately 12% of the world's land area has protected status, compared to less than 1% of oceans and seas.

SOURCE: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.