24 Mar 2019 - Filling the knowledge gap should improve planning, design and implementation of large MPAs that deliver strong ecological outcomes.
Although much scientific study and planning is involved at every stage of creating large, remote, offshore marine protected areas (MPAs), even ocean science experts concede they have limited knowledge of these regions.
That’s because most MPA research has focused on small, coastal protected areas, which have existed for longer than their bigger, offshore cousins and are easier to monitor due to their proximity to shore. Some work has been done to extrapolate coastal research findings to remote MPAs, but it doesn’t offer a complete picture of what is happening in the larger regions. Achieving that understanding would require comprehensive research and reporting, which in turn should help governments, scientists, and conservationists design and implement large MPAs that deliver strong ecological outcomes.
To identify the gaps in large MPA research, the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project worked with fisheries scientists Chris Smyth and Quentin Hanich from the University of Wollongong in Australia, who co-authored a paper, Large Scale Marine Protected Areas: Current status and consideration of socio-economic dimension, summarizing the research needed to inform the management and design of large MPAs. The paper examines protected areas from multiple perspectives and addresses concerns from stakeholders and governments in developed and developing states.