i3, une unité mixte de recherche CNRS (UMR 9217)

Institut Interdisciplinaire de l'Innovation

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Questions about Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) by Laura Recuero Virto, researcher at i3-CRG
Posted on 11 January 2019

The problem of MPAs is not the lack of knowledge about the marine environment, but managing of people, that is, managing the different uses in these areas. Thus, it is much easier to identify MPAs than to manage them effectively, not only in waters under national jurisdiction, but even more so in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Another problem is not enough collegial and transparent scientific committees to ensure good scientific governance of MPAs.

MPAs: Does coverage necessarily mean effective protection?

At the Nagoya Conference in October 2010, the States Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) committed to achieving the Aichi Target 11 goal of 10% MPA coverage by 2020. The Aichi Target 11 calls for 10% of marine and coastal areas to be conserved through ecologically representative and well-connected protected areas managed effectively and fairly alongside other area-based conservation measures. According to the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA), 7.3% of the ocean is currently protected.

From a quantitative point of view, the Aichi Target 11 will probably be achieved by 2020.

The percentage of MPAs created in waters under national jurisdiction is much higher than that in areas beyond national jurisdiction. To date, 16.8% of waters under national jurisdiction, which represent 39% of the global ocean, have been designated as protected areas, against 1.9% of areas beyond national jurisdiction, which account for 61% of the world ocean. MPAs can be more easily created by governments in waters under national jurisdiction, for which specialized legal frameworks exist.

Small-scale fisheries at the National Park of Calanques, Marseille (France)
(photo © Mylène Zizzo, The National Park of Calanques)

The Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity can achieve the Aichi Target 11 with very different levels of nature protection. "Other area-based conservation measures" within the Aichi Target 11 are more flexible arrangements from a nature conservation standpoint than MPAs. Whatever the type of MPA, its main objective is the conservation of biodiversity. Area-based measures that protect nature but whose main objectives are different, such as sustainable fishing, and military or port activities, are not considered to be MPAs according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Any industrial activity and development of infrastructure that is damaging to the environment due its associated ecological impacts is usually not compatible with MPAs. Some activities, however, can be authorized in an MPA, or in certain parts of an MPA, if they arecompatible with its conservation objectives.

Click here to read the Ocean Policy Brief



Illustration : Research and monitoring in the Ross Sea MPA in the Antarctic. Antarctic toothfish and diver (photo © Rob Robbins, U.S. Antarctic Program)