Large, well-established and isolated Marine Protected Areas boost shark numbers
The concept itself probably doesn’t come as a big surprise to a lot of us, but a recent comprehensive study has shown that large, established and well-enforced no take zones show 14 times more more sharks and other sea life than commercial fishing areas.
87 marine protected areas (MPAs) were examined over 40 countries, allowing researchers to determine factors contributing to a successful MPA. Successful MPAs typically had five features: no-take zone, well-enforced, over 10 years old, over 100km-sq, and isolated by sand or deep water.
Of course, most of us also know that the majority of MPAs are not successful, and are in fact only token protected areas - they’re paper parks, meaning they’re only MPAs on paper. And the sea life in these areas is about on the same level as the sea life in the nearby fishing areas. Which is to say, not great; the study shows a 90% decrease in sharks, and 83% decrease in large fish (with a 63% decrease in fish overall). And that’s pretty scary, because it means a lot of MPAs aren’t achieving their conservation goals, if they have them at all.
But it’s not all bad news. Hopefully, this means the study and ones similar to it could be used in the near future to improve current MPAs, increase the number of successful MPAs and reduce the number of paper parks and MPAs like them. Fingers crossed.
(Also, you can read the paper, published in Nature, here.)