IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

Marine Protected Areas

17th January, 2024 Environment

Marine Protected Areas

Disclaimer: Copyright infringement not intended.

Context

  • A new study has raised concerns about the rising acidity levels of the continental shelves in Antarctic Marine Protected Areas (MPA) under high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The study, Severe 21st-century ocean acidification in Antarctic Marine Protected Areas, was published in journal Nature Communications.

The new Study

Findings

  • Carbon emissions from human activities may be vertically mixed with ocean waters in coastal regions, resulting in severe acidification at all water levels.
  • Shallow, underwater areas extending from the edge of continents known as continental shelves are expected to see more severe acidification than the open ocean.
  • The ocean helps to mitigate the effects of global warming by absorbing some of the carbon dioxide gas (CO2) that is released into the atmosphere. This comes at a cost to ocean health because the uptake of anthropogenic CO2 causes changes in ocean chemistry, known as ocean acidification, which can be harmful to marine ecosystems.
  • If we continue with moderate to high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, ecosystems in the shallow continental shelf seas in proposed and established MPAs could experience significant ocean acidification by 2100. Under the intermediate and high emission scenarios, the acidification could be severe.
  • The pH scale could decline by up to 0.36 (on the total scale) for the top 200 metres of the ocean by 2100, the study projected.

Implications

  • For the high and very high emissions scenarios, there will be a widespread lack of aragonite (a type of carbonate mineral) saturation in the proposed and established MPAs by the end of the century.
  • The undersaturation will extend from the ocean’s surface to its depths. This undersaturation implies that organisms such as pteropods that form aragonite won't be able to find places with stable conditions for their shells.

Suggestions made

  • Given the cumulative threat to marine ecosystems from environmental change and activities such as fishing, the researchers called for strong emission-mitigation efforts and further management strategies to reduce pressures on ecosystems, such as the continuation and expansion of Antarctic MPAs.
  • Designed to protect the unique high-latitude Southern Ocean biodiversity, a network of MPAs is being developed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

Marine Protected Areas

  • Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are designated regions in oceans, seas, or other bodies of water where human activities are regulated to conserve and protect the marine environment and its biodiversity.
  • The primary goal of establishing MPAs is to safeguard ecosystems, preserve marine species, and promote sustainable use of marine resources.

Types of MPAs:

  • No-Take Zones: Prohibit all extractive activities, including fishing and mining.
  • Multiple-Use MPAs: Allow certain activities, like fishing, while regulating the intensity and methods.
  • Biosphere Reserves: Combine conservation with sustainable development, including scientific research and education.
  • Sanctuaries: Designated areas with specific conservation goals, often focusing on protecting a particular species or habitat.

Goals and Objectives:

  • Biodiversity Conservation: Preserving the variety of marine life and protecting critical habitats.
  • Ecosystem Resilience: Enhancing the resilience of ecosystems to environmental changes, including climate change.
  • Fisheries Management: Sustainable management of fish stocks to prevent overfishing and maintain healthy populations.
  • Scientific Research: Providing opportunities for scientific studies to understand marine ecosystems and species.

Benefits of MPAs:

  • Biodiversity Preservation: Helps protect and restore marine biodiversity, including endangered species and habitats.
  • Fisheries Management: Supports the recovery of fish stocks, benefiting both marine life and the fishing industry.
  • Climate Change Resilience: Enhances the ability of ecosystems to adapt to climate change impacts.
  • Tourism and Recreation: Attracts eco-tourism and recreational activities, contributing to local economies.

Why are MPAs crucial?

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) serve a crucial role in conserving marine biodiversity, regulating fishing practices, mitigating climate change, promoting research and education, and providing economic benefits.

These areas help preserve the diverse array of marine species and their habitats, thereby maintaining the delicate balance of marine ecosystems. They regulate fishing activities to prevent overfishing, thus supporting sustainable fishing practices.

Additionally, MPAs act as carbon sinks, absorbing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and mitigating the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems. They provide opportunities for scientific research and education, increasing our understanding of the marine environment and promoting ocean literacy.

Further, they contribute to local economies through sustainable tourism, recreation, and supporting local fishing communities.

Challenges and Considerations:

  • Enforcement: Effective management and enforcement of MPA regulations can be challenging.
  • Stakeholder Engagement: Involvement of local communities, fishing industries, and other stakeholders is crucial for successful MPA implementation.
  • Climate Change: MPAs may need to adapt to changing environmental conditions caused by climate change.

Global Initiatives:

  • CBD Aichi Targets: The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has set targets for establishing and effectively managing protected areas.
  • IUCN Green List: The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has developed a Green List to recognize well-managed and effective protected areas.
  • Global Ocean Alliance: Various international collaborations and alliances work towards increasing the coverage of MPAs worldwide.

Examples of Notable MPAs:

  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Australia): One of the largest and most well-known MPAs, protecting the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Papah─ünaumoku─ükea Marine National Monument (USA): A vast MPA in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
  • Galápagos Marine Reserve (Ecuador): Protects the unique marine life around the Galápagos Islands.

Marine Protected Areas in Antarctica

  • MPAs have been established at the South Orkney Islands Southern Shelf and in the Ross Sea region, with three additional MPAs proposed in the Weddell Sea, East Antarctica, and along the western Antarctic Peninsula.
  • If realized, this network of MPAs would protect around 60 percent of Antarctic shelf waters.

Background

Importance of Antarctic Marine Environment:

  • The Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica is home to a diverse range of marine species, many of which are found nowhere else on Earth.
  • The region plays a crucial role in regulating the Earth's climate and supporting global ocean currents.

CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources):

  • CCAMLR is the international body responsible for the conservation of marine life in the Southern Ocean.
  • Its primary goal is to ensure the sustainable use of marine resources and the protection of the marine environment.

Antarctic MPA Developments:

Ross Sea MPA:

  • The Ross Sea Marine Protected Area was established in 2016 and is one of the largest MPAs globally.
  • It covers an area of about 1.55 million square kilometers and includes a "no-take" zone where fishing is prohibited.

East Antarctica:

  • Proposals have been under consideration for the establishment of MPAs in East Antarctica.
  • Discussions have focused on areas such as the Weddell Sea and the D'Urville Sea.

Establishment Challenges:

  • Establishing MPAs in Antarctica involves complex negotiations due to the presence of multiple countries with territorial claims in the region.
  • Balancing conservation goals with the interests of the fishing industry has been a challenge.

Scientific Research:

  • Scientific research plays a crucial role in informing the designation of MPAs.
  • It helps identify ecologically sensitive areas and supports the development of effective conservation measures.

Future Prospects:

Ongoing Negotiations:

  • Discussions and negotiations within CCAMLR continue to address the establishment of additional MPAs in Antarctica.

Climate Change Concerns:

  • Climate change poses additional challenges to the Antarctic marine environment, and the establishment of MPAs is seen as a way to enhance resilience and protect vulnerable ecosystems.

International Collaboration:

  • Collaborative efforts involving multiple nations and stakeholders are essential to address the complex geopolitical and environmental issues surrounding Antarctic MPAs.

Balancing Conservation and Sustainable Use:

  • Finding a balance between conservation goals and the sustainable use of marine resources remains a key focus.

India will continue to support setting up two MPAs in Antarctica to protect marine life and its ecosystem services

Conclusion:

  • Antarctic Marine Protected Areas are crucial for preserving the unique biodiversity and ecological balance of the Southern Ocean.
  • Ongoing efforts, negotiations, and scientific research aim to establish additional MPAs while considering the complex geopolitical and environmental challenges associated with the region.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in India

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in India are made up of 33 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries designated under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972. 

There are 31 MPAs in India, with the Marine National Park and Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Kutch and Bhitarkanika National Park and Bhitarkanika Sanctuary making up one unit each.

MPAs occupy less than 4.01% of the total area of all Protected Areas in India.

Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources

  • CCAMLR stands for the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.
  • It is an international organization established to manage and conserve marine life in the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica.
  • The commission was formed in recognition of the importance of preserving the unique and fragile ecosystems of the Antarctic region.

Establishment and Legal Framework:

  • Year of Establishment: CCAMLR was established in 1982 under the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.
  • Legal Instrument: The convention was adopted in 1980 and entered into force in 1982. It designates CCAMLR as the organization responsible for overseeing the conservation and sustainable use of marine life in the Southern Ocean.

Member Countries:

  • Membership: CCAMLR has 26 member countries, including major fishing nations and those with an interest in the Southern Ocean.
  • Consultative and Acceding Parties: Members are classified into two groups - consultative parties, which participated in the original negotiations, and acceding parties, which have joined subsequently.

Key Objectives:

  • Conservation of Marine Living Resources: CCAMLR's primary goal is to conserve and manage marine life in the Southern Ocean to ensure its sustainable use.
  • Ecosystem Protection: The commission aims to protect the unique and delicate Antarctic marine ecosystems, including habitats and species.
  • Scientific Research: CCAMLR places a strong emphasis on scientific research to inform decision-making and conservation measures.

Conservation Measures:

  • Fisheries Management: CCAMLR regulates fishing activities in the Southern Ocean to prevent overfishing and depletion of fish stocks.
  • Marine Protected Areas (MPAs): The commission has been working on establishing Marine Protected Areas to conserve specific regions and habitats.
  • Catch Limits and Quotas: CCAMLR sets catch limits and quotas for commercially valuable species such as krill and Patagonian toothfish.

Ross Sea MPA:

  • Landmark Achievement: In 2016, CCAMLR made a significant conservation move by establishing the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area (MPA). It is one of the largest MPAs globally, covering an area of about 1.55 million square kilometers.
  • No-Take Zone: A substantial portion of the Ross Sea MPA is designated as a "no-take" zone, where fishing is prohibited to preserve the area's unique ecosystems.

Decision-Making Process:

  • Consensus-Based: Decisions within CCAMLR are made on a consensus basis, meaning that all member countries must agree for a decision to be adopted.
  • Annual Meetings: The commission holds annual meetings where members discuss and negotiate conservation measures and management strategies.

Challenges and Future Directions:

  • Climate Change: Climate change poses challenges to the Southern Ocean ecosystems, and CCAMLR is increasingly considering the impacts of climate change in its conservation efforts.
  • MPA Establishment: Efforts are ongoing to establish additional Marine Protected Areas in the Southern Ocean, with discussions on areas such as the East Antarctic and Weddell Sea.
  • Balancing Conservation and Fisheries: CCAMLR faces the challenge of balancing the conservation of ecosystems with the interests of the fishing industry in the region.

International Cooperation:

  • Collaboration with Other Organizations: CCAMLR collaborates with various international organizations and initiatives, including the Antarctic Treaty System, to address broader issues related to the Antarctic region.
  • CCAMLR plays a crucial role in the conservation and sustainable management of the marine resources in the Southern Ocean. Its efforts are integral to preserving the unique ecosystems of Antarctica and ensuring the responsible use of its marine living resources.

PRACTICE QUESTION

Question:

Consider the following statements regarding Marine Protected Areas (MPAs):

  1. MPAs are established to conserve and protect marine ecosystems and biodiversity.
  2. No-take zones within MPAs allow unrestricted human activities, including fishing and resource extraction.
  3. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) plays a significant role in the establishment of MPAs.

Which of the statements above is/are correct?

A) 1 only
B) 1 and 2 only
C) 1 and 3 only
D) 2 and 3 only

Answer: C) 1 and 3 only

Explanation:

  • MPAs for Conservation and Biodiversity:
    • Statement 1 is correct. MPAs are established to conserve and protect marine ecosystems and biodiversity. These areas are designated to limit human activities, such as fishing and other resource extraction, to ensure the sustainability of marine life.
  • No-Take Zones:
    • Statement 2 is incorrect. No-take zones within MPAs are areas where human activities, including fishing, are strictly prohibited. These zones are designed to act as fully protected areas, allowing marine ecosystems to recover and maintain healthy biodiversity.
  • IUCN's Role in MPAs:
    • Statement 3 is correct. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) plays a significant role in the establishment and management of MPAs. The IUCN provides guidelines and criteria for MPA designation and works with governments and organizations globally to promote effective conservation measures.

Therefore, the correct answer is C) 1 and 3 only.

PRACTICE QUESTION

Q. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have emerged as key tools for the conservation and sustainable management of marine ecosystems. Discuss the significance of MPAs in the context of biodiversity conservation, fisheries management, and their role in addressing global environmental challenges. Analyze the challenges faced in the establishment and effective management of MPAs and suggest measures to overcome these challenges. Illustrate your answer with relevant examples from around the world.

Model Answer

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are designated regions in oceans, seas, or other bodies of water where human activities are regulated to conserve and protect the marine environment and its biodiversity.

The primary goal of establishing MPAs is to safeguard ecosystems, preserve marine species, and promote sustainable use of marine resources.

Significance of MPAs:

  • Biodiversity Conservation:
    • MPAs serve as sanctuaries for diverse marine species, protecting critical habitats and fostering the recovery of threatened and endangered species.
    • By preserving biodiversity, MPAs contribute to the overall health and resilience of marine ecosystems.
  • Fisheries Management:
    • No-take zones within MPAs act as natural replenishment areas for fish stocks, ensuring sustainable fisheries by preventing overfishing.
    • The "spillover effect" from MPAs benefits adjacent fishing areas, supporting fisheries management and enhancing long-term productivity.
  • Global Environmental Challenges:
    • MPAs contribute to addressing global challenges such as climate change by preserving habitats that act as carbon sinks and enhancing ecosystem resilience.
    • Protecting biodiversity within MPAs helps mitigate the impacts of climate change on marine species.

Challenges in Establishment and Management:

  • Enforcement and Compliance:
    • Limited resources and capabilities for effective enforcement undermine the establishment of MPAs, leading to issues like illegal fishing.
    • Collaborative efforts are essential to strengthen surveillance and enforcement mechanisms.
  • Stakeholder Engagement:
    • Balancing the interests of local communities, fisheries, and conservationists can be challenging.
    • Inclusive stakeholder engagement, incorporating traditional knowledge and community-based management, can enhance MPA effectiveness.
  • Designation Criteria:
    • Determining appropriate size, location, and regulations for MPAs requires careful consideration of ecological and socio-economic factors.
    • Robust scientific research and collaboration can inform the optimal design of MPAs.

Measures to Overcome Challenges:

  • International Cooperation:
    • Strengthening international collaboration, as seen in the Southern Ocean's CCAMLR, facilitates the establishment of transboundary MPAs.
  • Technology Integration:
    • Employing advanced technologies such as satellite monitoring and artificial intelligence improves MPA surveillance and enforcement.
  • Community Involvement:
    • Emphasizing community participation in MPA decision-making and management fosters local support and ensures sustainable practices.

Illustrative Examples:

  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Australia):
    • Demonstrates the success of an MPA in conserving biodiversity and supporting sustainable tourism.
  • Chagos Marine Protected Area (Indian Ocean):
    • Highlights the challenges of balancing conservation with geopolitical interests and emphasizes the need for international cooperation.

In conclusion, MPAs are critical tools for addressing marine conservation challenges, and their effective establishment requires a holistic approach involving science, technology, community engagement, and international collaboration. Learning from successful examples and adapting strategies to diverse contexts can enhance the global impact of MPAs in sustaining marine ecosystems.

PRACTICE QUESTION

Question:

Which of the following is the largest Marine Protected Area (MPA) established to date?

A) Galápagos Marine Reserve

B) Papah─ünaumoku─ükea Marine National Monument

C) Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

D) Ross Sea Marine Protected Area

Answer: B) Papah─ünaumoku─ükea Marine National Monument

Explanation:

Papah─ünaumoku─ükea Marine National Monument, located in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, is the largest Marine Protected Area (MPA) established to date.

  • Papah─ünaumoku─ükea Marine National Monument:
    • Encompassing over 1.5 million square kilometers, it is one of the largest conservation areas globally.
    • Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it protects a diverse range of marine life, including endangered species such as Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles.
    • The monument restricts certain human activities to preserve the unique and fragile ecosystems found in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

The other options are also significant MPAs, but they are not the largest:

  • Galápagos Marine Reserve (A): Though crucial for biodiversity, it is not the largest MPA.
  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (C): It is the largest coral reef system but not the largest MPA in terms of total area.
  • Ross Sea Marine Protected Area (D): One of the largest and located in the Southern Ocean, it is significant but not the largest.

Therefore, the correct answer is B) Papah─ünaumoku─ükea Marine National Monument.

PRACTICE QUESTION

Question:

Which international organization is responsible for the conservation and sustainable management of marine living resources in the Southern Ocean, including the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)?

A) United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

B) International Maritime Organization (IMO)

C) Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)

D) Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

Answer: C) Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)

Explanation:

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) is the international organization responsible for the conservation and sustainable management of marine living resources in the Southern Ocean, including the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

  • CCAMLR:
    • Established in 1982 under the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.
    • Comprises member countries working together to conserve the unique ecosystems of the Southern Ocean.
    • Manages fisheries and aims to protect marine life, including through the establishment of MPAs.
    • Notable achievements include the establishment of the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area, one of the largest MPAs globally.

The other options are different international organizations with distinct roles:

  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) (A): Focuses on global environmental issues but is not specifically responsible for Southern Ocean marine conservation.
  • International Maritime Organization (IMO) (B): Concerned with the regulation of shipping, not marine conservation in the Southern Ocean.
  • Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) (D): Addresses global biodiversity conservation but does not have a specific mandate for the Southern Ocean.

Therefore, the correct answer is C) Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).