Why Do We Need MPAs?


Marine Protected Areas, or otherwise known as MPAs, are an essential tool needed to slow and reverse the oceans’ downward trajectory. The benefits of establishing and effectively managing an MPA has been studied for years. Scientists have repeatedly shown that the establishment and enforcement of MPAs lead to:

Fish Biomass, Abundance and Diversity Increases in MPAs

Fisheries and marine biodiversity are continuing to decline, therefore marine protected areas (MPAs) can be used to create sustainability in the fishing industry. Scientists have repeatedly shown that MPAs can rapidly increase the biomass and diversity of species in both tropical and temperate ecosystems serving as insurance policies against the impacts of fishing.

Across the globe, fishing is rarely sustainable (Pauly et al. 2002) and often dramatically affects targeted populations, reducing abundance, biomass, and size, affecting the adult fecundity viability of offspring, (Berkeley et al. 2004) and impacting genetic capacity for growth (Law and Stokes 2005). The evidence of fishing impacts on marine ecosystems is ubiquitous and compelling (Jackson et al. 2001). 

fish2172.jpgPhoto: C. Ortiz Rojas/NOAA

An overwhelming body of scientific theory and evidence from around the world indicates that effectively managed no-take marine reserves can reverse the effects of overfishing and destructive fishing methods (Lester et al., 2009). In highly protected, well-managed and enforced MPAs diversity and abundance of marine life increases. Fishes reproducing within these areas spill over into surrounding areas and positively benefit surrounding human communities (Gell and Roberts, 2003Guidetti, 2007Lester et al., 2009).

MPAs protect from Climate Change Effects Such as Natural Disasters and Coral Disease

Coral reefs and mangrove forests act as a natural barriers from natural disasters. Coral reefs act like breakwaters breaking down the force of waves before they hit land, while mangrove forests act as shock-absorbers, absorbing extra wave energy. In addition, mangrove forests also buffer against coastal erosion, sequester carbon and filter terrestrial pollution. Protecting these marine ecosystems essentially protects the 3.5 billion people who live in coastal areas. 

In a recent study by Lamb et al. 2015, Great Barrier Reef marine played a significant role in reducing the prevalence of coral disease. Coral diseases were found more often in reefs that were not protected, signifying that high levels of injured corals, from fishing and other activities, were more vulnerable to diseases.

ci_40802177_cropped.jpgFrom HumanNature: Mangroves and coral reefs in Raja Ampat, Indonesia. (© Burt Jones and Maurine Shimlock)

MPAs would Provide Big Boost to Ocean Economy

A recent analysis commissioned by WWF on MPAs has shown that investing in the creation of MPAs is expected to triple benefits returned through factors such as fisheries, coastal protection and employment. “The report found that increased protection of critical habitats could result in net benefits of between US$490 billion and US$920 billion accruing over the period 2015-2050.”

These benefits have motivated a number of nations to set goals for MPA coverage of their ocean territories, and international bodies are working to establish MPAs on the high seas. Marine protected areas, if managed properly, can be an effective way of protecting marine ecosystems and their associated cultural and historical heritage for future generations to experience and enjoy.

Summary of MPA Benefits

Although there are many reasons MPA’s are important, some of the best reasons to support them are because: