Thursday, November 29, 2012

Abrolhos Seascape: Brazil and Conservation International work together to form MPAs

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have shown themselves to be both effective ocean management tools and providers of economic renewal for local fisheries.  The forces that resist the establishing of an MPA are typically represented by the local fishing community as they are concerned that the no-take zones usually put in place within a marine protected area will mean reduced revenue.

Time and time again, the opposite has proven to be true.  By defining a potentially productive area fish-wise as off limits to commercial fishing, then the resident populations are given a chance to recover.  And, as fish do not recognize man-made boundaries, the inevitable spillover supplies the fishery with a catch sufficient to sustain the business.

This has happened in South America along the South Atlantic coast: the Abrolhos Seascape.  Within this region, the state of Bahia in Brazil has established two marine protected areas.  The first was the Abrolhos Marine National Park.  Over time, this park was expanded and recently the Corumbau Extractive Marine Reserve was added.  These MPAs were the end result of the efforts by the Brazilian government supported by Conservation International and other organizations.

According to Conservation International, "Through the establishment of both protected no-take zones and areas that allow fishing, the fish populations not only recovered — they thrived. And, as the fish from the no-take zones spilled over into the fishable waters, local fishermen saw an increase in their catch — nearly tripling their take of some commercially important species alone."

"This bounty not only directly improved the livelihoods of local communities, it revitalized the regional economy as well, bringing with it the expansion of services like electricity and secondary education — services to which many in the region had never before had access. These positive changes also led to new, more sustainable opportunities in tourism, now the primary source of income in the region."

The Abrolhos Seascape coral reefs and shoreline mangroves were suffering from illegal fishing and destructive aquaculture practices.  Organizations like Conservation International have the scientific and research resources to assist governments in determining both the extent of the problem and how best to deal with it.  This is the beauty of large organizations that can support and influence ocean management policy through more than just words, thereby becoming real instruments of change. 

At nearly 37,000 square miles, the Abrolhos Seascape is not the largest marine area to see mandatory protection.  There are some MPAs that are as many as 10x larger or more. But it is proving to be a very productive reserve for the marine ecosystem and the local fisheries.  Success need not be measure in big steps; little steps can make a big difference too.

Source: Conservation International       

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