A couple of weeks ago, I took a summer course at my University called ‘’International Nature Conservation’’ and I think it’s safe to say that so far, it’s the most interesting course I’ve ever had. Among many issues and subjects, we got to do IUCN species assessments using their criteria, prioritizing areas of interest for protection, and looking into biodiversity hotspots.
But the most important knowledge I got from the course, and what really got to me, was when realizing the difficulties a biologist or conservationist has to go through, when political and economic factors come into play.
For example, let’s take a marine area that due to human exploitation has lost a substantial amount of its biodiversity and the ecosystem goes out of balance. If this area is also important to commercial fisheries, or other human activities, then economic factors will prevent this area from becoming protected, since fishermen and politicians have their own interests for that area. What needs to be pointed out here is that marine protected areas should not be thought of as “something a bunch of hippies want”, but more in the sense that they need to be implemented so that the ecosystem can come into balance again.
From that point and on, fisheries can start catching fish again. If they do it in a sustainable way, they will be able to continue fishing. If they don’t, then the area will need to be protected again after just a few years, stopping fishermen in the area from earning a living. Things are of course more complicated that the example given above, but the basic idea stays the same, when different interests for the same area occur.
Check out some of Oceana’s proposals for Marine Protected Areas here: Marine Protected Areas.