Several scientific studies provide proof of the successes of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in enhancing biodiversity and benefiting sea life and habitats (e.g. FAO 2012 and references therein). MPAs provide species and habitats a place to rebuild and flourish; and they are also needed to maintain and restore (when possible) the damaged ecosystems. The areas set aside need to be large enough to minimize human caused stress factors as much as possible. For example, areas facing reduced pressure, where fisheries have been banned or restricted, have healthier communities and often host fish that are significantly bigger and more plentiful than in the areas outside reserves. As fish get bigger in a protected area, productivity increases and creates a spillover effect (of larvae and fish) into surrounding areas leading to bigger catches in these neighboring areas.
When properly managed, the Marine Protected Areas aid in:
· Conservation of biodiversity, including protection of rare, scarce and threatened species, communities and habitats.
·Protection a specific life history stage, for instance MPAs can promote increased fish stocks by providing refugia for fish eggs and larvae and improve recruitment.
·Maintaining the value of diverse communities in providing resistance and resilience to change in marine communities. This helps communities buffer against adverse effects, like climate change.
·Protection and maintenance of ‘ecosystem goods and services’ that biodiversity provides and on which humans are very much dependent.
·Reducing fisheries bycatch, discards and other negative impacts on target and non‑target species.
·MPAs can also aid in dealing with threats. In the Baltic Sea these include eutrophication and pollution by hazardous substances, physical disturbance by destructive fishing practices, dredging which reduces diversity in communities, alien species and climate change, the impacts of can be unexpected and irreversible on the ecosystems and their functions.
Marine Protected Areas vary in the type of protection schemes in place. In addition to the broad designation of MPAs, a recent study on the recovery of fish stocks suggests that about 10 to 20 % of marine waters should be nominated as ‘fish stock recovery areas’ (a type of MPA) to enable the recovery of commercially important species (European Parliament, 2012). Within these areas, fishing is prohibited to facilitate conservation and recovery of fish stocks. Some MPAs might allow the targeting of some resources depending on its conservation objectives. Larger MPAs may include different user zones and adjacent buffer areas.Download the Report