One of the first marine protected areas (MPAs) in the USA was established in 1963, the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Florida. At the time, this coral reef was set aside to provide recreational opportunities for divers and little thought was given to the possibility of recovering marine life. It took several decades before marine biologists started to evaluate the conservation impact of these reserves and realized their value for all marine life. But over the past 20 years a number of studies have shown that MPAs are a very important investment in healthy oceans.
Populations of commercially important species like the red grouper increased in the Tortugas region following the closure of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary's Tortugas Ecological Reserve. (NOAA)
Across the globe, scientists are documenting the success of marine protected areas that include no-take areas, where the killing of all marine life is prohibited, and they are showing significant recovery.
A recent US government report on the value of no-take protections within the Tortugas Ecological Reserve in Florida shows encouraging increases in fish abundance, coinciding with increases in regional commercial catches, since it was designated in 2001. Studies from the Cabo Pulmo National Park in Mexico, established in 1995, also show dramatic increases of over 400 percent in total fish biomass during a ten year span from 1999-2009
California, hoping to protect its coastal marine environment, recently established a state-wide network of 29 MPAs along its over 800 miles of coastline, with 86 m2 of state waters designated as "no-take" marine reserves. The results are already showing increases of certain fish species such as cabezon, lingcod, and rockfish within MPAs.
This after only six short years of protection!
California has set a high bar for marine protection and we are working to export this idea to other states and countries to set aside marine "wilderness," or places where natural processes can continue with minimal interference from us.
Despite these promising results, less than 1.8% of the ocean is protected inside marine reserves. Marine reserves are essential to ocean conservation and your support of the Marine Conservation Institute will help us secure more of these safe havens for marine life, so that our oceans are healthy and abundant for us and future generations.
Your support of the Marine Conservation Institute will help us secure more of these safe havens, so that our oceans are healthy and abundant for us and future generations.
Please learn more about our work to identify and conserve marine life on our website.