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Biology, Sustainability

Higher Protection Means Higher Benefits

The oceans are, without question, under pressure. Overfishing, habitat degradation, pollution, and acidification are all taking their toll. There are however a growing number of marine protected areas. But that requires that these areas are actually effective.

This is the question that Jacquemont et al (2022) asked. Specifically they were looking at the impacts of marine protected areas (MPAs) for climate change mitigation. The hope being that MPAs will absorb significant amounts of carbon dioxide.

The good news is that MPAs can absorb carbon dioxide. They also increase biodiversity and protect coastlines. From a fishing perspective the higher reproductive levels in the MPAs also has a side benefit: increasing the number of fish in the neighbouring area. All of these benefits are great and sorely needed to combat both climate change and ecological degradation. They also have the potential to increase catch sizes for local sustainable fishing and decrease the required spending to protect coastlines. But there’s a catch.

These benefits only occur in highly or fully protected areas with no fishing allowed in the MPA. The benefits also increased with time: older MPAs saw higher benefits. This means, I would guess that they can be a hard sell initially. Presumably there are costs associated with setting up an MPA and there are likely short term negative economic impacts that have to be weathered until the benefits of high levels of protection start occurring. Short term loss for long term gain isn’t really what Western cultures at least are known for.

To me, this is a good example of how subsidizing protection efforts in the short term can lead to better outcomes in the long term. If we can make it possible for people to still meet their needs and maintain or improve their quality of life while protections take hold then perhaps we can increase support for protected areas. Then, as the protected areas start being effective the local economy can be restored.

About Tai Munro

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities.

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