Scientists call for large ocean wilderness parks

Apr 15, 2013

Leading international marine scientists have called for the protection of more, large marine wilderness areas in a bid to shield the world's dwindling stocks of fish from destruction.

Working in the world's largest unfished reserve, the remote Chagos Archipelago in the central Indian Ocean, scientists from Australia and the US have shown there is a dramatic difference in the numbers, size and variety of fish compared with smaller marine parks.

Their findings in two new reports provide the world's first clear evidence that large-scale marine wilderness reserves are better for conserving fish than the far more common, small marine protected areas (MPAs) that many governments and fishing communities are presently implementing.

"The bottom line is that we found six times more fish in the Chagos 'no take' area than we did in even the best-managed Marine Reserves elsewhere in the Indian Ocean," says lead author of the reports, Dr Nick Graham of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral and James Cook University.

"There was also a dramatic difference in types of species that dominate with a far richer variety of predatory and large-bodied with big home ranges in the Chagos," adds his colleague, Dr Tim McClanahan, of the .

Coral cover in the Chagos area was almost complete, having recovered rapidly from a major bleaching episode, in 1998.

The Chagos Archipelago, also known as the British Indian Ocean Territory, and its entire 640,000 square kilometre area was designated a no-take zone in April 2010, making it the largest such marine reserve in the world. It is in the central Indian Ocean due south of the Maldives.

"In recent times there have been bold moves by nations such as Britain, Australia and the United States to set aside much larger areas of open ocean in an effort to try to conserve that appear to be dwindling all around the planet," Dr Graham explains.

"What wasn't clearly known before now was whether there is a significant difference in conservation impact of large remote unfished reserves of 1000s of square kilometers, as opposed to the much smaller ones of tens of square kilometers that are typical of populated coastlines. Well, now we know the answer."

The researchers say it is important to have large areas of oceans protected from human impacts, not only to preserve fish stocks and protect vulnerable marine species – but also as an undisturbed baseline for understanding the changes that human population pressures and climate change are bringing to the oceans as a whole.

"There seems little doubt that formal legislative protection of some of the world's last remaining marine 'wilderness' locations, such as the Chagos protected area, is a critical step to maintaining some near-pristine legacy areas in the oceans," they say.

The researchers acknowledge that marine reserves closer to centres of human population require different kinds of management and need to be smaller, to ensure that people can still draw their livelihoods and food from the sea – and these smaller also provide important conservation gains.

As world stocks decline, large remote wilderness reserves require careful protection against plundering by illegal and 'pirate' fishing concerns.

"Clearly marine wilderness does promote a unique ecological community, which smaller no-take areas fail to attain, and formal legislation is therefore critical to protect these last marine ," the scientists conclude.

Explore further: US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

More information: Graham, N., McClahahan, T. The last call for marine wilderness? Bioscience, www.access.aibs.org/?page=BioScienceindex

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Naive fish easy targets for spear fishers

Nov 13, 2012

(Phys.org)—Big fish that have grown up in marine reserves do not seem to know enough to avoid fishers armed with spear guns waiting outside the reserve.

How much protection is enough?

Feb 27, 2013

Protection of marine areas from fishing increases density and biomass of fish and invertebrates (such as lobster and scallops) finds a systematic review published in BioMed Central's open access journal Environmental Evidence. The su ...

Recommended for you

US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

Apr 18, 2014

The United States announced Friday a fresh delay on a final decision regarding a controversial Canada to US oil pipeline, saying more time was needed to carry out a review.

New research on Earth's carbon budget

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

UAE reports 12 new cases of MERS

Health authorities in the United Arab Emirates have announced 12 new cases of infection by the MERS coronavirus, but insisted the patients would be cured within two weeks.