What is a marine sanctuary, and do they work?

What is a marine sanctuary?

A marine sanctuary is an area of ocean set aside for conservation.  Marine life, including fish, and habitat is fully protected.  Mining and fishing is not permitted.  It is similar to a National Park on land.

What are the benefits of marine sanctuaries?

Marine sanctuaries are the best way to protect marine life and threatened marine species:

“With 32% of GBR reef area in no-take reefs, and fish densities about two times greater on those reefs, fish populations across the ecosystem have increased considerably…the reserve network is also helping the plight of threatened species like dugongs and marine turtles.”

Comment from authors of the paper, Adaptive Management of the Great Barrier Reef: a globally significant demonstration of the benefits of a network of marine reserves, (Feb 2010), a paper written by 21 of Australia’s leading marine scientists.

Marine sanctuaries underpin sustainable fishing, and can help reverse declining catches and help support food production:

“Global evidence, including from the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo Marine Parks, shows that fish abundance and biomass are 2 to 5 times greater within sanctuary zones than areas that are open to fishing. .. sanctuary zones enhance fishing through the spill-over of adults into fished areas … increasing evidence suggests that commercial fishing yields are highest near marine park boundaries.”

Open letter from 10 leading Western Australian marine scientists, Camden Sound – the perfect candidate for a large marine sanctuary, Published in The West Australian 22nd March 2010

Marine sanctuaries are good for tourism and long term sustainable fisheries, they can help supporting regional economic growth:

“The results of the study indicate that even without the non-market benefits of marine protection, the combination of fishery buffer benefits, spillovers for commercial and recreational fishers and increased ecotourism benefits are likely to outweigh the displacement costs.”

Dr Martin Van Bueren, Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers (formerly Allen Consulting), The Economics of Marine Protected Areas: Application of Principles to Australia’s Southwest Marine Region, Nov 2009

There is a national and international science consensus that high levels of marine sanctuary protection will protect marine life, and marine sanctuaries are supported by Australia’s leading marine science organisations:

“A figure of 10% under no-take protection would slow but not prevent loss of biodiversity: the current no-take level in the GBRMP of 33% is more likely to achieve substantial and sustained biodiversity benefits… Rare and vulnerable ecosystems or communities should be provided with greater protection – up to 100% where an isolated ecosystem or habitat type is endangered”

Statement from the Australian Marine Science Association (AMSA), “Position statement on marine protected areas” (2008) (note: AMSA is Australia’s leading marine science association)

“The final MPA network should consist of a minimum of 30% of the area of each Bioregion… Individual conservation features should all be represented in high protection zones at a minimum of 30%… Conservation features that are known to be significant, threatened, or in a degraded state will normally require greater proportional representation”

Scientific Principles for Design of Marine Protected Areas in Australia: A Guidance Statement, (2009), produced by University of Queensland and endorsed by 60 of Australia’s top marine scientists.

“Creating a worldwide system of very large marine no-take areas is an essential and long-overdue contribution to improving stewardship of the global marine environment.”

Statement from the PEW Global Ocean Legacy, 8th June 2010, signed by over 245 leading marine scientists from more than 35 countries.

Is there evidence they work in the real world?

Numerous case studies from around Australia and the world demonstrate that marine sanctuaries are a highly effective tool for protecting threatened species, enhancing biodiversity and helping improve fishing.

Poor Knights Islands Snapper, NZ

In 1999 the marine reserve was closed to recreational fishing after a previous closure to commercial fishing had little effect.  In 2009, after 10 years of full no-take protection there were 14 times more large snapper in the reserve.

Poor Knights Islands  Marine Reserve and Mimiwhangata Marine Park fish monitoring 2009, DOC, NZ

Rottnest Island Crayfish, WA

Density of lobsters was ~34 times higher in the sanctuary, and density of lobsters above minimum legal size around 50 times higher than in other areas around the island where recreational fishing is allowed. Mean carapace length (CL), total biomass and egg production of lobsters in the sanctuary zone were significantly higher than in adjacent fished areas.

Increased density, biomass and egg production in an unfished population of Western Rock Lobster (Panulirus cygnus) at Rottnest Island, Western Australia, Babcock et al, 2007

Leigh Marine Reserve, Rodney, NZ

The Total Output in Rodney dependent on the existence of the marine reserve is estimated to be $18.6 million per year. Some $12.1 million of this is direct spend by visitors and the balance is the result of flow-on effect through the district economy. Associated with this output is Total Value Added of $8.2 million per year and employment for 173 FTE’s (full time equivalents) in Rodney, including 10 jobs in marine reserve-related activities.The majority of day visitors (54 %) said that if the marine reserve did not exist then they would not visit, or would be unlikely to visit, the district on the day they were interviewed.

Economic Impact Analysis of the Cape Rodney Okakari Point (Leigh) Marine Reserve on the Rodney District, L Hunt, 2008

More examples can be found all over the internet.  This is another recent one published a few months ago – More than Fishy Business: A Literature Review of Marine Parks, Dr Nancy Bray, University of Adelaide





6 thoughts on “What is a marine sanctuary, and do they work?

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