Dissected by Dr J Floor Anthoni (2003)
Scientific Principles for Marine Reserve Systems
By Bill Ballantine, Leigh Marine Laboratory
MPA News No 40, 5 April 2003
Our interpretation in blue - Floor Anthoni
Listen carefully to one of the most influential pro-marine reserve voices.
Progress in establishing fully protected marine reserves has been slow and highly variable among regions. Most reserves have been small and isolated, and were created for special reasons that were locally acceptable. However, on a world scale, progress has been continuous and has steadily accelerated. Recently, systems of marine reserves have been discussed, and last year the first two systems were established - in Victoria, Australia and around the Channel Islands, California (MPA News 4:7 and 4:6).
Most of the world's marine reserves (over 60%) do not achieve their objectives. They have failed. It is not surprising that systems (networks) of marine reserves are being tried in affluent states in temperate climates. It is still too early to say that these systems are operational, let alone that they are working. [Channel Islands marine reserve network Jan 2003, 448km2 in 11 no-take marine reserves, established by Dept Fish & Game California]Moving to a consideration of systems - as opposed to individual protected areas - significantly changes almost everything, from science and economics to politics.
[Victoria Australia, Nov 2002, 540km2 containing both National Parks & marine Sanctuaries]
Both the USA and Australia have not had extensive experience with established marine reserves, so they are not yet aware of the threats caused by land-based pollution, which renders them ineffectual.
Why? What is so different between a set of individual marine reserves and a system? How does it change science, economics and politics? What scientific principle is this based on?We need clear scientific principles. In this article, I assume a commitment to systems, and attempt to list the set of scientific principles required. It is encouraging that members of the general public regard most of these principles as common sense. Argument mainly comes from those managers and scientists who find difficulty upgrading their thoughts from the very real problems in establishing single reserves.
Strong opposition comes from those who work with the sea on a day-to-day basis, and who have acquired an intimate knowledge of its intricacies. By comparison, Dr Ballantine does not dive or fish and is not able to verify what he says, neither has he done any marine reserve related research. There are many people like him in the pro-marine reserves lobby. The set of scientific principles is by and large unknown to the public, and does not have support or are regarded as common sense. If they were, this article would have no purpose. We have not heard or seen any argument from managers and scientists in this respect.1. Systems of fully protected marine reserves are an addition to standard marine management. Detailed (i.e., problem-solving) and general (i.e., zoning) management will continue to apply and develop in the majority of the sea. Marine reserves are a new and different approach but provide support to standard management, especially in the absence of good data or a full understanding of the ecology.
OK, did you get it? Sentences like these are designed to confuse. Does it say anything at all?2. Systems of marine reserves are fully proactive. The aim is to conserve (or restore) the whole range of marine biodiversity and to maintain all the intrinsic ecological processes. While they are likely to reduce some existing problems, this is incidental.
Why is a system proactive (as opposed to reactive) but a marine reserve not? Did we miss a scientific principle here? Do individual marine reserves not protect the whole range of biodiversity and processes in their areas? Why do networks only incidentally reduce some existing problems? Is there another scientific principle we missed?3. Marine reserves have multiple benefits to many sectors of society. All of these derive from the less disturbed (more natural) state, and are optimized by increasing the degree of naturalness.
If there are multiple benefits to society, shouldn't these have been experienced in New Zealand with over 16 marine reserves? The benefits of marine reserves live mainly in the heads of protagonists. Only places with clear water and good access deliver some benefits to some people in some sectors of society. Have we missed something here? Is this a principle of the system?4. In scientific terms, marine reserves are controls, not manipulations. Despite the viewpoint of politicians, by definition there cannot be an “effect” of the blank, the undisturbed piece. This is not a trivial or semantic point. The reversal of logic in talking about “reserve effects” seriously distorts thinking. When the density of a target species inside a reserve reaches 10 or 20 times
Largely true. However, Man has for a very long time been part of the 'disturbed' piece, hunting for food in competition with natural predators. This 'disturbed' environment then became the normal, such that marine reserves are now the abnormal. Is this part of the principle of the system?5. Single marine reserves become less disturbed (more natural), but this takes time. Some changes take place quite quickly, but others may take 5, 10, or 20 years.
The sea is able of recovering rapidly (decades) as opposed to the land where a natural forest may take a millennium to recover. Most of the recovery happens inside a decade. When a marine reserve recovers 90% in 5 years, 99% in 10, 99.9% in 15 years, then scientists still expect some large change to happen at age 20, which is illogical. This reasoning stems from a scientific blooper in New Zealand where a large ecosystem shift was observed after age 20. Scientists attributed the expansion of the kelp forest to the beneficial effect of protection (large predators eating urchins who eat kelp) but what they saw was caused by degradation (the kelp forest dying in 1993 and urchin mortality later on).6. Systems of marine reserves will become even less disturbed, but this takes even longer. While it is clear that reserves are less disturbed (and therefore a sensible baseline), the baseline will shift.
Isn't this a bit of fantasy? There exists no scientific principle to support this. What it essentially claims is that the good effect of distant marine reserves does more than the bad effect of adjacent non-reserves. This principle is also based on the scientific blooper mentioned in point 5 above. As the sea degrades from landbased pollution, systems of marine reserves become more disturbed. Global changes also have an effect.7. Changes within the reserve system will slowly affect the region outside the reserves and produce changes there. These are the reserve effects and are of great interest to fisheries and other resource users.
Again more dreamwork, lacking scientific support. What it says is that by having more reserves, the proportionally smaller areas in between, will benefit more, like the tail wagging the dog. It is like saying that locking 50% of the sea away is better than 10%. But how does this work for a 10% network? Is the area in between reserves A and B better off with a distant reserve C? See remark above. Why will it slowly affect the region outside when the recovery inside is claimed to happen fast? This kind of reasoning aims to invent benefits that are much smaller than year-to-year fluctuations. This claim stems from the observation that marine reserves produce bigger fish which produce more spawn. However, this goes at the expense of other organisms on which the bigger fish feed, resulting in less spawn overall.8. All these changes are essentially unpredictable, although when a particular type has been observed several times, it is probable in similar situations.
Yes, these changes are unpredictable because they are too small to be observed. The second part of the sentence says: if it waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is most probably a duck.9. The shifting baselines and the initial lack of prediction are often regarded as problems, but the situation should be seen as an opportunity for science and management. Analogous problems occur in other branches of science (e.g. physiologists can never precisely define a healthy animal, and keep learning more about what this means). A wide watching brief is needed to notice the changes, but for the first time we will have an objective (and steadily improving) measure of the intrinsic properties of marine habitats and ecosystems.
Has anyone ever regarded the apparent improvement (prograding) in a marine reserve as a problem? Most marine reserves in New Zealand are degrading! Bravo, indeed one needs to watch the progress of a marine reserve with care and this naturally should include the thousands of species contributing to its habitats. However, here in New Zealand this has not been done while attention focused solely on three commercially caught species. When 85% of the crayfish (Jasus edwardsii, palinuridae) walked out after a prolonged period of muddy water, not a single scientist of the Marine Laboratory in Leigh noticed it, not even those groups working with crayfish! After two decades of marine research, still no quantitative method has been developed to evaluate the intrinsic properties of marine habitats, ecosystems and marine reserves. As a result, most marine scientists here and elsewhere are oblivious to the amount of degradation happening behind their backs. Of the thousands of publications about marine reserves, less than a small part of one percent involve themselves with degradation, world's number one coastal problem. So much for meaningful marine science!10. These considerations make the scientific principles for establishment of marine reserve systems relatively clear and straightforward. Systems must be: (here come the real principles)
Again this statement is not supported by any of the principles mentioned above, which suggests that these principles (1-9) would amount to bad policy. What the author infers is that if we keep the system (network) idea in mind, it would allow people a proper role in the precise arrangement of the reserves. (mmmm). Would this be different for marine reserves without a network? The Trojan Horse (hidden enemy) in this statement is that some dictator should adopt an X% network policy, which then coerces all others to place marine reserves accordingly, without further consultation or questioning of the policy, or compensation for that matter.12. None of the above points or principles are original, and most have already been adopted in at least some regions for some aspects of reserve establishment. The move to systems, however, makes general acceptance of the basic principles urgent and important.
Common sense says that the points above (except 10) are nonsensical, particularly for basing any policy on. Will the author please explain which regions have adopted which aspects of the 'principles' above, excepting point 10? Why would general acceptance of this kind of nonsense be urgent and important?
Editor ’s note:
Bill Ballantine, author of this perspective piece, is a marine biologist at the Leigh Marine Laboratory, University of Auckland. He has advocated the concept of no-take marine reserves since the 1960s, and helped promote many of the 18 reserves in New Zealand waters. He was awarded a Goldman Prize in 1996 for his grassroots efforts in support of marine reserves.
Ballantine is writing an extended version of this piece for a presentation he is scheduled to give at the Society of Conservation Biology meeting June 2003 in Duluth, Minnesota, USA.
We hope the Editor understood what the author said. In our opinion he would be better advised to take more care. To the attentive reader it will be obvious that the marine reserve lobby is dominated by nonsensical arguments of which this article is typical.
For more information
W.J. (Bill) Ballantine, Leigh Marine Laboratory, University of Auckland, Box 349, Warkworth, New Zealand.
el: +64 9 422 6071; E-mail: email@example.com ; Web: www.marine-reserves.org.nz .
By Cat Lazaroff
SAN FRANCISCO, California, February 22, 2001 (ENS)
Reader please note that our comments (in blue) do not reflect on
the author's competence or the Environmental News Service. Both have done an excellent job.
Click here for the text of this consensus statement.
There is now compelling scientific evidence that marine reserves conserve both biodiversity and fisheries, and could help to replenish the seas, says a scientific consensus statement signed by 150 of the world's leading marine scientists. The statement was released this week at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting.
This statement is based mainly on the work of a survey carried out by America's National Centre for Ecological Analysis (NCEAS) of 100 'no take' areas around the world showing these reserves had an average increase of 91% in the number of fish, 31% in size of fish, and 23% in number of species. This study drew statistics from publications and put them into a statistical mixer, without regard for their context, biogeographical regions, state of fishery or them being the result of fisheries regulation. How naive."Dying coral reefs, toxic algal blooms, massive fish kills and the collapse of fisheries are symptoms of fundamental changes in ocean life that are caused, in part, by overfishing," said Stephen Palumbi of Harvard University. "Overfishing, pushed by a hungry world's demand for seafood, has moved species of fish toward extinction and permanent marine parks may be the only answer to save them."
It is sad that 150 scientists lack the objectivity and doubt associated with true science, unable to pierce through the failed logic and to distinguish fact from opinion. Too many papers on this subject contain pure opinion.
Mr Palumbi is out of his depth here. How can marine parks protect against toxic algal blooms and massive fish kills? How can marine parks prevent overfishing? There exists no scientific evidence that marine parks fix the causes of our problems. Pushing to extinction are strong words for declining marine species. A fishery collapse does not come near extinction, as is borne out by their fast recovery during temporary area closures. This kind of scaremongering embraced by scientists is not acceptable."All around the world there are different experiences, but the basic message is the same: marine reserves work, and they work fast," agreed past AAAS president Dr. Jane Lubchenco. "It is no longer a question of whether to set aside fully protected areas in the ocean, but where to establish them. We urge the immediate application of fully protected marine reserves as a central oceans management tool."
If marine reserves work fast (true), then this could only mean that the problem is small (true), and could have been solved in other ways. The benefit of marine reserves for fishing have never been substantiated. Indeed, ecological principle insists that they CANNOT provide more than they take away. The experience in New Zealand has proved for over 25 years that marine reserves do not work as a central oceans management tool. They are still not used as such.Lubchenco is co-chair of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), a federally funded think tank on questions of ecology, based at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The new scientific theory of marine reserves presented at the meeting is the culmination of three years of study by an international group of leading marine scientists working through NCEAS.
The NCEAS did this naive study mentioned above. There exists no scientific theory of marine reserves. If a new idea is presented, it can only be a hypothesis, which can grow into theory after a long period of testing and having passed all tests without failure. What is meant here is opinion rather than theory.At the 1997 AAAS meeting in Seattle, Washington, scientists reviewed the state of the oceans and identified research priorities. In response, an international team of scientists was established at NCEAS, and charged with developing a better scientific understanding of marine reserves. This new analysis now provides the scientific evidence necessary to establish additional reserves that scientists can be confident will work.
The research proved the opposite, that marine reserves provide only marginal benefits to fish stocks outside (the largest area), and when taken into account that they close the fishery in the protected area, the overall benefit is negative. It is sad that scientists, who do not know the hand that feeds them, did not do a proper cost-benefit analysis on fisheries criteria (not eco-tourism).The declining state of the oceans and the collapse of many fisheries creates a critical need for more effective management of marine biodiversity, populations of exploited species and the overall health of the oceans, marine scientists believe. While marine protected areas (MPA's) and Marine Sanctuaries have been designated to enhance conservation, they often allow activities such as fishing and mining, whereas marine reserves do not.
What the scientists fail to mention is that fisheries collapses have occurred in scientifically managed fisheries. Both scientists and their computer models are at fault. Being unable to confess this and having run out of ideas, they now embrace the marine reserve concept as a panacea (cure-all). Having had failed experience with marine parks, they now seek refuge in no-take marine reserves and networks of these.Within marine reserves, researchers found: Population densities were on average 91 percent higher than those outside reserves biomass was 192 percent higher average organism size was 31 percent higher species diversity was 23 percent higher "The results are startling and consistent," said Dr. Robert Warner of the University of California, Santa Barbara. "We now have strong evidence that reserves work. Within and around marine parks, fish population doubles, fish size grows by 30 percent and reproduction triples."
These are the results that came out of the statistical mixer, as explained above. However, when each statistic is placed within its context, the picture becomes quite different. One simply cannot generalise about the effects of marine reserves. Too much depends on the actual situation. One cannot take results from highly exploited tropical reefs and apply them to moderately exploited temperate areas. Scientists like Robert Warner, of which there are unfortunately too many, do not take enough caution in interpreting scientific results. To make a public statement like this is anathema to true science."Furthermore, it all happens within two to four years and it lasts for decades," Warner said. The size and abundance of exploited species also increases in areas adjacent to reserves, the study found. Reserves serve as natural hatcheries, replenishing populations throughout the region as young fish and other species spill over beyond reserve boundaries.
More proof that the problem is quite small, if recovery happens within two to four years. The spillover effect mentioned here, has been proved over and over again to be very much smaller than the lost fishery. It is sad that scientists who know better, still refuse to mention this.Dr. Callum Roberts of Harvard University has worked closely with fishers around the world and cited numerous case studies of successful marine reserves. In New Zealand, despite violent opposition at the outset, fishers have now become the champions of reserves where they have seen populations of snappers increase 40 fold.
Dr Roberts has not worked with New Zealand fishermen. Had he done so, he would have known that only the ones working from Leigh have been brain-washed with pro-marine reserve propaganda. Indeed they once were in favour of marine reserves, but in the meantime their eyes have opened and they have relied more on what they themselves experience in the sea. The opposition from fishers to marine reserves that do not deliver, has grown strong in recent years. It is sad that Dr Roberts has not verified the source of his data.
|In 1994, three
large areas totaling 17,000 square kilometers in the Gulf of Maine were
closed to all fishing methods that put groundfish at risk. Scallops flourished
in the undisturbed habitat. Within five years their populations rebounded
to nine to 14 times their density in fished areas.
The Gulf of Maine fishery closure proves that temporary fishery closures work and that 'extinct' fish can rebound quickly. See the diagram. The green graph is herring biomass Mt, and the red curve is catches in kt (1000 ton).Monitoring showed scallop fishers hugging the edge of the closed areas, benefiting from high catches as a result of adults and their offspring moving outside the reserves.
Please also mention that the number of scallop dredgers has declined precipitously, which resulted in higher catches for those who remained. Stay with the facts. It is sad that these kinds of 'scientists' obscure results they don' like.
Marine reserves differ from parks on land because most marine species disperse through the water as larvae or spores, moved by tides and currents. Dispersal distances of 20 to 50 kilometers are not uncommon and 500 to 1000 kilometers is possible in some cases due to currents.
True. They also differ because they have not been burnt, logged, ploughed for crops, built on and motorways cut through. Neither do they suffer from introduced pest species such as rats, cats, stoats, goats and others. The marine environment is still more pristine than parks on land, even though it has been fished heavily. However, land-based pollution is now its main enemy, changing every marine habitat and ecosystem while affecting thousands of unfished species. This is not the case with land parks. Why do these scientists fail to focus on the oceans' number one threat?"You want to design reserves so that they have a spillover effect in helping replenish the ocean beyond the protected area," said Dr. Steve Palumbi of Harvard University. "Well designed networks are the key."
Perhaps growing from the observation that individual marine reserves don't work, scientists are now embracing the network idea, as in 'more is better'. Immediately they urge the world to establish networks or systems of marine reserves, based on no scientific evidence at all. It is sad that scientists fail to test their ideas with a pilot study (of a network) before committing the world to an ill-conceived plan.Note that computer models based on assumptions are now the driving forceUsing new knowledge of larval dispersal patterns, scientists can determine the optimal span, spacing and size of the reserves. The NCEAS studies demonstrate that networks of fully protected marine reserves linked both ecologically, through larval dispersal, and physically, through ocean currents, are much more likely to achieve the full array of benefits that marine resource managers are being called upon to deliver.
All this new knowledge is based on computer modelling studies that have not been checked against reality. These people work with idealised conceptions of the real world, in the end believing that the real world should behave likewise. There has been no verification of these virtual world ideas. For instance, the time spent in the plankton differs for each organism. Although ocean currents have an effect, the wind-driven surface currents, which are more important, have not been included in these models. Furthermore, the vagaries of the plankton ecosystem are not understood at all.But it is handy to have fluid dynamics computer models.Single isolated reserves, which have been favored by resource managers in the past, are much less likely to provide meaningful protections, the researchers concluded.
If there are problems with single isolated reserves, let's identify them and fix them. They are most likely caused by scientists' overoptimism and their penchant for exaggerating the benefits. Notice the careful choice of much less likely, indicating guesswork.Notice also the new God, the resource manager.The scientists also presented a new computer based tool that can map and design reserve systems for fishery managers across the U.S. and the world. Fisheries managers will be able to map out reserves based on specific conservation goals such as how representation of 20 percent of all habitats might translate in the water in ways that make stakeholders happy.
It is hard to imagine bigger nonsense than this. Firstly, of all the thousands of computer based tools for environmental management invented in the recent past, only very few have survived their practicality test. What is placed into a computer model or program is inaccessible for verification. Many scientists use spreadsheets for instance, the correctness of which cannot be proved. Errors are inevitable. A model furthermore is only as good as its basic assumptions (inputs + parameters + formulas). GIGO means Garbage In, Garbage Out, how true. It is naive to believe that stakeholders' expectations can be met with computer models.This new technology has the potential to revolutionize the design of future protected areas, as in the Channel Islands where it is being applied in efforts to establish fully protected marine zones.
One needs to be an insider and a very frequent diver as well as a devout marine naturalist in order to see the nonsense behind all this. Just watch what comes out of it. If scientists need such technology, it could only mean that they have lost the plot, being unable to do better than a computer program. How will they explain the computer's decision to the public?Pollution leaking from septic tanks and nutrients in runoff from the Florida mainland have reduced corals in this marine protected area in recent years. (Staghorn corals in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Photo courtesy Marine Conservation Biology Institute [not included here])
What can marine reserves do to these land-based sources of pollution? What can systems or networks achieve against these threats? Read about the blackwater threat to the FKNMS (on this site, with links).Yet even with the new scientific consensus emerging, the future of reserves in the U.S. is uncertain. Questions about the efficacy of marine reserves are being raised again by the new administration in response to former President Bill Clinton's executive order directing federal and state agencies to work together to develop a national system of marine protected areas (MPAs).
Indeed, questions about the efficacy of marine reserves and networks of these are quite valid and pertinent. Read President Clinton's Order (on this web site).The new science should allay concerns voiced in a letter to President George W. Bush by the new chair of the Senate Resources Committee, Utah Republican James Hansen, the scientists said. "No goals or purposes of the MPA for a system of MPA's have been identified; and no research has been identified to determine whether the goals of MPAs are being achieved," Hansen wrote. "MPAs must be done in a scientifically defensible manner."
Well done. Keep this man. Even here in New Zealand, marine reserves have not been evaluated for their efficacy. What's more, the scientific tools to do so are still absent."Conservationists can be reassured that marine reserves are protecting biodiversity, and while fishermen may lose access to some areas, they will reap the benefits outside the reserves," said Dr. Lubchenco. "The overall lesson is that all stakeholders can be served by well designed networks of marine reserves."
Not true. Biodiversity is all about viable populations of all species. This does not mean pristine stocks. Pristine stocks do not exist in nature, since all populations are exploited naturally. Humans are just another exploiter, but having such powerful methods, must constrain themselves for their own sake and that of the environment. Fishermen will not reap benefits from reserves, as has been proved repeatedly. A closed area means lost fishery. The overall lesson the public should take home is that marine protagonists are not true scientists, believing more than they should, exaggerating benefits while hiding facts they don't like.
It is unbelievable that a nation which treasures its freedoms so highly, so willingly surrenders these to an idea that has not proved to work.
Now ask yourself the question: would you still trust the Government's MPA organisation?
Abstract of an extensive report for the Pew Oceans Commission
Dr Stephen R Palumbi, January 14, 2003
Our comments in blue.
Marine ecosystems around the United States are the targets of intensive alteration by coastal development, pollution, commercial fishing, recreational fishing, tourism, and a host of other human-mediated activities. Ecosystems are breaking down, giving way to invading organisms and losing important commercial species, and they are failing to replenish themselves at the same rate they are being damaged or exploited. Fishing as a commercial lifestyle is under threat almost everywhere in the U.S., and the seas are crowded with competing users.
As a scare mongering statement, this makes anyone sit upright. However, it fairly describes the situation in nearly all nations around the world, including New Zealand! While scientists have for decades, been studying overfishing on coral reefs, they had their backs turned to the much larger threats of pollution and other human-mediated activities. Why? It is refreshing to note that these are finally featuring in scientists' concerns.Although threats as different as pollution and overfishing may seem unrelated, they all affect ecosystems in the same basic way, through negative impacts on marine populations.
Wrong. Pollution and fishing do NOT affect ecosystems in the same basic way, although both cause negative impacts on populations. Fishing concerns a small number of species at the top of the food chain, whereas pollution affects many thousands elsewhere in the food chain and when severe, the entire ecosystem. Fishing is controlled easily whereas land-based pollution is not.In turn, each affected population perturbs others around it because populations in ecosystems are linked by species interactions. When different impacts pour into one ecosystem, many of the species and their interactions are damaged, in some cases resulting in an ecosystem collapse. As a result, whole ecosystems absorb and integrate the spectrum of varied ocean threats and have become critical foci for marine management.
True but marine management has not yet focused on the major issues.To date, the best-known tool for managing marine ecosystems are networks of fully protected marine reserves.
Wrong. Marine reserves have an impact only on the places where they are located. They do nothing for the areas outside. They do not fix the causes of our problems. They are an added complexity. Existing marine reserves have not been evaluated for their alleged benefits. With no proof at hand, scientists are coercing the public to set very large areas of the sea aside for no tangible benefit in return, all in the absence of a smaller scale pilot study to evaluate a small network somewhere. No right-minded business would be tempted to scale up an unproven idea to such extent!!!Over the last 15 years, study of more than one hundred reserves shows that reserves usually augment population numbers and the individual size of overexploited species.
See the NCEAS study above.Reserves provide protection from three major consequences of overfishing. First, they protect individual species of commercial or recreational importance from harvest inside reserve boundaries.
Partly true. Marine reserves do not protect migratory species, which constitute the majority of commercially and recreationally caught species. These species live from the large monotonous bottom or open sea habitats, which are very much larger in total productivity than strictly coastal habitats. Hence their commercial attractiveness.Second, they reduce habitat damage caused by fishing practices that alter biological structures, such as oyster reefs, necessary to maintain marine ecosystems.
False. They do not protect against any damage caused outside. If trawling damage is a problem, fix it.Third, reserves protect from ecosystem overfishing in which removal of ecologically pivotal species throws an ecosystem out of balance and alters its diversity and productivity.
An area closure causes fish stocks to rebound quickly, indicating that the problem is not major. The larger species are not pivotal to ecosystems, since most of them are apex predators. More importantly, there are other ways to protect species or sizes within species, over large areas.Within reserves, protection from all three types of overfishing is well known to spark ecosystem rebounds. Examples of these rebounds form a solid empirical backdrop for the use of reserves as a management tool.
There exists sound empirical evidence of fish stocks rebounding in closed areas. Ecosystem rebounds have been shown in clear tropical reefs after heavy overexploitation stopped. But a so-called ecosystem rebound in New Zealand has been shown to be caused by degradation. However, nowhere has a reserve been able to serve as a fishery management tool. Reserves simply do not help fishery management. In New Zealand this has not happened either, even after 25 years of no-take protection.However, there are limits to how well reserves can effect ecosystem rebounds, and these limits are becoming better understood. The conservation value of reserves is best demonstrated by the fact that reserves augment population size and biomass within their borders.
Scientists always fail to mention an important principle of conservation, that it works only if all threats are removed. By focusing on overfishing, scientists have (deliberately?) omitted the devastating effects of landbased pollution. As long as such a threat remains, conservation will not work and for that reason neither will marine reserves, nor networks of these. Pollution is a serious obstacle to the rebounding of ecosystems.Fisheries benefits can accrue through spillover into surrounding local communities, a facet of reserve function that is increasingly documented at local levels but not yet at the regional level. Effects of reserves on regional marine ecosystems are currently poorly known, except through results of mathematical models.
Some scientists have been dishonest in their reporting of benefits to the local (human) communities. In many cases this was done by large subsidies, external reserve maintenance budgets, eco-tourism, subsidies for larger boats to fish further out, and fisheries-related regulation. The benefits accruing from a reserve in clear waters with rich marine life and good access, is often extrapolated as a general benefit accruing from any marine reserve. This is naive to say the least. The benefit from spillover is negligible compared to the lost fishery. Why do scientists keep mentioning this? Dishonesty comes to mind.Based on current knowledge, the best way to protect and preserve marine resources and create a legacy in the oceans for future generations is to establish dense networks of marine reserves of varying sizes and spacing. Reserve systems intended to help sustain healthy ecosystems must include representatives of all habitat types, and have sufficient enforcement and monitoring.
If effects on regional marine ecosystems are poorly known, how can protagonists justify a network of marine reserves, which is justified exactly on the missing knowledge?
The alternative is to fix known problems by changing what we do. That works for all of our coasts and oceans, not just local patches. The author mentions in the report that 60% of the US coast is moderately or severely degraded by run-off. The American fishermen say that over 40% of the coast is so degraded that it is of no use to fishing. So where must our priority lie? Forget about networks of marine reserves because only by saving the land can we save the sea.Continuing research should include social and economic effects of reserves as well as their impact on regional marine ecosystems. Marine reserves should be part of an overall co-ordinated plan to protect and utilize sustainable marine ecosystems throughout the U.S. In the future, oceans must be alive with fish, algae, mammals, and invertebrates, while remaining the commercial and recreational center for an exploding coastal population. Achieving this vision requires extensive efforts, and marine reserves are a fundamental part of those efforts.
With 1300 protected areas in the world, one would say that there are enough scientific playgrounds. With over 60 years of marine conservation (1935 Florida Keys, 1936 Gt Barrier Reef, 1941 Phillipines, 1958 Bahamas) one would say scientists have had enough opportunity of research. It is time to study degradation instead and focus on solutions that will deliver. Although we all want healthy seas, the authors have failed to substantiate why marine reserves are fundamental to this.