Fw: MPAs -- Wrong null hypothesis?

Mark Tupper mtupper at guam.uog.edu
Thu Mar 7 23:49:11 EST 2002

John McManus wrote:

> I suggest that we stop worrying about "are reserves effective?" until
> strong evidence shows that most of them (with real fishing exclusions) are
> Instead, we should focus on how big, what shape, where, etc.

I understand and agree with the thrust of John's message. I think there is
ample evidence to show that reserves CAN be effective, given sufficient
management and funding capacity and adequate design (e.g. reserves large
enough to encompass target species home range, etc.). I have no doubt that
significant reductions in fishing pressure will help fish populations to
rebound. However, asking whether reserves ARE effective is a different
question altogether. So far, broad scale assessments of MPAs have indicated
that most of them do not meet their management objectives. This is in many
cases not a question of biology or ecology but one of politics and
economics. It's fine to say that a reserve needs to be this big or that
shape to enhance fisheries, but getting all stakeholders to agree on MPA
specifics is often impossible, and hammering MPA plans past objecting
resource users will always lead to poor compliance.

 Before I ramble any further, I'll try to sum this up succinctly. Most MPAs
are basically "paper parks" that do not meet their resource management
goals. This fact has little to do with the ecological effects of protective
management on fish production, but is based mainly on institutional and
community capacity to properly manage MPAs. Thus, the proper question is not
"are MPAs effective", but "can MPAs be effectively managed for a given
community or fishery". I would submit that the answer to that question is
likely to be location and/or fishery-dependent.


 Mark Tupper

 Dr. Mark Tupper, Assistant Professor
University of Guam Marine Laboratory
UOG Station, Mangilao, Guam 96923, USA
Tel. 671-735-2185; Fax 671-734-6767

 Coordinator, Marine Protected Areas Research Group

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