Management matters: Ridding the Baltic Sea of paper parks

8 May 2014

Threats to the marine environment are multiplying and their effects are often complex and overlapping (Halpern et al. 2008). An increasing demand for marine and benthic resources, and the rapidly improving technologies to address it, have, along with habitat degradation, pollution from nutrients and other hazardous substances, overfishing and the increasing impacts of climate change, contributed to the degradation or collapse of ecosystems in all major coastal and ocean regions of the world (Olsen et al. 2013, Wilkinson 2004, Hughes et al. 2005).

One of the most widely recognized and effective tools to address the many threats to marine and coastal ecosystems is a network of well‑managed MPAs. Such a network, if it is well designed, can help curb the loss of marine resources and recover entire ecosystems by providing protection to and decreasing the loss of endangered marine species and habitats, and restoring depleted fish stocks (Olsen et al. 2013).

Spatial protection and management measures have quite a long history on land, but in marine areas these are relatively new concepts. The idea of conserving marine biodiversity with the use of management tools has its roots in the 1982 World Parks Congress in Bali, where it was recommended that the use of protected areas should be applied to the oceans, in addition to land (McNeely and Miller 1982). Since then, many international agreements have reenforced the need for MPAs and MPA networks. In 2003, the 5th World Parks Congress called on the international community to create a global system of MPA networks that would greatly increase the coastal and marine area covered, and stipulated that these networks should seek to include strictly protected areas that amount to at least 20 to 30% of each habitat. In 2010, under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), countries the ambitious Aichi Biodiversity Targets, which included to protect at least 10% of the world’s coastal and marine areas by 2020. Special attention were to be placed on areas of particular. These were to be conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well‑connected systems of protected areas and other effective area‑based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider seascapes (Aichi targets).

MPAs provide a broad set of tools for protecting ecosystem biodiversity and managing marine resources. They can range from being no‑take or no‑entry areas to wide, multi‑use areas integrating different management practices, and incorporating regulatory mechanisms that allow limited use of certain resources, like fishing. No‑take areas, which ban all forms of extraction, in particular fishing, contribute significantly to the recovery and protection of marine species and habitats (Dayton et al. 2000; NRC 2000; Roberts et al. 2001; Russ and Alcala 2004). No‑take areas also serve as benchmarks for assessing the status of the environment and success of management measures. Multiple‑use MPAs may be made up of zones with different types of harvest rights (including recreation and research), as well as complete harvest prohibition areas (IUCN 2012).

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