Marine protected areas are not the answer to saving the world’s oceans.
That is according to prominent fisheries scientist Prof Ray Hilborn in an opinion piece published by Fox News.
The Hilborn paper was discussed at this week’s International Coalition of Fishing Associations annual meeting in Rome.
A UN bottom fishing review, management of tuna fisheries, effective measures against illegal fishing, working conditions in the fishing industry and protection of endangered species were amongst other agenda items.
The peak seafood bodies from US, Canada, Japan, Spain, France, Netherlands, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland and Taiwan attended the meeting.
“Around the world we see fish stocks increasing in abundance when fisheries management is effectively applied, without MPAs playing a significant role,” Prof Hilborn said. As a Professor of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, he leads several research projects on the status of global fish stocks.
“Fish stocks in the US, Iceland, Norway, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia have all been shown to rebuild from overfishing through traditional fisheries management,” he said.
“We don’t need MPAs to rebuild fish stocks.
“In reality, redirecting hundreds of millions of dollars spent on MPA advocacy towards other threats to the ocean, or to improving fisheries management globally, would provide much more comprehensive and pro-active protection.
“The MPA advocacy movement needs to embrace the reality that closing ever larger areas of the ocean to fishing, when it happens, should be guided by clearly stated objectives, independent scientific evaluation of alternatives, and public consultation on the impacts on people.
“MPAs should be established where the problems are, not where it is politically expedient. A race to see who has the biggest or the most is running in the wrong direction.”
The MPA movement has become a religion, he said.
“Political leaders argue they are protecting the oceans with MPAs, but mostly they aren’t.
“The major threats to ocean health and biodiversity - including global warming, ocean acidification, oil spills, floating masses of plastics, pollutant run-off from land, and illegal fishing – all are not addressed by this conservation measure.
“In US waters, fish stocks are increasing, and overfishing is declining rapidly, without a significant number of MPAs.
“Why? For one thing, we already have myriad well-enforced laws that protect fish stock health and marine biodiversity very well through a science-based management system. They do it better than simply closing off large sections of the ocean.”
Exactly the same arguments apply in this country.
Like the Kermadecs ocean sanctuary, the proposed recreational marine parks in the Hauraki Gulf and the Marlborough Sounds are politically driven, they are not sustainability measures.
What they will do, if enacted, is sink family fishing businesses.
The Federation of Commercial Fishermen commissioned a video to tell their stories.
The video was this week sent to all MPs so that they can better understand the impact of policies adopted without consultation or proper consideration.
What we can all agree on is the need to protect our marine environment.
The means of achieving that, whilst maintaining healthy seafood production for a hungry world and supporting employment and economic returns, is the issue.
- Tim Pankhurst