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08 Sep 2010: Networks of Small Reserves
Seen as Best Way to Protect Fisheries

A United Nations report says that the most effective way to protect fisheries and coral reefs is to establish networks of small marine protected areas around the globe, rather than large reserves where fishing bans are often ignored. The U.N. University’s Institute for Water, Environment, and Health says that groupings of small protected areas, with fishing allowed in between, are the best way to preserve coral reefs, mangrove swamps, and fish stocks without alienating local fishermen and residents. “People have been creating marine protected areas for decades,” said Peter Sale, a leader of the study. “Most of them are totally ineffective." He cited Australia’s Great Barrier Reef as a good example of management, with a network of reserves closed to commercial activity while other zones are open to tourism and fishing. Protecting vital reefs and mangrove swamps, which serve as nurseries for juvenile fish, can help rebuild fish populations, which then repopulate nearby areas of the ocean. Those areas can be opened to fishing, which alleviates pressure on the more crucial protected zones, Sale said.

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