MARINE RESERVES

Ninety percent of the large predators in the ocean are gone and their populations have collapsed, and some scientific studies suggest that most fisheries worldwide will collapse before 2050.
The reason for this is that we have taken too many fish out of the sea, and we keep taking more before the remaining populations are able to reproduce. It’s like constantly withdrawing from a checking account without ever putting any money in. Guess what will happen to our fish – or our finances. Pretty soon, they’ll simply run out.

How to Fix It
But there are alternatives that have proven successful. One of them is to create no-take marine reserves, areas in the ocean set aside without fishing to allow marine life to recover.
Marine reserves are like savings accounts, with a principal we don’t touch, but which produce compound interest we can enjoy. Fish abundance increases spectacularly within these reserves – 450% on average in less than a decade. Now try to think of any financial stock with that performance.
In addition, because there are so many fish inside these reserves, some of them spread beyond the boundaries of the reserves, into areas where they can be caught by the local fishers. In places like Kenya or the Solomon Islands, fisher income has doubled in areas next to well-enforced marine reserves. Many reserves have also attracted flocks of tourists who want to see a healthy marine environment full of large fish, helping to create jobs in tourism that bring up to 40 times more income to the local communities than fishing.
For both fish and fishermen then, marine reserves are a win-win, but presently less than 1% of the ocean is fully protected. Scientific studies suggest that we need at least 20% of the ocean protected in order to replenish the natural populations to a sustainable level for continued human use.
And remember, like in a bank account, the larger the principal, the larger the interest we can enjoy.

An Ocean Miracle in the Gulf of California
For generations we have been taking fish out of the ocean at a rate faster than they can reproduce. The problem is that there are fewer and fewer fish to meet an ever-increasing demand. The solution is simply to take less so that we can continue eating fish for a longer time.
Opponents of conservation, however, argue that regulating fishing will destroy jobs and hurt the economy–but they are wrong, and there are real-world examples that prove this. A scientific study published today by the Public Library of Science shows that protecting an area brings the fish back, and creates jobs and increases economic revenue for the local communities. I have seen it with my own eyes and, believe me, it is like a miracle, only that it is not–it’s just common business sense.

Cabo Pulmo National Park in Baja California, Mexico, was protected in 1995 to safeguard the largest coral community in the Gulf of California. When I dove there for the first time in 1999, I thought the corals were very nice, but there were not so many fishes, and I didn’t think the place was extraordinary. Together with Octavio Aburto and other Mexican colleagues we dove at many sites in the gulf, in a region spanning over 1,000 km. Cabo Pulmo was just like most other places I’d seen in the Gulf of California.
But the Cabo Pulmo villagers wanted more. They decided that the waters in front of their settlement were going to be a no-take marine reserve – fishing was banned with the hopes of bringing the fish back. They had a vision, and they succeeded in a way that exceeded all expectations, including mine.
In 2009 we went back to Cabo Pulmo to monitor the fish populations. We jumped in the water, expecting fishes to be more abundant after 10 years of protection. But we could not believe what we saw–thousands upon thousands of large fishes such as snappers, groupers, trevally, and manta rays. They were so abundant that we could not see each other if we were fifteen meters apart. We saw more sharks in one dive at Cabo Pulmo than in 10 years of diving throughout the Gulf of California!
Our research indicated that the fish biomass increased by 460% at Cabo Pulmo–to a level similar to remote pristine coral reefs that have never been fished. In contrast, all other sites in the Gulf of California that we revisited in 2009 were as degraded as ten years earlier. This shows that it is possible to bring back the former richness of the ocean that man has obliterated, but that without our dedication, the degradation will continue.
Most importantly for the people of Cabo Pulmo, since their reef is now the only healthy reef left in the Gulf of California, it has attracted divers, which bring economic revenue. And fishermen around the marine reserve are catching more fish than before thanks to the spillover of fish from the no-take marine reserve. It seems like a win-win to me!

The question is: how can we have more of these?

About admin

I would like to think of myself as a full time traveler. I have been retired since 2006 and in that time have traveled every winter for four to seven months. The months that I am “home”, are often also spent on the road, hiking or kayaking.
I hope to present a website that describes my travel along with my hiking and sea kayaking experiences.

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