Benefits of Marine Reserves in Fiji

by alrahmahsolutions on Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Marine Protected Areas not only protect biodiversity, they also benefit tourism, fisheries, science and research.

There’s something magical about exploring under the sea. Clown fish (nemo), Christmas tree worms, blue star fish and white tip reef sharks are just a few of the standouts from guided snorkelling trips that I did recently on the Coral Coast of Fiji’s Viti Levu Island and also in the beautiful Yasawa Islands.

I was in Fiji to explore new sites for ISV’s Optional Fiji Excursion for 2013. However, the standout for me were the schools and much larger sizes of the reef fish within the Marine Reserves compared with other (unprotected) sites.

As a general rule, if you want to go snorkelling or diving, look for a Marine Reserve, also known as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). A MPA is an area of sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biodiversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means. MPAs not only impact biodiversity, they also benefit tourism (i.e. scuba divers and snorkellers), fisheries, and science and research.

Marine Protected Areas include marine parks, nature reserves and locally managed marine areas that protect reefs, seagrass beds, shipwrecks, archaeological sites, tidal lagoons, mudflats, saltmarshes, mangroves, rock platforms, underwater areas on the coast and the seabed in deep water, as well as open water.

Marine reserves and the benefits of eco-tourism can help protect species such as manta-rays

Let’s face it, our oceans are in trouble. While our oceans cover two-thirds of the planet, only 1 percent are protected – compared to 12 percent of protected lands around the world.  We depend on the sea for so much, not least of which is food. Since 1989 the global catch has been in decline, despite vast improvements in technology and fishing effort. That is telling us something right there.

Read up more about MPAs – there’s a wealth of literature out there. My ex-supervisor from the University of Tasmania, Professor Corey Bradshaw (currently at the University of Adelaide in South Australia), wrote an interesting blog about the “spill over effect” and referenced a relevant academic paper called Enhanced biodiversity beyond marine reserve boundaries: The cup spillith over (Russ G.R., and Alcala A.C, 2011) if you’re interested in the science.

If not, at least remember this. There are many ways to get involved and support MPAs and our oceans. One way is to visit these special places and enjoy them responsibly (e.g. observe No-Take zones and other responsible snorkelling or scuba diving tips). Reducing your plastic consumption and eating sustainable seafood all play a role too.

We need more MPAs and urgent action to save our oceans now. Together, we can make a difference!

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