Assessing Marine Protected Areas

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    In News

    • Recently, Specialists drew attention to the importance of evaluating the effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas.

    Key Takeaways:

    • Experts are calling for a closer look at the quality and performance of MPAs, emphasizing that a true assessment of their progress is only possible with a clear understanding of baseline data.
    • Presently, only a small fraction of the ocean, 6%, is designated as Marine Protected Areas, of which only a small portion, 2.4%, is fully and thoroughly protected, while an additional 3.6% is protected to a lesser extent.
    • In order to achieve the target of 30% protection, there is an urgent need for a significant increase in the creation of new MPAs within the next 7 years.

    Status of MPA in India:

    • India is home to a vast and diverse marine ecosystem that sustains numerous species of fish, mammals, birds, and other marine organisms. 
    • In recognition of the critical importance of the marine environment, India has established a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) aimed at conserving and sustainably managing its marine resources.
    • Marine protected areas(MPAs) in India are defined as geographical regions that are set aside for conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal biodiversity. 
    • These areas are designated for the protection and preservation of their unique ecosystems and the species that depend on them. 
    • India has enacted legislation for coastal and marine conservation including:
      • Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
      • Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, 1991
      • National Biodiversity Act, 2002
      • The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 provides for the establishment of protected areas by state governments.
    • Examples of important MPAs in India: Gulf of Kachchh Marine National Park, Gulf of Mannar National Park, Sundarbans National Park and Wandoor Marine National Park.

    Importance of MPAs

    Challenges of MPAs

    • Biodiversity Conservation: MPAs provide vital habitats for threatened and endangered species, including fish, marine mammals, birds, and other marine organisms. 
    • Ecosystem protection: MPAs protect important marine ecosystems such as coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass beds.
    • Sustainable resource use: By protecting marine ecosystems and species, MPAs can help to ensure that marine resources are used sustainably and that future generations will have access to these resources.
    • Climate change mitigation: MPAs can help to mitigate the impacts of climate change by conserving marine ecosystems and their associated species, which play a critical role in regulating the Earth’s climate and weather patterns.
    • Economic benefits: MPAs can provide economic benefits, including increased tourism and recreation opportunities, as well as commercial benefits, such as increased fish stocks and improved water quality.
    • Lack of enforcement: The enforcement of regulations within MPAs can be challenging, particularly in remote and poorly patrolled areas. 
    • Porous boundary: It makes it difficult to prevent illegal fishing, poaching, and other activities that can have a significant impact on marine life and ecosystems.
    • Conflicts with local communities: MPAs can sometimes conflict with the livelihoods of local fishing communities and other coastal users. 
    • Limited financial and institutional support: MPAs require significant resources for their effective management, including funding for monitoring, enforcement, and research. 
    • Limited scientific understanding: There is a lack of scientific understanding of the complex marine ecosystems and their associated species. This makes it difficult to effectively manage MPAs and to design conservation strategies that are based on a solid scientific foundation.

    Global Efforts 

    • The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is a global treaty signed by 196 countries, including India, with the aim of conserving biodiversity, promoting sustainable use of its components, and ensuring the fair sharing of benefits from genetic resources.
    • Previously, the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) to the CBD held in Kunming, China in 2021, emphasized the role of marine protected areas (MPAs) in conserving marine biodiversity and promoting sustainable use of marine resources.

    Way ahead:

    • MPAs play a critical role in conserving India’s rich marine heritage and sustaining its coastal communities. However, the effective functioning of MPAs is essential to ensure their success. 
    • Despite these challenges, there is a growing recognition of the importance of MPAs in conserving and sustainably managing India’s marine resources. 

    To overcome these challenges, there is a need for greater collaboration between government agencies, academic institutions, and local communities.