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June 2010    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 36, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Good News for Marine Parks

from the June, 2010 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In our March issue, we wrote how deteriorating reefs are causing more divers to give up the sport or travel farther afield - - and why the dive industry needs to get a voice on marine protection issues. A recent study in the journal PLoS One shows why long-term support is crucial. University of North Carolina marine scientists found the protective effects of marine protected areas (MPAs) strengthen over time, but a long time.

After comparing coral cover in MPAs to those in nearby unprotected areas between 1969 and 2006, they found MPA coral declined initially, then slowed and began to increase. In the Caribbean, coral cover declined for 14 years after protection began but then increased. In the Asia Pacific, cover declined for the first five years but eventually reached annual growth rates of two percent over two decades.

Now, if authorities could just keep the fish from being taken. Some Caribbean marine parks have limits on fishing but it may not be enough. On its Web site, Bonaire’s National Marine Park states, “Trolling along our protected west coast often attracts tuna, wahoo, barracuda or mahi mahi,” and it also recommends the best places to bonefish. The Cayman Islands has size limits on groupers and protected spawning areas during certain months but outside those designated waters, it seems to be fair game. While the permitted fishing is typically line and hook only, that still hurts a region already lacking in big fish.

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