The SWFSC Fisheries Ecology Division in partnership with the National Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Center Science Institute has commenced several projects to improve the science and management of marine resources. Principal among these projects is a working group effort to integrate the science of marine protected areas and fisheries science and management.
About the MPA Center Science Institute
The MPA Center Science Institute provides scientific information and policy analysis to support the planning, management and evaluation of the nation’s MPAs. Located in the SWFSC Fisheries Ecology Division in Santa Cruz, California, and with an annex office in Monterey, the Science Institute builds partnerships with experts and stakeholders to develop an effective, science-based national system of MPAs throughout U.S. waters. To this end, the Science Institute develops targeted research strategies, supports extramural research on key MPA issues, and collaborates with agency and non-governmental parties to assess key policy issues fundamental to the effective use of MPAs as a conservation and management tool.
Why is integration of science needed?
Marine protected areas have been used for decades to manage the nation’s marine resources, and to preserve both fisheries and marine biodiversity, or natural heritage. There is still considerable disagreement, however, among fisheries scientists and conservation biologists about how, when, and where MPAs should be used, and uncertainties about the effectiveness of MPAs in meeting fisheries and/or biodiversity conservation goals. Consequently, there is an urgent need for scientists from both disciplines to integrate their specialized knowledge and expertise in the development of guidelines and methods for the design, implementation, monitoring, and management of MPAs as tools for both fisheries and biodiversity conservation. Furthermore, a more systematic and integrative approach to understanding how fisheries affect the ability of MPAs to protect ecosystem function would greatly improve the dialogue between agencies and programs focused on ecosystem integrity and agencies responsible for managing sustainable fisheries.
To begin this integration, the National MPA Center and the SWFSC Fisheries Ecology Division have convened an expert group of fisheries and conservation biologists, sociologists, and economists to develop the scientific information necessary to integrate MPAs and conventional fisheries management strategies. The working group is participating in a series of focused workshops over a span of two years to discuss and define critical concepts and issues. The working group has divided into three smaller teams, each charged with tackling a specific subset of the overall issues: the fisheries team, the natural heritage team, and the connectivity team.
How is the working group tackling the integration effort?
The working group formed three teams to address separate topics and objectives that are linked to each other to varying degrees, through their shared interests and analytical inputs and outputs. The topics and main objectives of each team are as follows:
Fisheries – MPA/Ecosystem Team: develop and compare indicators for fisheries and ecosystems (as a proxy for MPAs) to evaluate the costs, benefits, and trade-offs between various management approaches. For example, this team is interested in evaluating how implementation of a “no take” MPA, or marine reserve, compared to more conventional tools, might impact yield and stock assessment inputs and assumptions, such as spawning biomass and movement rates.
Connectivity Team: synthesize existing information on movements of fishermen and marine organisms to evaluate the influence of connectivity on the effectiveness of individual MPAs and MPA network design.
Natural Heritage Team: develop guidance and measurable objectives for the design and evaluation of an MPA implemented for natural heritage purposes. This team is attempting to develop measurable targets for MPAs that have biodiversity conservation goals. Measurable conservation targets can then be evaluated against fishery targets to determine the trade-offs for each management system.
Who are the members of the science integration working group?
The working group consists of more than 20 members, who are scientists and managers from NOAA programs, other government programs, academia, the fishing industry, and the conservation community. Each has appropriate expertise in marine ecology, fishery science, and management.
Deliverables for 2006-2007:
- A series of peer reviewed papers and reports.
- Novel analytical approaches and models for integrating the science and management of fisheries and MPAs.
- Special symposia at the annual meetings of the American Fisheries Society and American Association for the Advancement of Science focused on working group products.
- Integration of working group products and concepts into the Pacific Fisheries Management Council process.
- A conceptual framework to improve the integrative management of fisheries and MPAs.
For more information:
Dr. Lisa Wooninck
Dr. Churchill Grimes
Director, NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center, Fisheries Ecology Division
Dr. Charles Wahle
Director MPA Center Science Institute
This project is a collaboration between NOAA Fisheries and the National Marine Protected Areas Center Science Institute