Do Marine Protected Areas prevent overfishing?

Marine Protected Areas alone cannot end overfishing. When combined with sustainable fishing practices, Marine Protected Areas can be important tools in the effort to end overfishing and encourage greater biodiversity.

What is a Marine Protected Area?

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) a Marine Protected Area, also known as a Marine Park, a No Take Zone or a Marine Protected Zone is:

A clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.

Differing in size and context, a Marine Protected Area is generally designed with a number of conservation objectives in mind. These can offer varying levels of protection by regulating human activities such as fishing, diving and boating.

How can Marine Protected Areas reduce overfishing?

One way that Marine Protected Areas can conserve biodiversity is through the banning or reduction of fishing and other activities. This gives the marine environment an opportunity to rebuild.

To tackle the problem of overfishing, Marine Protected Areas must be combined with sustainable fishing practices so that the problem is not simply moved from one place to another. 

What makes a Marine Protected Area effective at reducing overfishing?

To be effective as a tool for reducing overfishing, Marine Protected Areas need to be part of a well-managed ecosystem-based fishery management system.

It is recognised by many stakeholders that effective Marine Protected Areas are designed with a clear set of conservation objectives in place, with good stakeholder consultation and effective management.

Stakeholders often include recreational fishers, commercial fishers, environmental groups and community bodies. Balancing the priorities of these groups as well as the need for conservation is important to ensuring success. These groups can contribute hugely to understanding and mitigating any economic and ecological risks from implementing a Marine Protected Area.

Sustainable fishing and Marine Protected Areas in Australia and New Zealand

Here are some examples of MSC certified fisheries in Australia and New Zealand waters that operate within a Marine Protected Area.

  • The Western Australian Sea Cucumber fishery can fish in certain zoned areas of the Montebello Islands Marine Park, the Barrow Island Marine Park and the Barrow Island Marine Management Area. These are all State Government Marine Parks.
  • The Tuna Australia (Walker) fishery can operate within certain parts of the Coral Sea Marine Park. This fishery is both certified and in assessment to the MSC Fisheries Standard.
  • The Ross Sea Toothfish fishery operates in and around the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area which is designated as a Special Research Zone.

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