Getting tough

For the first time, an attempt has been made to manage marine ecosystems

Published: Tuesday 30 November 1999

in what is considered to be a landmark decision, California has adopted the Marine Life Protection Act ( mlpa ) to save marine ecosystems which are being threatened by over-fishing and unsustainable fishing techniques. According to a 1995 report of the Food and Agricultural Organisation, the biodiversity in nine of the world's 17 major fishing grounds is dwindling and 70 per cent of the planet's marine stocks are heavily exploited or already depleted.

The mlpa calls for "adaptive management" with regard to Marine Protected Areas ( mpa s), which are defined as "discrete geographic marine or estuarine areas, seaward of the high tide line or the mouth of coastal rivers, including intertidal and subtidal terrains along with their overlying water and associated flora and fauna, that have been designated by law, administrative action or voter initiative to protect or conserve marine life and habitat".

An mpa may include Marine Life Reserves ( mlr s) or protected areas where all extractive activities are prohibited; and other areas that allow commercial and recreational activities, provided they are consistent with the goals and guidelines laid down by the authorities. "Adaptive management" is a policy that seeks to improve the management of biological resources, particularly in areas of scientific uncertainty, through monitoring and evaluation so that the interaction of different elements within a marine system is better understood. A master plan will soon be prepared with the help of conservationists, marine scientists, staff from national marine sanctuaries and the us navy. After a series of public meetings, a final master plan is expected to be adopted by July 2002.

Already, certain oceanic areas with distinct biological characteristics have been marked as special "biogeographical" areas by the state. These include areas south of Point Conception near Santa Barbara in southern California, areas between Point Conception and Point Arena in Mendocino county in northern California and areas north of Point Arena.

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.