What are Marine National Parks?
Marine national narks are just like national parks on land, but in the ocean. They allow most recreational activities such as surfing, snorkeling, diving, boating, and beach walking, but you cannot take anything out and activities should not harm the wildlife and habitats. For example, diving and boating should be done with care so as not to damage the sea floor or other life. Marine national parks allow the environment to exist in as natural state as possible, without harm from humans.
What’s the difference between a Marine National Park, Marine Reserve And Marine Protected Area?
A marine national park is an area of ocean that is fully protected from activities that remove animals and plants and alter habitats, except as needed for scientific monitoring (including damaging coastal activities such as dredging or development, oil and gas exploration, recreational and commercial fishing, and sometimes anchoring). A marine reserve usually has the same high level of protection, although it does depend on the legislation in that state or territory.
Marine Protected Areas (or marine parks) are usually, multiple-use and often include various zones for specific uses (eg. the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park has a range of zones specifically for general use, habitat protection, marine national park, scientific monitoring, preservation etc). Again, as with marine national parks and reserves above, it depends on the local legislation for that state or territory.
How are Marine National Parks designed and how do I have my say?
The design of marine national parks should involve: setting specific targets to achieve biodiversity protection and conservation; collating the best available science and information from marine users (including fishers, divers, locals etc); identifying social and economic impacts and benefits from the proposed marine national parks; working with marine users and the local community to ensure that the final network of marine national parks achieve the conservation outcomes with as minimal negative impacts as possible. Where significant displacement of sustainable fisheries occurs, compensation should be arranged.
There is a range of processes for developing marine national parks, depending on where you live and the government’s policy or legislation. In Tasmania, the Tasmanian Marine Protected Areas Strategy sets out the process for how they should be designed, including scientific and socio-economic information, and input from various stakeholders. The Resource Planning and Development Commission is responsible for this process. The final recommendations for any marine national parks (or marine protected areas) are then decided on by the Minister for Primary Industries supported by Cabinet, and legislated using the Living Marine Resource Management Act 1995 and the Nature Conservation Act 2002. The process for developing management plans for the marine national parks are developed under the National Parks and Reserves Management Act 2002.
What are the benefits of Marine National Parks?
Marine national parks have many benefits. They act as:
- recovery zones for species in decline
- buffer zones against damaging events like storms
- maternity wards: for fish to reproduce and foster healthy off-spring
- a line of defence against invasive pests
- a playground for divers and lovers of what’s below the surface
- a submerged classroom for learning and an intact laboratory for scientists
- an insurance policy for recreational and commercial fishers to secure future fisheries
- an economic opportunity for adjacent towns and communities
- a sure fire way to protect biodiversity and ecosystems in their natural state for the future
What are the problems with Marine National Parks?
Marine national parks are not a panacea for all marine health problems — it is fundamental that there is also robust, sustainable fisheries management in the environment surrounding the protected areas, and good catchment management to minimise land-based impacts.
Marine national parks should be designed with the best available science and input from local community members and marine resources users, to ensure they deliver the best conservation outcomes and benefits to the economy and society.
It is important that the community supports their local marine national parks and help to raise awareness and enforce them, because resources from the government departments is rarely enough on its own to ensure people respect the rules.
Don’t Marine National Parks just lock out fishermen?
Marine national parks aim to benefit the entire community who rely on healthy marine environments and the ecosystem services that they provide. They can also have direct benefits for fisheries such as allowing heavily impacted fish populations to recover, and investing in the future population of species by protecting breeding areas. After some time, this can lead to a spill over effect, where fishing along the boundaries of marine national parks becomes more attractive. Importantly, they provide excellent control areas to study the impacts of fishing (or lack of).
Our fisheries are already well managed so why do we need Marine National Parks?
Marine national parks are complimentary to good fisheries management — we cannot rely on just one or the other to ensure our marine resources are sustainably managed and our biodiversity protected, if we are to secure our oceans future and the crucial ecosystem services they provide to all of us.
Compared to many other countries that have higher populations, longer fishing histories, and less control over their marine territory, Tasmania and indeed Australia, have tightly managed fisheries. However, we still face many challenges to ensure our fisheries are sustainable for the long-term future. Of Australia’s 96 targeted fish populations that are being assessed, 16 are considered over-fished and 52 are uncertain. We still fish endangered and threatened species like Southern Bluefin Tuna and many species of sharks. In Tasmania, all of our key fisheries have been heavily fished in the past bringing populations to very low numbers. The industry is still working to secure viable future populations.
Well-coordinated research and ongoing monitoring of marine national parks can not only be used to demonstrate the benefits of protection to an ecosystem and its range of species, but also the impacts that climate change may be having as opposed to fishing. In some cases, a marine national park may also demonstrate how well-managed fisheries are, and offer an extra badge of sustainability to the marketing of local products.
A bit of room to breathe for our valuable and much loved marine environment wouldn’t go astray, and compared to the way we look at land management and protection, it is common sense.
Won’t Marine National Parks just make the impact of fishing in other areas worse?
Marine National Parks must be implemented in conjunction with sustainable fisheries management to ensure that the entire environment is sustainably managed and well protected. You wouldn’t put a national park next to an industrial zone on land. Similarly, the location and size of marine national parks in the ocean needs to be sensible and well informed by environmental, economic and social factors. If our fisheries are sustainably managed, then implementing a network of well-designed marine national parks should not substantially increase the impact in other areas.
Where the impacts on fishers are deemed to be substantial — that is, they are displaced from significant fishing areas — compensation may be arranged. Compensation is managed by the relevant government agencies and should be factored into the design of the marine national parks.