Newswise – As fish stocks decline worldwide, more than 190 countries recently committed to protecting about a third of the world’s oceans in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) by 2030, according to a new analysis. Regulation or outright bans may for some There will be enormous costs for coastal communities.

To prepare for the expansion of MPAs, an international team of researchers from Duke University, Florida State University, the World Wildlife Fund and other organizations compiled a global dataset of over 14,000 fish surveys in and around 216 marine protected areas (MPAs) in 43 countries to find out what works and why.

Their analysis will appear the week of February 26th Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the study found that non-fishing MPAs are most effective at restoring fish stocks in hard-hit areas. However, for coastal communities that rely on fishing for food, income and important cultural/indigenous practices, the new study suggests there may be other effective options.

“In these resource-poor and culturally important areas, it would be unethical to take away the right of local and indigenous people to harvest and eat fish,” said lead author David Gill, assistant professor of marine sciences and conservation at the Marine Lab at Duke University Beaufort, NC.

A useful alternative is multiple-use MPAs, where fishing can be regulated by species, size or season.

“Many people, particularly in coastal communities, have a strong connection to the sea in terms of food, work or culture,” said co-author Dominic Andradi-Brown, senior marine scientist at the World Wildlife Fund. “Our results show that great gains for nature do not have to come at the expense of the exclusion of people. “Future marine protection and conservation tailored to diverse uses can be successful – provided there is good management.”

“Our research shows that both zero-ingestion and multi-use MPA approaches have a 97% probability of improving fish stocks,” Gill said. “But neither will function very well without sufficient staff or sustainable use regulations.”

The study recommends investing in improved human resources and context-appropriate management, particularly for multi-purpose MPAs, and using a portfolio of well-managed no-take and multi-use MPAs tailored to the local context.

“It’s not an all-or-nothing game,” Gill said. “There are ways to achieve positive results. You can benefit from marine protected areas where fishing is allowed. But they have to be well made.”

The authors recommend that it is important to consider communities that rely on natural resources to survive and thrive. In areas where no-revenue MPAs are ethical or not possible, well-equipped and appropriately regulated multi-use MPAs are an excellent alternative.

“An important takeaway from these results is that context matters,” Gill said. “There is no one-size-fits-all approach to effectively and equitably protect the world’s marine ecosystems. We need to consider what mix of conservation approaches is best suited to the local context and then invest in fair and good management of those approaches.”

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