An international team of scientists led by the University of Alicante has established a new conceptual framework which identifies the indicators of the fishing and tourist industry, evaluating the effectiveness of the Protected Marine Areas (PMA). The model applied to three marine zones reveals the existence of many deficiencies, due to legal loopholes and the lack of scientific information.
The study, which was recently published in Ocean & Coastal Management, identifies, defines and debates the ecological and socioeconomic variables to establish indicators that evaluate the efficiency of the Protected Marine Areas (PMA). This new framework arises as a political response to conserve and restore fishing and marine biodiversity, since today less than 10% of these areas comply with objectives.
¨This new model, which is an amplification of the previous one, assumes that human activity exerts pressure on nature and produces changes to the environment and economics to which society responds with actions,¨ explains Celia Ojeda to SINC, main author and researcher from the Department of Ocean Sciences and Applied Biology at the University of Alicante.
The tool, which is based on the Driving Force, Pressure, State, Impact and Response (DPSIR) model, established by the Organización para la Cooperación y el Desarrollo Económico (Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development) (OCDE) in 1994, allows for evaluating all of the operation of a PMA. In order to verify if the management methods utilized in these protected areas yield the desired results, the scientists have established cause-effect relationships between the model's components.
¨If a PMA is established in which it is permitted to fish with a fishing rod in all of its zones, but the biomass of the target species is decreasing, it is clear that the first management method does not work, and that it should be changed; for example, by limiting the zones or establishing a closed season,¨ indicates Ojeda.
The conceptual framework developed reveals that the fishing industry has to be regulated and establish regulations for these zones. To this is added the increase in scuba divers, tourists and recreational boats attracted by the PMA's characteristics who also ¨should be regulated in order to conserve the environment¨.
In order to define the ecological, fishing and social indicators, the researchers applied the model to three PMAs in Alicante: Tabarca, The Cape of San Antonio and Sierra Helada, and the isles of Benidorm.
Close to 150 variables detect deficiencies
Researchers obtained 149 variables from fishing and tourism components. Measuring the effectiveness of a PMA would be more efficient if, for example, the number of fishing boats, the daily number of visitors, the quantity of organic material spilled into the ocean by recreational boats, the number of tons dumped into the ocean, the quantity of key species, the number of affected food chain categories, the changes in water quality, the total budget invested by governments in the areas, and the annual number of research projects, among others, were used as indicators.
The model is framed by the EMPAFISH project, which studies the effectiveness of PMAs in different European countries. These areas have extended throughout the planet's oceans by 5.2% annually in the last two decades. Currently, close to 2.2 million km2 are protected, or 0.6% of oceans, and 1.5% of all marine areas under national jurisdiction.
Although these areas reflect scientific and ethical concerns for health and the conservation of marine ecosystems, their populations and habitat are not always created for their ecological or socioeconomic characteristics, but rather for opportune human factors.
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