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Just 4% of the world’s oceans are protected says UBC study

turtleResearchers from UBC’s Institute for Ocean and Fisheries have found that, despite a commitment made by 200 countries under the United Nations’ Aichi Targets in 2010, only four percent of the world’s oceans have been afforded marine protected area, or MPA, status.

Granted four percent is a step up from the 2006 estimate that only 0.65% of the ocean was protected.

“The targets call for much more than just 10 per cent protection,” said lead author Lisa Boonzaier. “They require that protected areas be effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected, all of which will help to ensure that MPAs contribute to more than percentage targets and meet the goal of conserving biodiversity.”

The study also calls for a greater percentage of the world’s oceans to be designated “no-take” areas, which are defined as “marine areas in which the extraction of living and non-living resources is permanently prohibited,” with an exception made for subsistence fishing by permit.

Right now, 16% of the total protected areas are no-take, or 0.5% of the world’s oceans.

According to the Pew Charitable Trust Global Ocean Legacy Project, the world’s oceans are home to approximately a quarter of its known species, and support more than 250 million people who rely on fishing for their direct livelihood.

Fish provide the main source of animal protein for more than 2.6 billion people.

“Given the creation of very large marine protected areas in recent years, notably though the Global Ocean Legacy Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts, there is a chance that the Aichi Targets can be reached, which would be a major achievement,” said co-author Daniel Pauly, a professor at the Institute for Ocean and Fisheries.

Target 11 of the Aichi Targets, regarding marine biodiversity, called for 17% of terrestrial and inland water and 10% of coastal and marine areas to be conserved by 2020.

In the past few years, the increase in protected area has come through the designation of large protected areas in New Caledonia, Australia and South Africa.

Earlier this month, Chile announced the creation of a marine protected area the size of Italy hundreds of miles off its coast, called the Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park, accounting for 8% of the total area worldwide that has been declared off-limits to fishing.

The report points out that “The designation of a marine protected area is one step towards effective protection but it alone is insufficient for conservation outcomes. Nonetheless, designated marine protected area provides a simple metric that is communicable and quantifiable, and it has thus been chosen by the international community as an indicator of conservation progress.”

It further explains that “To understand and gauge fully the effectiveness of marine protected areas on a global scale we need to look beyond the number of square kilometres protected and provide an alternative metric for conservation success” such as conservation outcomes, management practices and effectiveness of protection.

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