Lessons on Marine Protected Area Management in Northern Boreal Regions from the United States and Norway


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In comparison to tropical reef systems, relatively few marine protected areas (MPA’s) exist in temperate or subarctic systems (e.g., North Pacific and North Atlantic) where species diversity is lower, abundance of individual species is often higher, and many fish species exhibit large amounts of movement during one or more of their life stages, especially as adults. A review of MPA’s in three northern areas—the Northwest Atlantic, Northeast Atlantic, and the Northeast Pacific—indicates that MPA’s can be useful management tools towards fisheries management and habitat conservation. However, achieving fishery goals, such as sustainable use of the fisheries resources, will depend on population abundance (relative to unfished conditions) and fish behavior and movement. For example, depleted populations of stationary species such as Atlantic sea scallops, Placopecten magellanicus, in the Northeast Atlantic and European lobster, Homarus grammarus, in the North Sea have responded positively to small MPA’s, whereas migratory offshore Atlantic cod, Gadus morhua, and Pacific cod, Gadus macrocephalus, apparently do not appear to benefit from closed areas because of movement into fished areas. Efficient habitat conservation requires detailed habitat mapping on relevant spatial scales. In northern boreal systems with large remote areas, this information is difficult and expensive to access. An alternative strategy of closing and protecting unexploited areas has worked well for the Aleutian Island coral closure area in Alaska. MPA’s can be effective fisheries management tools when the species to be protected have been depleted and show a small to moderate level of movement, and reproductive success is ensured. MPA’s can be effective at preserving habitat when the design is based on scientific information and takes into account the impact on the user groups.

Susanne F. McDermott, Lene Buhl-Mortensen, Geir Dahle, Deborah Hart, Alan C. Haynie, Tore Johannessen, Erlend Moksness, Esben Moland Olsen, Erik Olsen, John V. Olsen, Paul D. Spencer, and William Stockhausen