Among marine scientists, gloom is a common emotion. Ocean acidification, overfishing, plastic waste, and general human-created awfulness doesn’t provide much cheer. However, there are, on occasion, reasons to celebrate, and the new 148,000 square kilometer marine park centered around the Revillagigedo Archipelago is very good news!
The archipelago, located southeast of the Baja peninsula, is home to an amazing diversity of marine species from Humpback whales to shark and ray species. The islands also host rare land-dwelling species.
While the area has some protection already, all fishing activities will now be prohibited, as will construction of any new hotels and associated infrastructure on the islands, according to Reuters.
The reserve is expected to be good news for conservationists, but also, in time, good news for commercial fishing operations. The concept of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) suggests that areas, without fishing pressure, provide a source of fish which will then, as they leave the MPAS, become available for fisheries. The IUCN definition goes:
‘A clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values’ Clearly, a network of MPAs that protect the most valuable and ecologically important areas represent a win for the conservationists, but if the MPAs are designed and controlled correctly, they can offer a win for commercial fisheries as well. I’ve come across many MPAs that limit fishing rather than banning it entirely, and support small-scale, sustainable and artisan fisheries. Aquarists may be aware that the Revillagigedo Archipelago is one of the areas where Clarion Angels are found. The current US President has reportedly considered shrinking two marine national monuments, according to the Washington Post.