Marine Protected Areas

The SEA LIFE Trust is a marine conservation organisation which supports Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and works to highlight how MPAs benefit marine habitats, wildlife and commercial fishing.

Marine Protected Areas or Marine Parks come in many shapes and forms, however there is a common theme to most of them; they are an ecosystem based management tool that are structured to accomodate multiple users. You often hear some parts of the community (more often than not fishers) referring to MPAs as being lock out zones where they can’t fish.

In NSW marine parks include sanctuary zones which ordinarily should be areas that are completely no take zones and usually constitute the smallest areas within the MPA (pink on map, right).

This is actually not the case in NSW. At the beginning of 2013 the NSW Minister of Primary Industries, without any consultation or scientific input implemented an amnesty on recreational line fishing in sanctuary zones on beaches and headlands. This is contrary to what sanctuary zones are mandated for and therefore has been seen to be a step backwards with respect to protecting our precious, yet vulnerable inshore aquatic environments.

Other zones within marine parks include Habitat Protection Zones (yellow, where limited fishing of some kinds may occur but usually does not permit commercial fishing), General Use Zone (aqua, oil mining or exploration is not permitted but everything else is including commercial fishing) and Special Use Zones (dark blue) often designated for military purposes.

Marine parks have had great success in not only protecting existing habitats and fish stocks but in enabling fish populations to build back up so there are not only more fish, but they are bigger. Read more about coral trout recovery here.

The success of a marine park though is largely dependent upon the size of the no take zone, it has to be big enough to do the job, and its age. Reproductive cycles are different for different species so it can take many generations of a species’ life cycle before increases in both population and fish size can be seen.

Where next?

Continue exploring more about our conservation work and see how you can help our oceans.