Parks that pro­tect lit­tle

Re­search shows 59% of the world’s ma­rine parks are ‘not eco­log­i­cally dis­tin­guish­able from fished sites’.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ECOWATCH - By OLIVER MIL­MAN By RI­CARDO LOPEZ

MOST of the world’s pro­tected ma­rine ar­eas are fail­ing to prop­erly pro­tect aquatic life, with many show­ing few dif­fer­ences from neigh­bour­ing ar­eas that are openly fished, an Aus­tralian-led study has found.

Univer­sity of Tas­ma­nia re­search of 87 ma­rine pro­tected ar­eas in 40 coun­tries showed the best ma­rine parks had on aver­age eight times more large fish and 14 times more sharks than fished ar­eas. But the re­search, pub­lished in Na­ture, found that 59% of the ma­rine parks stud­ied were “not eco­log­i­cally dis­tin­guish­able from fished sites”.

Re­searchers iden­ti­fied five key traits of a well-man­aged ma­rine park: no fish­eries, well en­forced, es­tab­lished for longer than 10 years, larger than 100sqkm and iso­lated by deep wa­ter or sand. Only ma­rine parks with four or all five of these cri­te­ria were ef­fec­tively boost­ing con­ser­va­tion val­ues, the study found. Among the 26 ma­rine ar­eas stud­ied in Aus­tralia, the only place with all five key traits was Mid­dle Reef, near Lord Howe Is­land.

The six-year study, which utilised sci­en­tists and divers from 19 coun­tries, con­cluded that while the num­ber of ma­rine pro­tected ar­eas was in­creas­ing rapidly, the ben­e­fits gen­er­ated were “dif­fi­cult to pre­dict and un­der de­bate”.

“Ma­rine pro­tected ar­eas of­ten fail to reach their full po­ten­tial as a con­se­quence of fac­tors such as il­le­gal har­vest­ing, reg­u­la­tions that legally al­low detri­men­tal har­vest­ing, or emi­gra­tion of an­i­mals out­side bound­aries be­cause of con­tin­u­ous habi­tat or in­ad­e­quate size of re­serve,” the paper states.

“Our re­sults show that global con­ser­va­tion tar­gets based on area alone will not op­ti­mise pro­tec­tion of ma­rine bio­diver-

New York leg­is­la­tor has in­tro­duced a sim­i­lar mea­sure af­ter sci­en­tists found high con­cen­tra­tions of the tiny ex­fo­li­at­ing beads in the state’s lakes and other wa­ters.

Re­searchers warn that the mi­crobeads, which are not biodegrad­able, are in­gested by fish and other an­i­mals, po­ten­tially end­ing up in the food chain. The tiny plas­tic orbs have al­ready been found in Cal­i­for­nia wa­ters and in the Pa­cific Ocean. CAL­I­FOR­NIA is set to ban the sale of cos­metic prod­ucts, such as fa­cial scrubs, con­tain­ing tiny plas­tic beads that find their way into wa­ter­ways and the ocean.

Demo­cratic As­sem­bly­man Richard Bloom plans to in­tro­duce a bill that would ban the sale of prod­ucts con­tain­ing the mi­crobeads, which are too small to be re­moved by wa­ter treat­ment pro­cesses af­ter they drain out of sinks and show­ers sity. More em­pha­sis is needed on bet­ter park de­sign, durable man­age­ment and com­pli­ance to en­sure that ma­rine parks achieve their de­sired con­ser­va­tion value.”

Prof Gra­ham Edgar, lead au­thor of the re­port at the Univer­sity of Tas­ma­nia’s In­sti­tute of Ma­rine and Antarc­tic Stud­ies, said that poor qual­ity ma­rine parks needed to be “retro­fit­ted” to en­sure they prop­erly pro­tect un­der­wa­ter life.

“Given the huge changes now oc­cur­ring out of sight un­der wa­ter, and our poor knowl­edge of ex­actly what is hap­pen­ing and how best to deal with the var­i­ous threats in­di­vid­u­ally, the need for pro­tected ar­eas that safe­guard whole com­mu­ni­ties of ma­rine species has never been greater,” he said.

“What we do know is that num­bers of many Aus­tralian ma­rine species have col­lapsed since Euro­pean set­tle­ment, in­clud­ing some that have dis­ap­peared. At present, coastal zon­ing maps are con­fus­ing, with the few con­ser­va­tion gems hid­den amongst pro­tected ar­eas that are in­ef­fec­tive be­cause of in­ad­e­quate reg­u­la­tions or poor en­force­ment.”

In De­cem­ber, the Aus­tralian Coali­tion govern­ment tore up man­age­ment plans drawn up by Labour to cre­ate the world’s largest net­work ma­rine parks off Aus­tralia’s coast. Greg Hunt, the en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter, said the plans would have “locked out” recre­ational fish­ers from Aus­tralian wa­ters. While the ma­rine park bound­aries would re­main, new man­age­ment plans would be cre­ated, dis­may­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal cam­paign­ers who pointed out that most non­fish­ing ar­eas were more than 50km from pop­u­la­tion cen­tres.

The Great Bar­rier Reef ma­rine park, pos­si­bly the most fa­mous ma­rine park in the world, is set to be­come the dump­ing site for three mil­lion cu­bic me­tres of dredged seabed af­ter a per­mit for the con­tro­ver­sial dis­posal was is­sued two weeks ago. – Guardian News & Me­dia

The bill, which would im­pose civil penal­ties, isn’t as far reach­ing as New York’s, which would ban not just the sale, but also the man­u­fac­ture of prod­ucts con­tain­ing plas­tic par­ti­cles 5mm or smaller in di­am­e­ter.

Nonethe­less, its in­tro­duc­tion is a vic­tory for the 5 Gy­ers In­sti­tute, a Santa Mon­ica, Cal­i­for­nia, en­vi­ron­men­tal. and ad­vo­cacy non-profit with just five staff mem­bers. The group, which found high lev­els of mi­crobeads in the Great Lakes in 2012 and is re­search­ing plas­tic pol­lu­tion in Cal­i­for­nia, helped craft the leg­is­la­tion in both states.

“5 Gy­ers is a re­ally nim­ble or­gan­i­sa­tion,” said Stiv Wil­son, the group’s pol­icy di­rec­tor. “We take pride we were able to get this bill in­tro­duced in two re­ally im­por­tant states.”

Ma­jor cos­metic com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Proc­ter & Gam­ble Co and John­son & John­son, have al­ready pledged to phase out the use of the plas­tic mi­crobeads from their prod­ucts.

“We are dis­con­tin­u­ing our limited use of mi­cro plas­tic beads as scrub ma­te­ri­als in per­sonal care prod­ucts as soon as al­ter­na­tives are qual­i­fied,” said Mandy Wag­ner, a Proc­ter & Gam­ble spokes­woman. “In ad­di­tion, we have de­cided not to in­tro­duce mi­cro plas­tic beads into any new prod­uct cat­e­gory.”

Wag­ner did not im­me­di­ately pro­vide a time­line for when the com­pany would end the use of the plas­tic beads.

In a state­ment on its web­site, John­son & John­son said it hopes to com­plete the first phase of re­for­mu­la­tions for about half of its prod­ucts by the end of 2015. The re­main­ing prod­ucts will be re­for­mu­lated once sub­sti­tutes are iden­ti­fied.

Other cos­metic com­pa­nies al­ready use in­gre­di­ents such as apri­cot and wal­nut shells that ac­com­plish the same job with­out harm­ing the en­vi­ron­ment. A spokes­woman for the Per­sonal Care Prod­ucts Coun­cil, a trade group in Wash­ing­ton, DC, de­clined to com­ment on the pend­ing leg­is­la­tion un­til the or­gan­i­sa­tion com­pletes a full re­view of the pro­posed bills.

Cos­met­ics mak­ers over the last decade have in­creas­ingly added mi­crobeads to fa­cial scrubs, soaps, tooth­paste and other prod­ucts. 5 Gyres said that a sin­gle prod­uct can con­tain as many as 350,000 of the poly­eth­yl­ene or polypropy­lene mi­crobeads.

“Mi­crobeads may seem in­signif­i­cant, but their small size is what’s the prob­lem,” Wil­son said. The beads act as a sponge for toxic pol­lu­tants, which fish and other aquatic life can mis­take for food, he said.

Bloom, who was in­stru­men­tal in pass­ing a plas­tic bag ban in Santa Mon­ica when he was mayor there, said he ex­pects some push-back from busi­ness groups but that he’s en­cour­aged that large com­pa­nies ap­pear to be phas­ing out the plas­tic orbs.

“If the in­dus­try is roughly on the same page in recog­nis­ing the longterm dan­ger to sea life and habi­tat ... this is go­ing to be a very easy process,” he said.

Though re­search hasn’t yet es­tab­lished that fish and other aquatic life are in­gest­ing mi­crobeads and con­tam­i­nat­ing the food chain, Bloom said early ev­i­dence on plas­tic pol­lu­tion in gen­eral is suf­fi­cient.

“It’s im­por­tant to get to this be­fore it be­comes a wide-scale prob­lem, be­fore it re­quires a very ex­pen­sive re­sponse,” he said. “We know enough about ma­rine bi­ol­ogy to know that it will grow in mag­ni­tude and con­tinue to be a prob­lem.” – Los Angeles Times/McClatchy Tri­bune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices

Aus­tralia’s Great Bar­rier Reef has long been touted as the world’s best-man­aged ma­rine re­serve but it still faces grave threats. – aP

En­dan­gered habi­tat:

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.