The nationwide 30 x 30 effort to conserve at least 30 percent of America’s land, freshwater, and ocean areas by 2030 is elevating the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) conversation across the U.S.
We here in California have been dealing with the challenges of MPAs for years as elements of the environmental community have long focused their efforts here. Now the rest of the country can learn from the misinformation and mishandling of MPAs in California. MPA enthusiasts have spent hundreds of millions of dollars funding and promoting science with a preservationist perspective in order to support their pro-MPA beliefs. The most inaccurate MPA information claims that no-take MPAs are a meaningful tool for increasing fishery productivity, while at the same time ignores the real value of proven fishery management in the U.S.
Until now, existing studies by marine scientists with a conservationist perspective that challenge MPA advocacy claims have largely been buried in the record. With a recent sportfishing community effort to uncover and make available that science, there is now a more balanced scientific picture around what MPAs can and cannot accomplish regarding support for fisheries.
So, what does this more balanced peer-reviewed MPA science show? It shows that current U.S. fishery management practices, not MPAs, are the key to protecting overall fishery productivity in the U.S. According to the 2019 NOAA Report to Congress,
This success is due to effective fishery management practices such as fish hatcheries, size and quantity limits, licenses, catch-and-release fishing, seasonal closures, temporary area closures, gear restrictions, total allowable catch limits, limited entry, and more. Permanent MPAs played no meaningful role in rebuilding any of the 44 marine fish stocks rebuilt since 2000. This current more balanced science perspective also answers the false perceptions that no-fishing MPAs have a track record of success, that the benefits of no-fishing MPAs spill over to adjacent areas, and that the scientific community agrees on the value of no-fishing MPAs, which they do not.
Without recreational fishing, fisheries conservation would virtually cease to exist. Anglers understand the need to protect and conserve our fish populations and the habitat they depend on. We support 30 by 30 policies that are not merely aspirational, but that recognize existing management levels/ actions that currently afford protections and work to identify additional conservation needs and actions through an objective, science-driven, stakeholder-engaged process to determine the appropriate level of management actions necessary to meet biodiversity conservation goals. What we don’t support is anglers being denied access to public waters without real and well-defined reasons.