Planning MPAs with the Philippines team. Photo by Amanda Vincent / Project Seahorse

Creating Protected Areas

Project Seahorse values marine protected areas (MPAs) as a significant tool in marine conservation.

We have a long history of creating MPAs, providing support for their successful implementation, and carrying out research to enhance their effectiveness.

Benefits of MPAs

MPAs have enormous potential to enhance biodiversity and improve people’s well-being, in combination with other approaches to ocean health. In these refuges, removing pressure from fishing and other human activities allows animals and plants to thrive. As wildlife densities build, young and adults spillover into adjacent waters, rebuilding populations and enhancing fisheries.

Jandayan Island, Danajon Bank. Photo by Amanda Vincent / Project Seahorse

Commitments to MPAs

MPAs have become mainstream tools for conservation, although actual levels of protection remain a big concern. Globally, most countries committed to protecting 10% of their ocean in MPAs by 2020, with ever more countries reaching for 30% by 2030, in accordance with IUCN policy. The world is realising that MPAs provide important insurance against the ferocious effects of fishing and disrupting our ocean so heavily.

Creating MPAs

Project Seahorse has ushered in 35 MPAs in the central Philippines, all of them community-based. Our teams of biologists and community organizers (social workers) began inviting villagers to consider creation of MPAs in 1998. The first reserve we fostered has won an award as the most effective in the Philippines. The villagers’ pride in the success of that MPA prompted their neighbours also to establish MPAs. And we soon had an array of MPAs that were working effectively with good support.

Advancing MPAs

Project Seahorse continues to advance MPAs, especially given their potential to help constrain poorly managed or destructive fisheries. We have worked with two First Nations (indigenous peoples) in British Columbia on MPA planning. More recently, we have been providing guidance and support to MPA development in mainland China, including to a fisher-initiated MPA in a north, where trawls are threatening a dense seahorse population.

MPAs are particularly important tools in regulating the most nonselective and destructive fishing practices. For example, modifications to bottom trawling are not going to help most threatened species. We instead need to exclude the practice wherever we can.