Success Stories

It is no secret that our ocean is in trouble; 90% of the big fish are missing, ½ of our coral reefs have disappeared and large oxygen dead zones are appearing around the globe. We are facing a loss of not only an amazing natural feature on our earth, but the ocean is crucial to human health. More than a billion people around the world get their primary source of protein from the ocean. When fisheries collapse, people and local communities are hurt from nutritional losses and economic hardships. Over the past few years, new hope is being secured for our oceans as marine protected areas, or underwater parks, are being established as safe havens for our future.

Around the globe, from kelp forests to coral reefs, underwater parks are showing signs of success. While marine protected areas management is still in its infancy, our understanding of how the ocean rebounds is growing rapidly. Many factors influence how recovery in a particular location occurs. Of course the level of protection offered is a huge factor; partial protection offers less ecological benefits than full protection. In all cases, recovery takes time. Many species take years to reach maturity and reproduce, hence the longer that a protected area has been in effect, the benefits of protection increase. California’s marine protected areas are relatively young, but positive benefits are already being detected. Below are success stories from MPAs around the world, which provide exciting evidence of what Californians can look forward to.

Success Stories

Marine Protected Areas Benefit Sharks

Sharks may be scary to some, but as keystone species, they help to maintain a balanced ocean ecosystem. Unfortunately, sharks are currently under great fishing pressure, due largely to the commercial shark fin trade. With close to 100 million sharks being killed worldwide each year, many shark species are now at risk of extinction. Sharks are particularly susceptible to overfishing because of their slow reproduction rates. Conservation measures are vital for protecting these keystone predators.

Marine protected areas (MPAs) have not always been considered a viable form of protection for sharks due to the small size of these protected areas compared to the wide ranges of these predators. However, some species of sharks associated with coral reefs exhibit site fidelity and therefore MPAs can offer them respite from fishing pressure and provide the sharks with more food sources. Evidence from new studies is demonstrating the benefits that MPAs have for certain shark species.

The mission of the California’s Marine Protected Areas Education and Outreach Initiative is to enhance MPA education through enduring partnerships to empower Californians to protect what they know and love.