Marine conservation is slowly becoming an issue that is making its’ way into the mainstream. In years gone by, environmentalists were often the “tree huggers”. In today’s world marine issues like sanctuaries, protection of charismatic species and environmental stressors on the ocean are all creating an interest in the ocean.
Currently less than 5% of the world’s ocean enjoys complete no-take marine protection. A figure of 20-30% of fully protected areas will be required, if we are to keep fish stocks at a sustainable level. 9/10’s of the world’s big fish are gone, yet your average member of the public is not aware of this.
One of the largest challenges we face in creating sanctuaries is antiquated law designed for predation (fishing), rather than conservation. Unfortunately without proper legal protections available, it is difficult to create the changes that we need to see happen in creating sanctuaries. Most laws governing fish stocks are there to manage fishing not protection.
There seems to be a large movement of determined conservationists working on single species protection. This could be viewed as somewhat of a “red herring” as single species protection rarely includes habitat or the prey of the charismatic species like sharks, dolphins, turtles and whales. The energy of conservation groups on this single species protection could be much better spent on creating full no-take marine sanctuaries. Admittedly this would not work so well for transitory species, yet it would end up creating the direly needed marine sanctuaries. Many species don’t deal well with the catch and release methodology used in single species protection. Consequently sanctuaries would solve this problem as well.
Fish species often don’t enjoy the fascination that the charismatic species do. Consequently it is quite difficult to engage people’s interest in protecting them. Many of the charismatic species rely on this prey to maintain their sustainability and health. As prey fish are often forage fish, there is often little information on the health of these fish stocks. This seems to be a common factor in the way most countries assess their fish stocks. There seems to be a tremendous lack of information on marine creatures, as they don’t enjoy the level of scientific study that land based creatures do.
By-catch and collecting for the aquarium industry also stress the wild fish stocks. Poaching is rampant the world over and there is yet no inter-governmental agreements for controlling illegal fishing activity. Fish farming often uses wild fish stock to create the fish-meal for feeding farm fish. A large number of the world’s fish stock used to feed pigs and chickens.
We need to increase ocean awareness and the sad state of the world’s ocean species. Land-based sanctuaries for animals like elephants and tigers have been an accepted conservation measure for decades. We need to put a joint effort into creating marine sanctuaries before it is too late.