Protected areas

Conservation of cold-water coral reefs as with other marine environments is a challenging but important issue and measures depends on the focus of management e.g. regional issues such as bottom trawling or global, such as cutting  CO2 emissions. On a local to regional scale, area closures, marine protected areas (MPA’s) and reserves are all approaches that have been taken to conserve cold-water reefs. These measures protect a particular habitat or in the case of fisheries, depleted stocks, from further exploitation and also attempt to initiate a recovery (Roberts, 2006). Such methods have been used all across the world to protect cold-water coral reef ecosystems, as summarised in Table.1.

Table.1. Global examples of area closures including MPA’s

The key point to these approaches is an increase in regulation, in order to protect vulnerable reefs and this often entails banning activities, as in the case of the Stone Fence closure (Breeze and Fenton, 2007). If allowed to persist however, fishing is strictly monitored, and this is achieved by Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS), permits and routine government enforcement (Reed, 2002; Davies et al., 2007; Armstrong and Van den Hove, 2008; Roberts et al., 2009). VMS have the advantage of notifying fishing boats when they have breached the boundaries of a MPA and provide data directly to enforcement agencies (Davies et al., 2007). For the Oculina HAPC bank, there has been a good success rate with the use of VMS and regular patrols by the US coastguard (Reed, 2002). VMS in conjunction with satellite imagery (e.g. Kourti, 2001) will prove useful to ensuring the accurate position of fishing vessels are obtained, where the remote location of reefs and costs of enforcement are high (Reed, 2002; Davies et al., 2007).

MPA’s are seen as a useful management tool but have a number of limitations to do with the placement and size of the areas for conservation, owing to the dynamics of marine systems (Boersma and Parrish, 1999). Furthermore, MPA’s have generally been situated within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the associated country, leaving large areas of the high seas poorly protected (Roberts et al., 2005). Networks of MPA’s have been recommended to deal with this and a proposal of 40% was suggested as a necessary step to protect marine environments for the future (Roberts et al., 2006). Within the context of MPA’s, some authors view that an ecosystems based approach to management is equally important and this is especially so for reefs located on sea mounts, where interactions are complicated by the inclusion of top marine predators, seabirds and fish stocks (Morgan et al., 2005)

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