Marine Protected Areas: A Tool for Coastal Areas Management

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Abstract

Marine biodiversity is threatened by human impact. Though few marine species are regarded as being extinct due to Man, many species are critically endangered (e.g. the monk seal Monachus monachus), endangered (e.g. the Mediterranean giant limpet Patella ferruginea) or vulnerable, i.e. dwindling rapidly, although not threatened with extinction in the immediate future (e.g. the large mollusk Pinna nobilis). There are also threats to ecosystems (ecodiversity), such as, in the Mediterranean, the Lithophyllum byssoides rim and the seagrass Posidonia oceanica meadow. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) were initially established to protect biodiversity via the removal of human exploitation and occupation. However, since the 1970s, the notion of MPA has moved on to a more general concept of nature conservation, then to a more dynamic one of nature management, within the framework of sustainable development. Today, the aims of MPAs are therefore sixfold: nature conservation, public education, reference areas for scientific research, tourism, export of fish eggs, larvae and adults to adjacent areas and finally management of the various uses of the sea (e.g. commercial fishing, recreational fishing, pleasure boating and tourism) in such a way that they do not conflict with each other or with conservation aims. Mediterranean MPAs, especially the Port-Cros National Park, illustrate the fact that they are rather characterized by the management of human activities than by a set of prohibitions and that there is no negative interaction between biodiversity conservation and artisanal fishing (i.e. small-scale commercial fishing), at least in the way it is done (i.e. with additional constraints to general regulations: mesh size, prohibition of trawling and longlining, etc.). Consequently, MPAs are generally of benefit to the economy (e.g. commercial fishing and tourism industry), not only within MPAs but also in adjacent areas. They therefore constitute a powerful tool for integrated coastal management.