[13th October 2017]. What has been the impact of our MPA 4 years on? Do we have more fish inside the protected area than outside? Are the corals improving inside the protected area? Are the local fishermen convinced by this demonstration area?
It takes a lot of effort to set up a marine protected area, you need to establish boundaries, identify the stakeholders, hold discussions with the interested parties, reach agreement on use and mark the area off. Then you need to set up surveillance and monitoring and have good connections with the local regulators to make sure that there is effective enforcement. Arguably most important, is to have sustainable financing to make sure that the system can operate effectively on a daily basis.
So, has it made a difference? While we have no formal evidence, we are pretty convinced that there are more fish inside our MPA than outside! We have resident schools of Trevally and Rainbow Runners of all size categories which are definitely on the increase. The fishermen seem to know it too and can regularly be seen fishing along the boundaries of the reserve. We have an excellent demonstration site to show the advantages of restricted access to small parts of the coastline.
But, we have started to collect data on the corals and fish inside and outside the reserve. At the moment we are using our own scientists, but we hope to launch a ‘citizen science’ programme in 2018 so that we can collect even more information on the impact of MPAs in this location.
We would like to thank all the Manta guests who have taken part in the ‘Snorkelling for Conservation’ programme set up by the Manta Resort to contribute to the costs of the surveillance team, which operates a 24/7 watch on the reef. This money also helped to train the surveillance team and we hope to provide them with ‘ranger’ uniforms soon. Thankfully, the fishermen respect the reserve and our daily patrols are very effective.
The needs are the same for voluntary or statutory MPAs which makes the Manta Family’s efforts of four years ago even more remarkable. We hope to be celebrating the fifth ‘birthday’ of Kwanini Marine Protected Area with a new found legal status and some solid evidence of the positive benefits of closed areas.