Marine ecosystems throughout the ocean are under threat from a range of pressures including overfishing, pollution, habitat loss and climate change. Marine protected areas, or MPAs, are a policy instrument that are put in place to reduce these pressures on biodiversity.
Many scientists, government leaders, non-governmental organisations and other groups have called for at least 30% of the ocean to be protected by 2030 – a target that many scientists agree is needed to ensure a sustainable future for both humanity and the natural world. Currently only 6.4% of the global ocean is protected, with just 2.7% considered to be fully/highly protected, so there is still a long way to go.
In October 2013, the Manta Resort did something very special, they worked with the fishermen and villagers to establish a voluntary MPA adjacent to the resort, in which all forms of fishing were prohibited. This represented a major breakthrough in terms of conservation efforts. In 2018 the Kwanini Foundation recognised that a byelaw was important to abide by the legal requirements of the Zanzibar Fisheries Act of 2010 and to underpin the status of the MPA. This byelaw was drafted by the Kwanini Foundation and agreed through consultation with all the relevant stakeholders. The byelaw now designates this area as a ‘no-take zone’, known as the Kwanini Marine Protected Area (KMPA). Within the KMPA all fishing, gathering, harvesting, collecting and cultivation of marine species are permanently prohibited.
The KMPA is only small, covering an area of 450,000 m2, and encompasses the sandy bottoms, reef flat and small patches of seagrass meadows of the lagoon area as well as the fringing coral reef. Off-shore, there are shallow fringing reef flats which drop off rapidly into the Pemba Channel. It is home to a huge range of marine life, including species of commercial importance such as grouper, sweetlips and emperors, many curious octopuses, moray eels, and even a juvenile nurse shark who has taken up residence in a coral bommie! For us this is a huge step in the right direction as sharks are almost entirely absent from Pemba’s reefs as they have been so intensively fished.
But, how can protecting a small area of coral reef like the KMPA provide benefits in such a large area? Simply, the ‘spillover’ effect – the migration of fish and other species from inside the MPA to outside the boundaries – can offset the fact that people cannot fish within the no-take zone. Fish within the MPA are left alone to grow and reproduce and as their numbers increase there will be too many to occupy the area and so some will move outside the boundaries and will be available to catch.
A recent study
found that expanding the global MPA network by just 5% could improve future fisheries catch by at least 20%, demonstrating that MPAs can have both conservation and food provisioning benefits!