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Day 3 Debate: Assessing the MPAs' Impact on Fisheries

On the occasion of Day 3, focusing on industry involvement, we talked about how MPAs and fishing interact with Serge Michel Garcia of IUCN's Fisheries Expert Group and Catherine Piante of WWF France. WWF provided momentum for the setting up of the Mediterranean network of MPA managers (MedPAN).

What benefits do MPAs carry for commercial fisheries?

Serge Michel Garcia: We are able to assess relatively well how MPAs replenish resources, so we assume that fisheries will increase catch accordingly – and profits, too. But in truth we are still unable to assess the economic benefits accurately. We need to work on models that will help us predict, in each specific context, how MPAs affect populations inside and around their boundaries, socially and economically. MPAs can change their lives and environments: villages move, people change jobs, fishermen switch to different catches. We need to be able to foresee that.

How can we convince fisheries that they can profit from marine protected areas?

Catherine Piante: The Mediterranean network is made up of coastal MPAs harboring mostly small-scale fishing. Many of those MPAs are relatively old. All this means we have more empirical data than most, showing that fisheries can indeed hope to be better off. But it's true that this needs to be researched more thoroughly. What we do know is that MPAs that function best are those where fishermen have a strong sense of engagement.

Serge Michel Garcia: It's easier to gain the support of small-scale, local fishermen than of other types of fisheries. Locals stand the most to gain from the creation of an MPA. To them, it can be a way of excluding competitors. If you take all types of fishing back into the picture, there's a strong chance that the benefits fishing derive from MPAs do not compensate opportunity costs, at least in the middle run.

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