You are here: Home > Marine Conservation
Marine conservation, also known as marine resources conservation, is the protection and preservation of ecosystems in oceans and seas. Marine conservation focuses on limiting human-caused damage to marine ecosystems, and on restoring damaged marine ecosystems. Marine conservation also focuses on preserving vulnerable marine species.
Marine conservation is the study of conserving physical and biological marine resources and ecosystem functions. This is a relatively new discipline. Marine conservationists rely on a combination of scientific principles derived from marine biology, oceanography, and fisheries science, as well as on human factors such as demand for marine resources, marine pollution and marine law, economics and policy in order to determine how to best protect and conserve marine species and ecosystems.
Marine conservation can be seen as a subdiscipline of conservation biology.
Strategies and techniques for marine conservation tend to combine theoretical disciplines, such as population biology, with practical conservation strategies, such as setting up protected areas, as with marine protected areas (MPAs) or Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas. Other techniques include developing sustainable fisheries and restoring the populations of endangered species through artificial means.
Unsustainable fishing - caused by poor fisheries management and wasteful, destructive fishing practices - is decimating the world's fisheries, as well as destroying marine habitats and killing billions of unwanted fish and other marine animals each year.
As a result, the future of the fishing industry is under threat - as are already endangered marine species and habitats, and the livelihoods and food security of millions of people.
Another focus of conservationists is on curtailing human activities that are detrimental to either marine ecosystems or species through policy, techniques such as fishing quotas, like those set up by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, or laws such as those listed below. Recognizing the economics involved in human use of marine ecosystems is key, as is education of the public about conservation issues.
Only 0.6% of the world’s oceans are protected, and the vast majority of existing marine parks and reserves suffer from little or no effective management. This is despite the fact that MPAs not only help safeguard biodiversity, they can also benefit fisheries and people.
International laws and treaties related to marine conservation include the EU Common Fisheries Policy, 1966 Convention on Fishing and Conservation of Living Resources of the High Seas. United States laws related to marine conservation include the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act, as well as the 1972 Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act which established the National Marine Sanctuaries program.
The end of 2009 saw the intruduction of the Marine & Coastal Access Act in England, while in 2010, the Scottish Parliament enacted new legislation for the protection of marine life with the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010. The provisions in the Act include: Marine planning, Marine licensing, marine conservation, seal conservation, and enforcement.
Marine Conservation in the UK
The waters around Lundy Island became England's first marine conservation zone as the government project to create a network of protected Marine Reserve areas in the seas began.
The creation of the marine conservation zone (MCZ) around the island under the Marine & Coastal Access Act is effectively just a name change for the site, which has been a marine nature reserve for more than 20 years.
But over the next two years, plans for a network of protected zones will be drawn up around English, Welsh and Northern Irish waters under the Marine and Coastal Access Act, which was passed at the end of 2009.
The seas around Lundy, a three mile-long island off the Devon coast, are home to wildlife ranging from grey seals and lobsters to pink sea fan corals and habitats including reefs, sea caves and sand banks.
Part of the area, which was England's only marine nature reserve, has been a "no-take zone" - which meant it was protected from all kinds of fishing - since 2003.
Lobsters are among the wildlife shown to have benefited from the protection the restrictions provided.
While some of the new marine conservation zones could be no-take zones to protect wildlife, officials say that is unlikely to be the case in the majority of areas, with ranging levels of protection at different sites.
Before we can decide which areas are in need of protection, we must first gather information on seabed habitats and associated marine wildlife. That is why the Seasearch work is so important, where they are making quality assured Seasearch data available to partner organisations and the general public. Click here to find out more about Seasearch in the South East region