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NOAA Fisheries
Office of Constituent Services
Recreational Fisheries Working Group

MAFAC Meeting March 1999


There exists sufficient and credible evidence that Marine Reserves (a.k.a. marine protected areas, marine management areas, marine fishery reserves, MFRs) are a viable component of fishery management. This evidence plus a perception in some cases that no other known alternative is available, contributes to the fact that MFRs are and will continue to be a significant issue in marine fishery management. So far as MAFAC members are aware, there exist no coherent guidelines within NMFS that relate to MFR creation and management. NMFS involvement in MFR programs, as a result, is widely variable and for the most part reactive in nature. In general, the overall approach of NMFS and many other groups has been to establish scientific criteria, facilitate enforcement, and attempt to resolve gear conflicts and other fishery issues as they relate to MFRs. In its examination of the issue, MAFAC perceived a substantial disconnect between scientists, managers, and stakeholders in the processes of creating and enforcing MFRs. MAFAC recommends that NMFS take a more pro-active approach to MFRs.

The NMFS approach should include as its centerpiece stakeholder education and assistance with MFR design and management. Stakeholders should include all fishers (recreational, commercial, artisanal), other related federal agencies such as NOS Marine Sanctuaries Program, regulators, scientists, and the general public. We present the following recommendations to NMFS:

1. NMFS should acknowledge Marine Reserves as a major issue and management tool. In doing so, NMFS should examine its allocation of staff who are facilitating MFR discussion and outreach. Because staffing is likely to be a problem, we suggest NMFS fully investigate and utilize alternative sources of expertise including but not limited to:

* Interagency collaborations (Councils, Commissions, States, etc.)

* Internships (Universities)

* Volunteers (general public)

* Consultant contracts

2. NMFS should collaborate with other groups to develop commonly accepted definitions of the terms "reserve," "refuge," "sanctuary," "closed area," "protected zone," etc.

3. NMFS should synthesize information and make it available for use by Councils / Commissions / Territories / States / local groups to facilitate their discussion of MFRs. In particular the information should include -

* Definitions of terms

* Synthesis of data, results, and effects of MFRs for the purposes of stakeholder education and collaboration prior to creation of MFR regulations.

4. NMFS should further work with the groups listed above to -

* Identify the current overall extent of no fishing areas (military, disposal, no take, etc.) as a baseline for coordinating and evaluating the need for MFRs, and in particular, for each major coastal region synthesize information on existing closures, regulations, and other management practices that serve as the basis for de facto reserves

* Facilitate processes that are pro-active and characterized by a bottom-up approach and that involve input from stakeholders at all levels

* Develop features that are customizable by region and that allow for dynamic problem solving

* Develop inter- (& intra-) agency collaborations that address issues related to MFRs such as NPS pollution (Dept. of Agric.), sedimentation (EPA), community ecology concerns (USFWS), communication cable siting (FCC), fishing by users from other territories (Territorial Governments, fishing associations), dredge spoils (COE), other broad issues of regulation and enforcement (NOAA Sanctuaries, wildlife refuges, national parks), etc.

* Collect and disseminate information relating to performance of MFRs, including both scientific evidence and testimonials of large and small scale fishers (domestic and global)

* Characterize essential selection criteria (biological, economic, and sociological)

* Focus on intact ecosystems

* Develop information on the complexity of non-fishing factors that also affect fish habitat and include examination of activities that would affect biodiversity within MFRs

* List expected outcomes that can be quantified in terms of both positive and negative socioeconomic and environmental results

* Outline conditions that define when an MFR might be terminated after having completed the job for which it was established

NMFS should take full advantage of the five year Sanctuary Review and the National Marine Sanctuary Act Reauthorization that currently are underway. In particular, NMFS should look for disjunctions between Federal and State/Territorial management relations.


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