This article was originally published on bioGraphic


“As the world’s marine ecosystems face ever-increasing threats, is the trend toward huge, remote reserves a promising new development or a worrisome distraction?
In an apparent coup for conservation, Brazil recently created two massive marine protected areas (MPAs) totaling more than 900,000 square kilometers (almost 350,000 square miles), upping the country’s protected waters from 1.5 percent to nearly 25 percent. Upon closer inspection, however, it’s clear that these new MPAs will actually allow a variety of activities—including commercial and recreational fishing, mining, and oil and gas exploration—in all but a small portion of the habitats they contain. And some scientists argue that the protections these designations provide are simply misplaced, because, they say, while remote, deep-ocean MPAs help countries meet conservation targets, they may not do enough to protect vulnerable biodiversity.
Brazil’s recent announcement, the latest in a string of similar high-profile ocean conservation initiatives over the past decade, has rekindled an ongoing debate among scientists and conservationists about how best to design marine parks and where to place them. The question is particularly pressing now, because 196 countries (excluding the United States) have committed to conserving 10 percent of their waters—“especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services”—under the U.N. Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, and the 2020 deadline to meet this target is looming.

According to some estimates, that goal is well within reach. At the United Nations Ocean Conference in June 2017, the executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity said that 5.7 percent of the ocean was already protected, and that participating countries are on track to exceed their targets by the 2020 deadline. But that somewhat rosy picture may be an illusion. In a paper published earlier this year in Marine Policy, scientists put the actual protected area at about 3.6 percent, and stipulated that only 2 percent is strongly protected…”

Read on at: bioGraphic.