A core component of marine conservation planing within Australia during the past decade has been the development of a national system of representative marine protected areas (NRSMPA’s) (ANZEEC 1999). Concurrent with the implementation of this system comes the need for effective monitoring programs to assess the ability of MPAs to perform this desired role. While the current focus of MPA planning and implementation is the conservation of biodiversity, MPA’s can provide a wide range of important roles. These include acting as baseline reference areas for assessing the success of current conservation and fisheries management strategies in coastal ecosystems, and their use in fisheries management through protection of spawner biomass and conservation of critical habitats. By studying the changes that occur following protection we may be able to determine to what extent MPAs meet this wide range of possible roles and which MPA designs and management strategies are most effective in achieving the desired outcomes. To properly determine whether
changes observed within MPAs are the result of protection (rather than natural variation in space and time) it is important to conduct effective baseline surveys within and adjacent to proposed MPAs before their declaration, and to re-survey these locations after biologically meaningful time intervals. With this methodology the effectiveness of various levels of protection can be distinguished from more general long-term trends in coastal waters, when changes in protected areas are found to be significantly larger or smaller than changes outside them.
Barrett N.S., Edgar G J., Morton A J
Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute Internal Report