Recfishwest, CLAREMONT, AUSTRALIA
The community is increasingly recognising that Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) provide a refuge for fish and other aquatic organisms. While the debates rage as to the objectives, size and performance measures for MPAs, many in the community view these areas as an ‘insurance policy’ against future environmental or fishing impacts. The community argues that MPAs do provide a refuge and that they cannot be a bad legacy to leave to future generations. Many of the critical definitions and performance measures are less important if the protected areas are put in place as refuges to meet increasing community concerns about the integrity of the marine environment. These decisions are more likely to be politically driven, but may also be pro-actively implemented before research determines the key habitats or species that will be protected. Some supporters of MPAs suggest that sites in highly-visible, high-use areas will ensure that community awareness of the benefits is raised which in turn will ensure that further sites will be selected. Pre-existing uses, degradation from the proximity of population centres, and the potential for intensive lobbying from impacted individuals, can delay the implementation of these areas indefinitely. Even quality research is open to differing interpretations. This contribution argues that ‘insurance policy’ protected areas which are being more widely advocated, are better implemented in areas of low current use to ensure the environments are not affected by development and can provide a more substantial area for future generations.