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No-fishing reserves only way to avoid marine extinctions

WELLINGTON, Aug. 27 — Two leading New Zealand marine scientists on Thursday warned that more stringent global measures are needed to prevent sealife extinctions, including reserves that ban all fishing.

The definition of marine protected areas (MPAs) had become too loose and there was little certainty over how effective they were, Associate Professor Mark Costello, of the Institute of Marine Science at the University of Auckland, and Dr. Bill Ballantine, a pioneer of marine reserves in New Zealand, said in a statement.

Instead, more no-take marine reserves, where fishing of any kind was prohibited, must be established and existing MPAs that allow some fishing should not be reported by countries unless they could prove biodiversity gain.

"We say that if organizations and countries want to report on marine biodiversity protection, then that can only be done robustly from within designated no-take reserves," Costello said.

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity had a goal of managing ocean resources sustainably by 2020, but that goal was looking less achievable, he said.

"Most people probably think we are making progress in marine conservation, but the figures show that's not the case," Costello said.

"So far extinctions in the ocean have been lower than on land, but we know some marine species are on the brink and at least a tenfold increase in no-take marine reserves is the best way to conserve marine biodiversity for future generations."

Less than 1 percent of the world's oceans were designated no-take marine reserves and less than one quarter of coastal countries had even one designated marine reserve.

Since 1950, about 9,000 MPAs have been established by 150 countries and today just 6 percent of those were no-take.

In 1950, the figure was 27 percent, and by 2013, a total of 94 percent of MPAs allowed some fishing.

"MPAs are often multiple-use, with the aim of managing resources rather than preserving and protecting biodiversity in its wild condition," Ballantine said.

"Only areas that are no-take should be regarded as truly protecting ocean ecosystems and if countries can't accurately report from no-take areas within MPAs, then conservation gain should be assumed to be zero."

New Zealand protected 6.9 percent of its marine environment through some form of protection, but less than 1 percent of the exclusive economic zone was protected through no-take reserves. (PNA/Xinhua)

JBP/CDN

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