What is a Marine Conservation Agreement (MCA)?

A Marine Conservation agreement generally involves some sort of trade with the people who utilise a particular marine resource in return for the conservation of some of that resource. This may include the buy-out of fishing licences or setting aside certain areas for conservation management in return for specific social benefits

What is a No Take Zone (NTZ)

This is an area where no fishing what-so-ever is allowed for a set period of time. This allows fish to grow and breed with a spill over of fish and larvae supporting fisheries in the surrounding areas. This is essential as even low level local traditional fishing can wipe out large, slow growing high value mature reef fish.

How big does a no take zone need to be?

This depends on the fish stock you are trying to conserve. Some NTZs can be quite small for example to protect a specific spawning area and may only be a few hundred hectares. For more general reef fish habitat to protect larger reef species 10,000ha is considered a minimum size.

Why are No Take Zones considered an effective management tool in tropical marine situations?

Where there is multi-gear, multi-use fisheries scientists agree that the most effective way to ensure that high value fish stocks can be re-established and maintained is through large no take zones where larger fish have the opportunity to grow to maturity and breed. This is also the most difficult system to “sell’ to local communities who have difficulties in waiting for a number for years to see the benefits. 

 How long is the Marine Conservation Agreement for?

We negotiate for a 25 year initial term for the MCA, with the option to extend for another 25 years. 

Why create private Marine Conservation Agreements (MCAs) and not simply expand existing government Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)?

Marine Conservation Agreements can generally target specific high value conservation areas quickly and efficiently especially if there is already and enabling environment with the local communities concerned. For example, in areas where government education programs or other NGOs have raised awareness of marine conservation issues. In addition, MCA managers are able to provide direct social benefits in exchange for conservation outcomes, something that International NGOs and governments are generally not able to do. Managers also have the option to withdraw specified benefits if the communities fail to comply with the terms of the agreement.

Are there the financial benefits in supporting Marine Conservation Agreements over Government Marine Protected areas?

How effective an MPA is in protecting marine habitats and fish stocks depends on the ability and willingness of governments to commit the necessary resources to enforce regulations. In developing countries both resources and commitment are generally lacking, resulting in so called “paper parks”. 

MCAs on the other hand generally involve businesses or local NGOs that develop a long term interest in the area by having some form of business enterprise(s) that are directly linked to the effective management of the local marine resources. These may include ecotourism, farming or sustainable fisheries related businesses. The communities are happy because they see both immediate and long term benefits for clearly defined conservation goals. Communities are empowered to manage their own resources and with sensitive independent monitoring are more able to abide by agreements without social conflict.