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Scripps Institution researchers develop new approach for designing marine reserves

The culmination of hundreds of research dives, scientific analysis, and high-tech mapping software has led to a fundamentally new approach for designing networks of marine reserves. An effort led by researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, and reported in the Dec. 6 issue of Science, could become a powerful new method for decision makers charged with developing marine reserves and a forerunner for similar efforts around the world.

The study was a collaborative effort between Scripps Institution, the Universidad Autnoma de Baja California Sur in La Paz, and the Gulf of California Program of the World Wildlife Fund.

Networks of reserves, areas where species are protected, are recognized as an important instrument for conserving marine wildlife. Theories about the best way to implement such networks, including their optimal locations and sizes, have increased in recent years. However, practical, real-world applications of marine reserves on large scales have been rare.

The report published in Science illustrates the most advanced marine reserve network design to date. A group led by Scripps's Enric Sala concentrated efforts in the Gulf of California (also called the Sea of Corts), the biologically rich body of water between mainland Mexico and the Baja Peninsula that is home to about 900 species of fishes and more than 30 species of marine mammals.

Fishing pressures in the Gulf of California have been well publicized, from John Steinbeck in The Log from the Sea of Cortz to the New York Times, which earlier this year described extensive fishing pressures on this "exhausted" sea.

"The conservation and management of marine ecosystems need to be well designed, instead of simply using political or economic opportunities," said Sala, a native of Girona, Spain, and deputy director of the Scripps Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservat
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Contact: Mario Aguilera or Cindy Clark
scrippsnews@ucsd.edu
858-534-3624
University of California - San Diego
5-Dec-2002


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