Valuing Marine Wilderness: Representative Marine Protected Areas and the Perceived Value of Biodiversity Restoration
Proceedings of the Species at Risk 2004 Pathways to Recovery Conference, March 2-6, 2004, Victoria, B.C.
12 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2006
Although the political will to protect areas of the ocean in marine protected areas lagged far behind governments' willingness to protect ecologically or culturally important terrestrial areas, marine protected areas and systems of marine protected areas have emerged into the political agendas of governments throughout the world, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, and, as of June 2003, the European Union. However, the creation of marine protected areas and systems of MPAs requires countries to sacrifice potentially beneficial uses of those areas, such as fishing and mineral extraction. Creation of MPAs and systems of MPAs thus involve political choices and policy promotion, and a country's choice of legal vehicle and political priorities can suggest implications regarding the eventual scientific and ecological success of its national system of MPAs.
This paper examines the legal and political rhetoric that three countries - the United States, Canada, and Australia - have used to justify their national systems of MPAs and explores the potential ramifications of that rhetoric and the policy chooices behind it for the scientific and ecological success of each of their systems. Because each system is relatively new, measurements of success may have to wat for several years. Nevertheless, some distinctions are already striking. The United States, for example, is pursuing its national systems of MPAs based on a non-binding legal policy to promote economic goals, suggesting that the scientific and ecological value of its system will readily fall victim to changing political priorities and national pressures. Canada, in contrast, has put in place substantial national culture and national pride policies that will serve to reinforce its bioidiversity goals for its system of national marine conservation areas. Finally, Australia has committed fully to the protection of marine biodiversity for biodiversity's sake, suggesting that its national system of MPAs, as has already been evidenced in the history of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, will enjoy considerable scientific validity.
Keywords: marine protected area, MPA, national system, biodiversity, rhetoric, Canada, Australia, comparative law
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