The designation of sea areas for marine protection is generally acknowledged as the most effective way to conserve marine life. The measures that come with the designation alleviate the negative impact on marine environments by development, overfishing and climate change, and can help restore biodiversity, which offer opportunities for regional tourism, the fishing industry, biotechnology, education and scientific research.
For many years, government agencies have used their statutory authority to designate marine protected areas, based on different legislation, including the Fisheries Act (漁業法), National Park Act (國家公園法), Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法) and Cultural Heritage Preservation Act (文化資產保存法).
All those designated areas are equally marine protected areas by name only, as there is no effective management for the designation, which would be essential to implementing ecological protection.
The natural and artificial coastlines of Taiwan proper and the nation’s outlying islands amount to 1,900km. Apart from Taipei and Chiayi City, and Nantou County, all the other 19 counties and cities have direct sea access, and many of them have sufficient means for setting up and maintaining marine protected areas.
While many local governments have designated offshore areas for protection, very few areas have achieved remarkable results, such as those achieved in the Wanghaixiang Chaojing Bay Resource Conservation Area (望海巷潮境海灣資源保育區) in Keelung, the Guanxin Algal Reefs Ecosystem Wildlife Conservation Area (觀新藻礁生態系野生動物保護區) in Taoyuan, the Fushan Fisheries Resources Conservation Area (富山漁業資源保育區) in Taitung County and the Liuqiu Fisheries Resources Conservation Area (琉球漁業資源保育區) in Pingtung County, among others.
These areas, with their abundance of marine life, have become ideal locations for tourism and maritime education. Marine resources have flourished in those areas, yielding ecological, economic and educational values. These protected zones all share two characteristics of good governance: effective enforcement of laws, and partnerships between the local government and communities for the maintenance and management of the areas.
Elinor Ostrom, winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics, said that the most effective governance model for common goods such as protection areas is a kind of management based on local community engagement. Ostrom’s analysis underscores the importance of local participation in the governance of marine protected areas.
The regulatory approaches commonly adopted by local governments for marine conservation include habitat restoration, seabed cleanup, environment monitoring, designating no-fishing zones and imposing restrictions on fishing methods.
The Executive Yuan is also to introduce a new “salute to the seas” policy guided by five major principles — openness, transparency, service, education and responsibility — to encourage the public to “know the ocean,” “approach the ocean” and “to enter the ocean.”
In this light, setting up one marine protected area in every city and county would be another effective effort.
Through governance by public-private partnerships that include local communities, marine protected areas could become imprinted in the minds of local residents, which could lay a solid foundation for marine ecology conservation and ensure sustainable ocean development.
Chen Chung-ling is a professor at National Cheng Kung University’s Institute of Ocean Technology and Marine Affairs.
Translated by Chang Ho-ming
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