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Plenty More Fish in the Sea: What is Being Done to Ensure Marine Sustainability?

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The Mafia Island Marine Park is the first of its kind in the world. Set up as collaboration between Frontier and the WFF, it is recognised as the first successful multi-user marine park in a developing country.

Without protected marine areas such as the Mafia Island many marine environments may be left in ruins because of the immaturity of overfishing and disrespectful usages of such places. Nature reserves on land are much more common than MPA's (Marine Protected Areas) in the US alone 10 percent of its land is protected by government emplaced reserves. However, this is not the case for our oceans, where extremely minimal defenses are put in place which are aimed at conserving them. A lack of regulations protecting the oceans has resulted in damaging fishing techniques, such as blast fishing, and abusive overfishing which is unsustainable and destructive to fragile marine ecosystems.

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Image courtesy of Frontier's Tanzania Marine Conservation & Diving project.

The South Pacific will soon be awarded the world's biggest MPA at Pitcairn Islands, displaced 4,800km west of New Zealand and 6,000km to the east of Ecuador. The Pitcairn Islands are situated in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, and are now nearing an agreement to protect its waters from fishing in an area of 830,000 square kilometers. This is a positive step forward in having the global community recognize the importance of our oceans.

There is also the possibility for an even larger marine reserve around Antarctica, which if accepted, will be hugely beneficial for the marine wildlife, creating sustainable living for animals living in these frozen waters. If Antarctica's waters do become MPA's, then 1.3 million square kilometers of ocean will not be accessible to fisherman, and the marine ecosystems that exist there will be able to flourish and prosper once more. If the move goes ahead, it's a step in the right direction; but it doesn't hide the fact that there is a still huge amount of work to be done in terms of protecting global fish stocks and promoting sustainability.

The aim for MPAs is to provide managed sustainability, and protect against the factors which can threaten ocean ecosystems and are inevitably capable of destroying marine resources. If governments and NGO's do not strive to protect marine life and promote sustainability then we will continue to see the decline in the global fish catch annually as fish stocks decrease. Conservation work that takes place across the world is vital for monitoring the health of our oceans, educating local communities on the importance of sustainable fishing and reef biodiversity, and for collecting the data which makes it possible for governments to designate protected areas.

From the recent proposals of new MPA's it can be considered that governments are acknowledging the importance of marine conservation and biodiversity, but the work of marine conservation projects across the globe has never been more important. The possibility of marine protected areas in Antarctica and the Pitcairn Islands is encouraging, but more needs to be done otherwise our oceans will become over populated with fishermen and there won't be plenty more fish in the sea for them.

Author Ed Hawes is the Online Journalism Intern for Frontier, an international non-profit volunteering NGO that runs 320 conservation, community, and adventure projects in 57 countries across the globe. Find out more about volunteering opportunities in marine conservation. You can read more articles on Frontier's Gap Year Blog and get the latest project and volunteering news from the Frontier Official Facebook page.

Follow Ed on Twitter www.twitter.com/ed_hawes