VIEWPOINT: Write more and read more?



Posted on 08 July 2012  | 
The mystery of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)—how to get more people in the Coral Triangle region to support new MPAs to come into force and how to ensure better compliance, has been on my mind and those of colleagues a lot lately.

The recent efforts to highlight non-compliance with no-take zones in Komodo National Park, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, merely resulted in more stories about the impacts of bomb fishing and the challenges of poor coastal communities. Last week, more reports from illegal fishing came in and the energy to respond to these seems to have evaporated.

Indeed, a long-term view for impoverished communities who struggle to make a day-to-day living is often not possible, yet most coastal communities in Komodo do not fish with illegal and destructive gears and most local fishers have been engaged in pelagic fisheries for decades and those are still open for fishing. The stories in the news appear too superficial and too over-simplified in their explanations.

That some dive operators in Komodo have a short-term vision is perhaps even harder to understand. Fear of cancellations by divers following reports of illegal fishing resulted in the request to not raise so much attention instead of a shared action to stop the criminal acts once and for all.

This shows again that conservation and fisheries management may be simple, but it’s never easy. If one wastes less fish, one can catch less to make the same money or feed the same amount of people. If one catches less, there will be more fish that reproduces and generates more fish which will reproduce and feed more people. If one protects critical places for replenishment, there will be more fish for more people for longer. If one does not catch fish at a too early age, there will be more reproduction and more fish to harvest. If one does not catch the last fish, we will all have more fish in the future. It sounds like a mantra almost, its proven to be true, yet few people act upon it.

How can we put all the data collected over years of monitoring on paper in such as way that people will read what the data shows? And how do we get these things across with 140 characters in a tweet to a few thousand people with short attention spans, or in an elevator pitch to a finance minister who has never been on a boat out on the water?

Preparing for next week’s International Coral Reef Symposium in cairns, I wonder how much more science we need to underpin the importance of MPAs and how I am going to start that discussion in a week filled with thousands of scientists working hard to unravel the mysteries of our oceans? Maybe the questions is rather, who can help us conservationists to bridge the communications gap between facts & figures and people’s minds and hearts?
Lida Pet-Soede
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