Recently, our policy team met with a delegation of fishery research scientists and engineers from China to discuss marine conservation at home and abroad. The delegation hailed from Hainan, a palm tree-studded island in the South China Sea, where they work at the Hainan Academy of Ocean and Fisheries Sciences. Hainan is home to over 8 million people, and it’s estimated to have approximately 100,000 families who work in the fish and shrimp farming sector, in addition to those who catch fish from the wild.
To kick things off, our Director of Policy and Legislation, Mike Gravitz, gave an overview of marine conservation practices in the United States. He introduced the various laws and policies that govern marine protected areas, and highlighted President Obama’s recent use of the Antiquities Act to expand the Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument. Using our MPAtlas tool, he introduced the scientists to the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES), and explained why it is needed – because only a small portion of our vast oceans are strongly protected. The researchers were especially pleased to see Hainan Island on our MPAtlas website, complete with most of its existing protected areas, and even offered suggestions for additional content.
The delegation members were most interested in the scientific preparation that went into the selection of sites for protected status in the U.S. Much of the conversation focused around interactions with commercial fishermen over establishing protected areas, as well as the criteria, such as biodiversity, uniqueness and vulnerability, that play a major role in determining site suitability. The delegation also explained how marine protected areas are identified and established in China, in what seems to be a transparent process that operates over a multi-year cycle.
Unsurprisingly, many of the challenges to ocean conservation that both the US and China face have similar themes, including how best to compensate fishermen after taking away their access when establishing strongly protected marine areas and how to motivate citizens to help enforce marine laws.
We plan to continue our exchange of knowledge and ideas with the scientists from the Hainan Academy of Ocean and Fisheries Sciences in order to strengthen our common efforts in ocean conservation. It was a delightful visit and both parties benefited greatly from the exchange.
Ocean Policy Intern Taryn Laubenstein contributed to this blog.