Dozens of volunteer divers surveyed marine protected areas worldwide, to discover why life flourishes in some while failing in others.
Oceans cover 70 percent of the Earth. Somewhat less than 2 percent of that area has been set aside in marine protected areas: refuges where sea life is supposed to be able to thrive free of human pressures. But the reality is that many of them are “paper parks,” with no enforcement of fishing bans. Others are beset with polluted runoff from populated areas, or too small to protect wide-ranging fish species.
A newly published, 6-year global survey of 1,000 sites in 87 marine protected areas across 40 countries has found that at least 4 of 5 key factors must be present for a marine reserve to succeed:No harvest (or "take") of fish and other sea lifeEnforcement to prevent illegal fishingIn existence for more than 10 yearsLarge enough to protect far-ranging speciesIsolated from unprotected marine areas by sand or deep water
The researchers shorthand these features as “NEOLI”: no take, enforced, old, large and isolated.