Friday August 4, 2023


Less than 3% of the world’s oceans are currently protected. Conservationists say that figure needs to hit 30% to prevent major diversity loss and climate change. But marine conservation can be tricky: local and Indigenous communities often rely on fishing for their livelihood, and blocking off certain areas of the water with no-take zones can sometimes be controversial.

But a new study, which focused on the Mesoamerican Reef in the Caribbean, found that well-enforced marine protected areas (MPAs) are not only beneficial for conservation but can also lift up the socioeconomic status of the local and Indigenous communities that live near them.

There are “co-benefits for fish and people associated with MPAs,” the study said, “highlighting the potential value of MPAs in achieving multiple sustainable development goals.”

Led by the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, the study used USAID Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) data to analyze social and economic factors like income, food security and the rates of stunted growth connected to chronic malnutrition in children. It also pulled data from the Healthy Reef Initiative to compare the biomass of fish populations in protected areas.

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