Coastwide
Gorka Sancho

USA - Professor Studies Pressures on Marine Protected Areas

As an avid fisherman, Gorka Sancho knows the thrill and excitement of spending quality time on the water. As a marine biologist, he knows that long-term conservation changes are needed immediately to ensure those feelings are preserved for many years to come.

As an avid fisherman, Gorka Sancho knows the thrill and excitement of spending quality time on the water. As a marine biologist, he knows that long-term conservation changes are needed immediately to ensure those feelings are preserved for many years to come.

Sancho is one of 22 scientists from across the country who recently co-authored a sweeping new study of the Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in the United States. The report, published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, identifies significant gaps in the MPA program that leave critical marine systems vulnerable to ecological pressures. While over 96% of the total MPA areas are located in the central Pacific Ocean, only 1.9% of U.S. waters outside the central Pacific benefit from any MPA protections. That means that a vast majority of the mid-Atlantic coast is currently unprotected.

The College Today recently spoke with Sancho about the study and why action is needed now to protect these marine areas.

Why are marine protection areas important?

Marine Protected Areas or MPAs are an important tool to ensure long term protection of the ocean from destructive and extractive activities. When effectively and equitably planned and managed, MPAs have been shown to bring broad ecological and social benefits that can extend to local communities, fisheries and economies. Some benefits from highly protected MPAs include the protection of marine biodiversity, the waters support more and bigger fish, more diverse ecosystems, protection of coastal marine habitats which can sequester and store carbon, buffer communities from waves and storm surge, and improve human well-being. Equitable, effective MPAs can provide long-term support for livelihoods, cultural identity, and physical, mental and emotional health.

Read more.