Enforcing National MPAs

Nearshore and Offshore MPAs

By number, most of the world’s MPAs are in the nearshore environment either wholly within territorial waters or beyond within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Unlike many large scale and remote MPAs that protect an entire EEZ and all marine life within, nearshore MPAs usually target specific protections for species, habitats, breeding grounds, or similar. The regulations surrounding nearshore MPAs are often complex, and may permit forms of fishing that are unlikely to harm the protected features.

These complexities give rise to challenges for enforcement, as it is more difficult to differentiate between compliant and non-compliant activity. In addition, while nearshore MPAs have improved proximity to enforcement resources and officials, more often these are local or community members who are under funded and under resourced for their complex role.

Traditional marine enforcement is typically seen as officers on a patrol vessel interdicting non-compliance at sea. This is the most direct but dangerous form of enforcement to which cost is a regular objection. Modern technology enables different approaches to enforcement that are more applicable in the nearshore environment. Such enforcement activities include:

  • Use of remote sensing such as satellite imagery to detect risks to investigate
  • Use of UAVs or coastal observation sites including coastal radar to gather evidence on identified activity
  • Use of iVMS tracking systems suitable for regulatory control of smaller vessels
  • Conducting inspections in ports driven by intelligence derived from remote sensing and other systems
  • Publicising the use of technology for enforcement leading to deterrence

OceanMind’s objective is to transfer knowledge and capability to help local practitioners fully enforce their protected areas independently and in partnership with their peers.  Whether this is through training workshops, in-depth capacity building programmes, technology delivery, or coaching and mentoring, it is the practitioners who decide what to draw on and when.

One of the best examples of the use of technology to monitor MPAs in the nearshore environment is the Becht Foundation-funded UK MPA Project that trialled a range of advanced technologies with enforcement officials over 5 sites around the UK. The project reviewed the effectiveness of each technology within the unique context of each site, identifying the advantages and disadvantages to trade off against marine management objectives. Overall the project found that technology helped increase the effectiveness of enforcement, especially the combination of iVMS vessel tracking and machine learning analysis to filter data and automatically detect non-compliance for investigation. This allowed officials to focus on enforcement actions they were best at, allowing a machine to do what it is best at, processing data.

Yet every marine context is unique, so there are no one-size-fits-all solutions.  This leads to requiring a wide range of data and tools to be available, and the ability to select from these for the specific context. This is why partnerships and collaboration are so vital. OceanMind works with a wide variety of data, technology, and service partners to ensure the best solution is employed for each situation.

To find out more Contact OceanMind today.