In this excellent and definitive book, the author makes clear that Marine Protected Areas, even in the earliest stages of full evaluation, offer a realistic and informed approach to immediate and future marine conservation. Whilst the science and logisitcs are complex, the theory behind MPAs is simple. Its an holistic approach to conservation in which single factors are considered cumulatively, rather than individually. So for example, the effects of all human activities in one area (say, fishing, recreational boating and waste management) are considered all together, not just for one particular species but on the entire ecosystem in question, from whale to coral reef to microorganism. The emphasis is strongly on the management of human activities. Truly effective MPAs require difficult and unpopular decisions, such as the zoning of areas where human presence is limited and, in some cases, prohibited. We are accustomed to plundering the seas without thought, for economic and recreational benefit. For the world in general to embrace MPAs to their fullest extent will require a huge shift in thinking and greater cooperation between nations and understanding between cultures.
This book cuts through the multiplicity of labels attached to areas of protection for marine life and lays bare the precise meaning of each. Such labels generally make it easy for us to imagine that, in those protected sanctuaries at least, cetaceans are saved. But large whales being protected from commercial hunting in one area does not necessarily mean they will not be killed in the name of science or suffer a fatal strike from a ship, and goes absolutely nowhere towards protecting smaller cetaceans from dying in a fishing net.
Land-based conservation has the advantage of being relatively stable and focused on discreet areas. To paraphrase the author, one can't simply erect a fence at sea and put up a Keep Out sign. Marine protected areas need to be fluid to take into account the fact that critical habitats for cetaceans change with the season, their migratory movements and the dispersal of their prey. Further, our very definition of critical habitat must be questioned and expanded: what good a protected area for calving if there is no safe area for socialising and mating?
This is an exhaustively researched, fascinating, thought-provoking and hugely useful book. It is both reference and reading material in one. For those involved in the conservation of cetaceans it must already be a compulsory handbook and for the layreader it is a revealing and readable account of the considerable progress of our conservation experts and of the huge task still ahead. A massive achievement marking a milestone in marine protection.