According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN): “A protected area is a clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values” (IUCN, 2008).

A marine protected area (MPA) is basically an area of the ocean where human activities are more strictly managed than in the surrounding waters, in a similar way protected areas and parks operate on land.  There are many different types of MPAs that have been established for specific purposes in different locations and situations. Commonly however, MPA’s all have ecological, social and economic objectives. (CTI)

Lajala satellite map

In the Philippines, “MPAs are the most extensively implemented fisheries management and conservation tool in the Philippines. Most MPAs have been established and managed by communities together with local governments in a variety of community-based and co-management schemes. This approach has proven successful in gaining community acceptance and achieving local-scale fisheries and conservation objectives” (Horigue et al, 2012).  

The 1998 Fisheries Code of the Philippines calls for protection of 15% of coastal municipal waters (within 15 km of the coastline) to be protected within no-take MPAs, utilizing the fish sanctuary strategy.  

Baco community organization

Voluminous work is required to make MPAs regenerate and/or maintain the desired ecosystem services it is capable of providing.  MPAs are effective tools for conservation and coastal management only if there is active management implemented on the ground.  Effective management, as detailed in the standard MPA Management Effectiveness and Assessment Tool (MEAT), includes effort and obligations in the social and governance areas, including sense of ownership of the resource users and owners (the community) and regular funding from the local governments.  

It is therefore essential that the local government and its constituents work effectively with other agencies, non-government organizations and the private sector to implement direct conservation actions.

Joint conservation agreement signing

The MEAT Journey

The MEAT Journey