Safeguarding marine biodiversity
Marine reserves help protect and preserve areas of our oceans that are rich in biodiversity, ecologically significant and vulnerable to destruction. These areas are closed to all extractive uses, such as fishing, mining, oil exploration, waste dumping etc. There is growing scientific evidence suggesting that large-scale networks of marine reserves are urgently needed to protect marine species and their habitats.
Marine reserves are not just about preserving fish stocks. They are an essential global tool to protect entire ecosystems. Marine reserves will help increase the planet’s ability to adapt to the effects of climate change and carbon pollution.
Coastal seas can also be protected with the help of marine reserves. Here, marine reserves can have ‘core’ zones, where no human activities are allowed. These can be areas of scientific reference or areas having particularly sensitive habitats or species. Other areas may remain open to small-scale, sustainable, non-destructive fisheries. Greenpeace firmly believes that marine reserves must be declared only with the consent and participation of communities that stand to be affected by the reserve in question.
Less than 0.3% of India’s waters (including the 2 million sq. km. Exclusive Economic Zone) are under some form of legal protection, where extraction is either prohibited or restricted. A large, economically disadvantaged population in India depends on fisheries and related activities for primary sustenance and livelihood. The high level of direct resource dependence coupled with a lack of community consultation has generated resistance towards many marine reserves on the coast of mainland India.
While fishing communities support measures to protect their fish resources, they want local communities to be involved in making decisions over which areas need to be protected, how and to what extent.
This was clear at a symposium on marine reserves organised by Greenpeace in 2007. The symposium was attended by fisher community representatives from across India. These representative expressed support for marine reserves, set up with prior involvement of communities to protect marine resources from all threats. Thus, community involvement in designing and enforcing marine reserves in India, particularly in the coastal zone, is indispensable.
Greenpeace is campaigning on Orissa’s east coast, to help the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary become a model for better biodiversity conservation and a tool for fisheries management that addresses potential conflicts between conservation and livelihoods. A successful model in Orissa will become reference for marine conservation in the rest of India.