Marine Protected Area

The Convention on Biological Diversity defines the “Marine and Coastal Protected Area” as follows:

Any defined area within or adjacent to the marine environment, together with its overlying water and associated flora, fauna, historical and cultural features, which has been reserved by legislation or other effective means, including custom, with the effect with the effect that its marine and/or coastal biodiversity enjoys a higher level of protection then its surroundings.

  • As of 2010, there are more than 5,000 MPAs, encompassing 0.8% of the ocean’s surface

Traditionally, the Marine Protected areas have been established by individual nations. The World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 called for the establishment of marine protected areas consistent with international laws and based on scientific information, including representative networks by 2012.

The Evian Agreement of 2003 (among G-8 nations) and Durban Action Plan 2003 calls for regional action and targets to establish a network of protected areas by 2010 within the jurisdiction of regional environmental protocols. There were calls for establishing protected areas for 20 to 30% of the world’s oceans by the goal date of 2012.

India and Marine Protected Areas

India has around 8,000 kms of coastline with two island systems, viz, the Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep, and 2,305,143 Sq. Kms of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The marine and coastal environment of India harbours a host of resident and migratory wildlife. The important species found in the Indian waters include, Dugongs, Whales, Dolphins, Olive Ridley Turtles, a variety of fishes including the Whale Sharks & other sharks, Giant Groupers, Sea cucumbers, horseshoe crabs, sea shells, soft & hard corals, etc.

India has at present 5 designated Marine Protected Areas as follows:

  • Gulf of Mannar National Park, Tamil Nadu
  • Gulf of Kutch Marine National Park, Gujarat
  • Gulf of Kutch Marine Sanctuary, Gujarat,
  • Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, Andaman & Nicobar Islands
  • Gahirmatha Sanctuary, Orissa.

India has only five marine Protected Areas. Comparing to the marine diversity, is it too less and there is a greater need to have more marine Protected Areas in the country with well-developed management plans. Since, most of the marine species are migratory and not confined to one area only, management plans have to be based on large areas, rather than confining them to a Protected Area.