Any marine geographical area that is given greater protection than the surrounding waters for biodiversity conservation or fisheries management purposes will be considered a marine protected area (MPA). The term MPA is usually understood to apply to areas specifically designated to protect a particular ecosystem, ecosystem component or some other attribute. IUCN has defined that any area of the intertidal or sub-tidal terrain, together with its overlying water, flora and fauna, historical and cultural features, which has been reserved by law or other effective means to protect part or the entire enclosed environment is an MPA. MPAs are increasingly recognized as an important management tool for fisheries under the 'ecosystem approach to fisheries management' (EAFM) model.
Development of fishery and critical habitats such as, MPAs, MMAs, ECAs management plans and guidelines associated with assessing the role of fish refugia in the management of fish stocks in the BOBLME. In other words, develop a better understanding and promote a more comprehensive approach to the establishment and management of MPAs and fish refugia for sustainable fishery management and biodiversity conservation. To achieve these objectives, the following activities have been supported:
i. establishment of a working group of regional experts in MPAs/fish refugia;
ii. review and updating of MPA/fish refugia classification criteria;
iii. inventory and updating of status of existing MPAs/ fish refugia in the BOBLME; iv. gap analysis to assess effectiveness of existing system of MPAs in: a. conserving biodiversity of global importance, and b. providing critical habitat for priority transboundary fish stocks;
v. supporting studies;
vi. establishment of common regional data requirements and protocols to promote national efforts to establish MPAs/fish refugia;
vii. mapping existing and potential MPA/fish refugia sites with GIS technology; viii. development of a regional action plan that would lead to the strengthening of existing and creation of new priority MPAs/fish refugia;
ix. training and capacity building;
x. awareness and outreach activities; and
xi. preparation of a full sized project (FSP proposal for management of existing and creation of new MPAs).
There are fairly large numbers of policy related papers, policy act, action plans, strategy papers on Bangladesh coastal/marine fisheries, coastal zone, environment management, climate change, biodiversity etc., however, a few information is reported to be related to MPA or LME. The existing policy on fisheries as whole and marine fisheries in particular on Bangladesh has mixed success on limited scale. The National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan-2004 (NBSAP) advocated expansion and enhancing protected area management, recognizing the already proven benefits of collaboration with local communities in their management (co-management) in the inland fisheries sub-sector. The Coastal Zone Policy 2005 incorporated coastal based natural resource management only; vast marine resource management lacks policy guidelines. These policy, in regard to MPAs, need to be updated/modified due to post International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) verdict on Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) between Bangladesh and Myanmar and further modification may be needed in future, if a settlement between Bangladesh and India is made in near future. To make the existing marine fisheries policy eco-friendly, important and well judged marine environmental/ecosystem targets areas like; MPAs, Species Safeguard Areas (SSAs), Biodiversity Protection Area/s (BPAs), Coral Reef Protected Area/s (CRPAs), Sea Weed Protected Areas (SWPAs) needs to incorporated. And ultimately, country should proceed towards declaring 10% of its marine area as protected within 2020 (Aichi target fixed at Nagoya COP of CBD).
Bangladesh has around 1,400 km2 of MPA (over 0.05% of its EEZ). In the country there are already 10 wildlife sanctuaries, 5 national parks, 17 fish sanctuaries, 2 marine reserves, 4 ECAs, and 1 Ramsar site in the coastal/marine zone. The question is how much of the area (i.e. fish population) is to be given protection, so that the population will persist and sustain, regardless the intensity of fishing outside the MPAs. Secondly, how effectively will MPAs protect fish populations (control fish mortality) so that enough of them can reproduce? Review of empirical evidences suggests that, an estimate of 20-35% lifetime spawning per recruit (SPR) is necessary to sustain a population. Lower value corresponds to minimum level necessary for population sustenance and the higher value corresponds to minimum value necessary for population abundance of maximum sustainable yield (MSY). As per FAOs guideline all countries are mandated to declare 10% of their sea EEZ by the year 2020 as MPAs [see link FAO-MPA Guidelines.pdf]. Bangladesh will face problems to declare 10% (declare and manage roughly 12,000 km2 sea/coastal region) of its EEZ as MPA by 2020 that was agreed upon earlier. The recent ITLOS verdict has made the task more urgent and more area needs to be incorporated under the MPAs.