The Mutual Benefits of Managed Fisheries and Marine Protected Areas

Zach Hoffmann and his dog Zahara

By: Iris Picat

Overfishing is becoming a focus-issue among marine conservationists in light of food security challenges and economic trends. Zach Hoffman, a Virginia Tech Executive Master of Natural Resources (XMNR) student and Global Programs Coordinator at Rare, recently co-authored an article titled Marine protected areas and fisheries: bridging the divide published in a special edition of the journal Aquatic Conservation. The article highlights the challenges caused by overfishing and submits recommendations on how fisheries and marine protected areas, two areas of the ocean that are frequently perceived to be in conflict with one another, can be mutually beneficial when designed and managed effectively.

The article also proposes that advancement in this field is more likely to happen if “all pertinent stakeholders are engaged in the design, management, and enforcement of both areas,” instead of focusing solely on their own, he says. Under the right circumstances, well-managed marine protected areas can be spaces that lend themselves to both biodiversity conservation and fisheries management, in turn providing answers to food security and coastal livelihood issues.

Zach describes his background as community engagement and capacity-building in the field of forestry, but while working for Rare, he had the opportunity to contribute to the design and launch of Fish Forever, a major global initiative aimed at addressing near-shore overfishing. Thanks to this project, Zach learned about the reasons behind overfishing and the effects it has on aquatic ecosystems, the struggles that many coastal communities face in terms of food security and livelihoods, and what some of the existing solutions are to address these problems. He and his colleagues shared some of the work Rare and their partners have been doing to address coastal overfishing at the 3rd International Marine Protected Areas Conference in Marseille, France last fall, and was subsequently asked to collaborate on this article, which the journal had already agreed to publish as a free open resource in an effort to raise awareness about marine conservation.

Zach graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh with an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies. He then moved to Morocco for the Peace Corps where he worked to improve environmental education in rural schools, collaborating with school administrators and teachers. He also worked with the Moroccan government to reduce deforestation in the Middle and High Atlas Mountains. Currently in the XMNR program, Zach says it “tests our ability to bridge gaps, find common ground and a common voice, and work efficiently to produce relevant analyses and useful products,” along with helping him build on his interpersonal communication, project management, and leadership skills. All very useful for the work he engages in on a daily basis.

Creative Commons “Networks of marine protected areas conserve and manage coastal resources threatened by climate change” by USAID U.S. Agency for International Development is licensed under CC BY 2.0