China is the world’s largest producer and exporter of wild-caught and farmed fish, a distinction that has resulted in large environmental costs. Since the 1990s, China has established a system of marine nature reserves and fisheries conservation zones, intended, in part, to counterbalance the ongoing degradation of the marine environment. In the early 2000s, China introduced two additional types of marine zones, special marine protected areas and marine parks that included fully protected areas and multiple use zones. In 2012, approximately 1.65 percent of China’s waters were under one of these types of protection. Under China’s 2008 National Ocean Development Plan, 5 percent of its waters will be under marine protected area designation by 2020, suggesting rapid growth in MPA establishment over the next decade.
Dr. Ellen Pikitch of Stony Brook University and Dr. Guifang Julia Xue of Shanghai Jiao Tong University will conduct the first comprehensive assessment of China’s various types of MPAs networks across the country to help guide future designations and implementation. They will assess the habitat types under protection and the effectiveness of the management regimes in place, using established MPA assessment frameworks, adapted for use in China. Through analysis of existing management plans, site visits, and interviews, they will identify similarities that can be used to provide guidance on the most effective type of MPAs to meet conservation objectives in China. This baseline assessment will also set the stage for improving the status of the protected areas already in place.