MPAs: effective?

The topic of MPAs (marine protected areas) came up during lecture today, which got me wondering just how effective these protected areas are. Although there are varying degrees of protection of both marine and surface regions, for example, limits on fishing/hunting season and catch, as opposed to a flat out ban on fishing/hunting, it seems as though a protection of just one area wouldn’t be very effective for marine conservation on the whole.

That sounded really unclear, didn’t it?

Alright. On one hand, it is definitely beneficial for the region’s repopulation of fish and for coral growth. Fish larvae for example, can flow with the current to another area (maybe one that isn’t protected), and increase the fish stocks there. So this would work like a spillover effect of sorts. And so on the whole, the entire ocean benefits.

But if we take in account how one of the most pressing problems that the oceans face today is rising temperatures, then it wouldn’t matter which areas are protected or not. Take the example of the Nomura’s jellyfish. The jellyfish thrives in warm waters, and originates from the Yangtze River in China. However, every year, it makes its way to Japan to breed, devastating the fishstocks there. If we were to make the Nomura’s jellyfish representative of increasing sea temperature, then even if we were to designate certain regions as MPAs, it would be near impossible to fully protect these areas from heating up. (Article: Rising Ocean Temperatures Harm Protected Coral Reefs) I guess what I’m trying to say is that the ocean does not exist in parts, it exists as a whole.

This paper by Selig and Bruno (2010) showed that over a span of 38 years, although there was no depletion of corals in MPAs, there was also no significant increase in coral cover. One reason for such a finding could be that corals take thousands of years to form, which means that the protection of these MPAs have to be consistently rigorous and extremely enduring. This report from WWF (2005) points out that MPAs are not beneficial for some species such as the Bottlenose Dolphin and Sunset Star Coral. Although it is suggested that the dolphins may have merely expanded their range, such issues should definitely be considered if we were to set up/assess the effectiveness of MPAs.

It would be naive to think that MPAs are the sole solution to save the oceans. Though most MPAs have shown to be beneficial and effective, rising sea temperatures seem to be one of the factors undermining the success of protection zones. Therefore, humans would have to combat the one thing that MPAs can’t protect the oceans from – global warming, and that’s by reducing our impact on the planet.


This is incredible. I just found a few videos of Cousteau’s documentaries on Youtube. Someone uploaded World Without Sun and The Silent World in their entireties. And all this while I’ve been trying to find them at the libraries. Seems like I have underestimated the abilities and wonders of the Internet.

I shall put up links to these videos. Really amazing. They provide such rich history of underwater exploration. It is nothing like the documentaries we see now. They’re not so swanky, kinda blur, it isn’t in 10 000 colours, and some scenes in The Silent World are truly shocking. Hacking corals off the reef, riding on a sea turtle, killing a group of sharks to avenge a whale, and even using dynamite to blow up a reef. Unsurprisingly, the film faced great criticism when it was released, and Jacques Cousteau and his team would become more environmentally aware of the damage humans do to the oceans. That said however, as mentioned, underwater filming was still relatively new, and I believe the film has to be watched in the context of its time.

Also, the film also shows the many types of equipment divers used to carry when explore the sea. Here’s an example. It seemed that, instead of bringing underwater lighting equipment, the divers bring along some sort of torch, probably made of some chemical that reacts with salt water to give off light. You also get to see the early prototypes of the Aqualung used by the team, and a really adorable one-man submarine that kinda looks like a coffin.

(Photo courtesy of National Geographic Magazine, 1954)

Warning: World Without Sun is in English, but The Silent World, or Le Monde du Silence, is, as you have guessed, in French,with no subtitles. Apparently, I have also underestimated my ability to understand French because all I got from the first 30 minutes is “rouge,” “blanc,” and lots of “mer.” However, if you understand French, you should definitely watch it. I have read reviews that mentioned that the Cousteau’s French narration was hilarious.

Edit: Just found an English version of The Silent World. I’ll post links to both versions just in case.

Just an afterthought…

If it is unethical to keep animals in captivity in zoos and parks, what about those that are born in captivity? For an animal who has never seen or been in the wild, is it fair to keep it in the zoo with its family, or would it be better for it to be released into the wild?

A rather dated article from 2008, but it kinda illustrates my point, so here.

On a totally irrelevant note, I find it extremely sad that pandas and other kinds of charismatic megafauna overshadow animals that may not seem so cute. Octopuses are brilliant and fascinating, but I have to admit, a plush toy octopus is quite awkward to hug to sleep. 8 is also a lot of legs to sew.

The ocean and I.

It’s hard to explain why I love the ocean.

I don’t even know it myself. I have such a fear of water it borders on ridiculousness. It is almost as if I was born with a natural fear of deep water. All it takes is for the water to reach my knees and I’m screaming my head off. It doesn’t come as a surprise that I don’t know how to swim (tried to learn, but failed), how to even kick my legs in the water while desperately grabbing to the edge of the pool (couldn’t keep afloat), or even hold my breath while washing my face (have actually choked in the shower quite a couple of times).

That said, I first fell in love with the ocean and its wonders about 5 or 6 years ago. I happened to chance upon an episode of Planet Earth on Channel 5, and promptly bought the DVD that same week. I have loved animals my whole life, but I guess, like many people, paid more attention to those that lived on land. I know a handful of creatures that lived underwater as much as the next person. You know, the starfish from Spongebob Squarepants, the clownfish from Finding Nemo, the salmon from Sushi Tei, the prawns from the nearby NTUC. But what was being shown on this documentary was something entirely different.


Mola-Mola (Ocean Sunfish)

Dumbo Octopus

All photos courtesy of National Geographic Society.

These were animals I have never seen before. It piqued my interest in underwater life immediately, and I would go on to watch amazing documentaries such as The Pacific Abyss, and the epic Blue Planet.

For a person who would never in her life see these wonderous sights, I was incredibly jealous of, and yet thankful, for those who filmed the scenes. If it weren’t for these explorers, scientists and filmmakers, I could only dream of seeing these magnificent creatures upclose.

My love for the ocean was first sparked off by film footage, and so it makes perfect sense to dedicate my project and blog to the man who made it possible.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau was an explorer, a filmmaker, a researcher, an innovator, and above all, a lover of the oceans. One of the pioneers of underwater exploration, Jacques Cousteau also co-produced the first French underwater film Par dix-huit mètres de fond (18 Metres Deep), without the use of breathing gear. He would also produced] several more underwater documentaries, such as The Silent World, and World Without Sun, educating people about the importance of the oceans and marine conservation. He co-developed the Aqua-Lung, compressed air regulators essential for scuba diving that are used even today, and together with his team, Jacques Cousteau led the first underwater archeology expedition of the shipwreck of Mahdia, opening the way for many future archealogy exploration trips. He also participated in efforts to stop nuclear dumping into the sea, and help to restrict commerical whaling. Jacques Cousteau is one of the co-founders of the Cousteau Society for Protection of Ocean Life, an environmental organization dedicated to the conservation and education of marine life. Set up in 1973, the society currently has more than 50, 000 members worldwide.

This is but a short summary of the legacy that Jacques-Yves Cousteau has left behind. This blog is intended to document his life and contributions to marine conservation during his time, but I hope that as you explore and navigate around this site, you will too, feel inspired by his adventures and all that he has done, and develop a shared love for the ocean.

When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself. 

– Jacques-Yves Cousteau (1910 – 1997)