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What Is a Marine Reserve?

Sea animals swimming near a coral reef in a marine reserve.
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  • Written By: B. Koch
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 01 September 2014
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Marine reserves are areas of the ocean that are protected from detrimental human activity. Humans are often allowed to visit marine reserves, although they may not fish there. These reserves may lie adjacent to the ocean and can help to reverse some of the problems caused by over-fishing. Likewise, the reserves are useful for scientific research and for preserving ecologically unique areas.

Sea life can not be removed or harmed in a marine reserve, so no fishing or other harvesting of sea life is allowed to take place there. People can visit these areas of the ocean and they are popular spots for snorkeling and diving, but nothing in the reserve can be removed from the area. The purpose of marine reserves is to protect and increase the population of sea life.

It is not uncommon for a marine reserve to include areas that are adjacent to ocean areas. Coastlines, tidal basins, and wetlands are example of areas that may be included under this title. This is because some sea life may not just exist in the ocean but may also spend some of its time on land as well.

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These areas of protection are important to preserving the health of sea life. Many types of sea creatures are threatened with over-fishing. Not only does over-fishing decrease the surviving numbers of a species' population, it results in fewer of these animals growing to adulthood. With the creation of marine preserves, noticeable increases in some populations of fish have been seen within the areas that have been preserved. As these creatures are permitted to grow to maturity in the marine reserve, fish tend to be much larger within those boundaries.

Areas that have been protected from outside interference also have scientific benefits. Marine reserves offer an idea of how sea life would proceed with little human interference. This can help marine scientists recommend changes that could be made to help preserve sea life. As a result of its potential for scientific discovery, scientists are permitted to take samples of sea life and to remove small quantities of species from these areas in order to perform scientific research.

One other reason to designate an area as a marine reserve is to preserve an area that has unique qualities. Sometimes an area may harbor a rare, endangered species. The ecosystem in the area could also be special. For example it may contain coral reefs, which are delicate and diverse ecosystems.

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