Myth 7: Marine Conservation Agreements are temporary and thus cannot be counted on to protect ocean and coastal areas over the long-term.
Fact 7: The duration of Marine Conservation Agreements can range from one year to perpetuity, but most importantly, all conservation strategies must continue to adapt, be renewed, and be enforced over the long-term.
Duration of MCAs
The duration of Marine Conservation Agreements (MCAs) can be short (1-5 years), long (25-100 years) or, in some cases, perpetual. One of the advantages of MCAs that result in the acquisition of fee-simple interests or perpetual easements is that the acquired rights never end. Under these scenarios, there are few concerns about what happens to the conservation targets at the end of a certain time period because the commitment to protection is forever (unless the interests are sold or condemned by a government entity with condemnation authority). Even some historical submerged land leases were granted in perpetuity, but unless these older leases are acquired, most leases and lease-like authorizations will have termination dates. Given this, many MCAs will come to an eventual end and MCA project managers must determine what their options are regarding the future protection of the lands, resources, or ecosystem services (for more on options for protecting sites after an MCA expires, see Afterwards).
Long-term Adaptation, Renewal and Enforcement
MCAs are similar to other types of ocean and coastal protection strategies (such as government-established MPAs, area-wide laws and public education; for more on these, see Alternatives) in that they must be adaptable, capable of renewal and continually enforced. Without these actions, MCAs and other protection strategies will likely fail in the long-term. Since MPAs, area-wide laws, public education and other alternative strategies also change and ideally improve over time, they are not that different from MCAs. Even MPAs that are established in law without end dates can be changed through subsequent legislation. In effect, no protection is in perpetuity without constant attention. MCAs that have explicit termination dates thus allow for systematic improvement and renewed perspectives based on lessons learned.
MCA Protection Similar to Terrestrial Private Protection
MCAs are similar to private protection efforts that are undertaken by NGOs in terrestrial areas. Terrestrial private protected areas (PPAs) are common and are often owned by non-profit organisations that are dedicated to nature conservation.1 One example is The Nature Conservancy which owns more than 1,200 PPAs worldwide. The UK-based Royal Society for the Protection of Birds owns 150 reserves totaling over 240,000 ha. The Australian Bush Heritage Fund protects some 350,000 ha. Given their missions, charters, and internal guidelines, these NGOs are clearly dedicated to long-term protection of their terrestrial holdings. Many smaller NGOs have legal arrangements whereby ownership of their conservation properties automatically transfers to government agencies should the NGO cease to exist.