1. All reserve designs must be guided by an understanding of natural history and habitat variability.
2. Differences in scale and predictability set aside highly dynamic pelagic systems from terrestrial and nearshore ecosystems, where wildlife reserves were first implemented. Yet, as in static systems, many pelagic species use predictable habitats to breed and forage. Marine protected areas (MPAs) could be designed to protect these foraging and breeding aggregations.
3. Understanding the physical mechanisms that influence the formation and persistence of these aggregations is essential in order to define and implement pelagic protected areas. We classify pelagic habitats according to their dynamics and predictability into three categories: static, persistent and ephemeral features.
4. While traditional designs are effective in static habitats, many important pelagic habitats are neither fixed nor predictable. Thus, pelagic protected areas will require dynamic boundaries and extensive buffers.
5. In addition, the protection of far-ranging pelagic vertebrates will require dynamic MPAs defined by the extent and location of large-scale oceanographic features.
6. Recent technological advances and our ability to implement large-scale conservation actions will facilitate the implementation of pelagic protected areas.
7. The establishment of pelagic MPAs should include enforcement, research and monitoring programmes to evaluate design effectiveness.
8. Ultimately, society will need a holistic management scheme for entire ocean basins. Such overarching management will rely on many innovative tools, including the judicious use of pelagic MPAs. Copyright © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.