Marine Protected Areas: Smart Investments in Ocean Health and People in the Coral Triangle
Investing in the oceanThe value of the ocean is conservatively estimated at USD 24 trillion, making it a major contributor to the global economy—but one that is continually being depleted. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have proven to be a successful tool to protect biodiversity and much-needed ocean habitats. MPAs and networks of Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMA) make ecosystems more resilient in the face of climate change and ocean acidification.
Over 1,900 have been designated in The Coral Triangle—but that’s just 1.6% of the region’s exclusive economic zones. There are not enough effective MPAs, as they often face limited funding, inadequate management, and lack of enforcement.
More than just ‘paper parks’Because many MPAs in the Coral Triangle are limited to protecting biodiversity and habitats, rather than ensuring fish supply to boost local economies, local communities and enterprises do not necessarily benefit directly.
In many areas, MPAs restrict access to resources, thus getting little support from affected communities, governments, and private businesses. The MPA becomes ineffective—a “paper park.”
Research commissioned by WWF in 2015 has found that expanding and effectively managing MPAs for habitat protection—protecting even just 10% to 30% of marine or coastal areas—can result in benefits worth more than three times the cost of implementation.
These are benefits that can transform communities and industry—enough reason for governments, the private sector, and financial institutions to invest in MPAs.
Cenderawasih Bay, Papua and West Papua
Part of the breathtaking Bird’s Head Seascape, Cenderawasih Bay’s crystal clear turquoise waters are a picture of abundance and life. But this wasn’t always the case. Plagued by unregulated and destructive fishing practices, which led to rapidly declining fish stocks, the local communities and authorities realized that the protection of their precious marine resources was imperative.
Recognized as a protected area since 1990, Cenderawasih officially became Indonesia’s largest marine national park in 2002. Since then WWF and partners have been working to enhance the protected area, supporting the implementation of fishing regulations with awareness raising and stakeholder consultation while guiding the development of a potentially lucrative ecotourism industry.
For further information about WWF-Indonesia’s work in Cenderawasih Bay please contact: Juswono Budisetiawan and visit WWF-Indonesia, Cenderawasih Bay webpage.
Considered one of the last remaining spawning aggregation sites for grouper and snapper, Koon and its surrounding marine areas are crucial for the sustainability of globally important fish stocks, the biodiversity of the region’s ecosystems and the survival of subsistent local communities.
After noticing a decline in rare fish species, the local Kataloka people of Seram Island, located in the waters nearby Koon Island, agreed to work with WWF in order to protect their precious marine life.
In 2011, both parties jointly launched the Koon Marine Conservation Agreement (MCA) Project, which sees to the implementation of sustainable rights-based fishing across 2,497.45ha in and around Koon Island. Since the MCA was put in place, WWF data has shown a consistent increase in fish aggregation numbers, which almost quadrupled in the space of three years.
For further information about WWF-Indonesia’s work in Koon please contact: Imam Musthofa
See other countries
Aside from directly providing livelihoods for more than 85,000 people, Tun Mustapha Park is particularly significant due to its unique location — separating the South China Sea from the Sulu Sea by the narrow, Balabac Strait — which is critical for the distribution of coral larvae, marine organisms and migratory animals such as whales and dolphins.
So when the Sabah state government officially declared the gazettement of TMP on May 19, 2016, it earned universal praise for its commitment to international marine conservation.
The last hurdle to achieving MPA status was perhaps one of the most challenging: getting everyone to agree. That is why the 13-year journey to officialize the protected area — from concept to implementation — needed to include everyone from government and traders to communities and fishermen.
With a population dependent on the ocean’s assets, the management of the Tun Mustapha Park was hinged on a multi-use concept, meaning that commercial and indigenous use of the environment’s natural resources would continue but in a sustainable and regulated way.
For further information about WWF-Malaysia’s work in Tun Mustapha Park please contact: Robecca Jumin and visit the WWF-Malaysia, Tun Mustapha Park webpage.
See other countries
See other videos:
Papua New Guinea
Madang boasts a natural treasure trove so rich that it is considered one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet. However, as with other areas of lush biodiversity, the coastal province has become prey to exploitation such as overfishing, forest conversion and — more recently — the construction of the Pacific Marine Industrial Zone. Local and indigenous communities have found themselves in a desperate fight to generate income and improve their livelihoods as they face ever-deteriorating natural resources.
Effective fisheries management requires an ecosystem-based management approach that emphasizes understanding the connectivity between people and their natural environment and works across all components of the system, including forests, freshwater, and marine environments.
This holistic approach recognizes that one system cannot be treated in isolation because they are all linked. In the case of Madang Lagoon, improving livelihoods and food security are the key motivators for almost all families. WWF has thus chosen to approach fisheries management in Madang with this in mind and a number of strategies are being trialed.
For further information about WWF-Pacific’s work in Madang please contact: Kesaia Tabunakawai and visit the WWF-Pacific, Papua New Guinea webpage
See other countries
Located 69 kilometres south of Puerto Princesa, the coastal municipality of Aborlan looks just like the thousands of other rugged coastal regions that dot the Philippine coast. But beneath the surface, the abundant wildlife and vibrant communities that live around the famed Seven Line Reef, tell a different story — a tale of collective action and conservation for survival.
Having experienced how their once abundant seas came under threat as their source of livelihood was visibly depleting, the community of Aborlan was already convinced of the need to protect their reef well before WWF and partners got involved.
The Municipal Council of Aborlan was only going to declare the Seven Line Reef as a Marine Protected Area (MPA), but based on the results of numerous WWF and partner scientific surveys they declared their entire municipal waters as an Integrated Coastal Resource Management (ICRM) area, including mangroves and seagrass beds.
For further information about WWF-Philippines’ work in Aborlan please contact: Chrisma Salao.
After noticing the positive impact to fish stocks in the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, the people of Cagayancillo were inspired to better manage their waters closer to home. In 2004, the community established the first set of local marine reserves in Cagayancillo, forming a chain of small marine protected areas (MPAs). Today, Cagayancillo has the largest protected coastal marine area in the Philippines.
Inspired by a series of WWF facilitated community consultations and planning workshops, local representatives and community leaders realized they needed more authority and clout to continue protecting their waters particularly from transient fishermen, traveling from outside the municipality.
The completion of a 10- year Comprehensive Land and Water Use Plan, which incorporates a Zoning Ordinance that includes the municipal-wide MPA will serve as a guide for all projects and activities of the public and private sectors in Cagayancillo.
For further information about WWF-Philippines’ work in Cagayancillo please contact: Chrisma Salao.
See other countries
In Solomon Islands, a nation where less than one per cent of land and sea areas are protected, the mission to promote and implement sustainable fisheries regulations and community-based resource management plans across Western Province may sound daunting. However, demand for the country's fish stocks is expected to outstrip supply by 2030, making conservation efforts a matter of being able to put food on the table.
WWF’s work in Solomon Islands consists of multiple projects that come under one programme — the Sustainable Coastal Communities Programme. The three outcomes that WWF in Solomon Islands is looking to achieve include: sustainable fisheries, sustainable community livelihoods and ridge to reef community planning.
Historically, projects tended to be conducted in discrete, short-term blocks of time. Moving forward, WWF has recognised the importance of integrated management and has adopted Community-Based Resource Management (CBRM) as a core strategy, along with an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM). As part of this strategy, WWF is adopting a holistic view of long-term sustainability and not just the environmental benefits that can be provided, but also the related social and economic benefits.
For further information about WWF-Pacific’s work in Western Province please contact: Shannon Seeto and visit the WWF-Pacific, Solomon Islands webpage.
See other countries
More than 98 per cent of Fiji’s territory is ocean, so it’s no wonder that this Pacific island nation is leading the pack of coastal countries in marine conservation. Central to Fiji’s protected ecoregion is the worldclass Great Sea Reef, known locally as Cakaulevu, which includes permanent tabu zones, where no fishing or harvesting of other marine resources can take place.
The approaches and tools in management of the Great Sea Reef have evolved as understanding of the science and of drivers and barriers has grown. In addition to establishing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs); providing training and capacity; and enforcing licensing and other control mechanisms, focus is turning to identifying alternative livelihoods; marketing sustainably harvested seafood; and improving processing and handling along the supply chain to maintain high value fish for the end user.
This market transformation relies greatly on forging real partnerships with the private sector. At the same time, there is even greater need for coherence within the communities and for willingness to work together.
For further information about WWF-Pacific’s work in the Great Sea Reef please contact: Kesaia Tabunakawai and visit WWF-Pacific, Great Sea Reef webpage.
See other countries
A rescue mission
Another 2 million ha will come from national programmes implementing collaborative management approaches for MPAs and Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMA) with key stakeholders such as government, communities, and private sectors working together to protect both the marine biodiversity, and the people who rely on it to live.