Putting the spotlight on Marine Protected Areas
Marseille, France – Last month, the 3rd International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC3) took place in Marseille, France. This is the third time in twelve years that Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) managers, scientists, policy-makers, and representatives of local communities – a total of 1,500 participants from 87 nations – got together to discuss issues, challenges, and opportunities related to MPA establishment and management in various contexts. The congress has been successful in reaching the following outcomes:
- Create and harness momentum for MPAs;
- Put people at the heart of MPAs and reconcile conservation and development objectives;
- Demonstrate the critical role of regional, multi-stakeholder initiatives for taking conservation at scale; and
- Discuss sustainable and innovative financing options with donor institutions and trigger funding commitments to MPAs.
A Declaration for ocean conservationIMPAC3 was immediately followed by a Ministerial Conference on Ocean Conservation held in Ajaccio, Corsica, attended by 19 Ministers and numerous representatives of governments, international institutions and NGOs, including WWF.
Key outcomes are captured in the Ajaccio Declaration. In a nutshell, the Declaration:
- Emphasizes the importance of marine conservation for people and sustainable development;
- Reaffirms commitments to reach the CBD Aichi Target by 2020 (including by establishing MPA networks in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction);
- Calls for developing sustainable financing solutions (welcoming the Mediterranean Trust fund announcement);
- Emphasizes the critical role regional initiatives must play in delivering conservation at scale; and
- Calls for better protection of the high seas (and the need for an implementing agreement under UNCLOS).
The role of MPAs in food and livelihoodsWWF, which has been working for the past 30 years on MPAs all over the world, was heavily involved in IMPAC3. Over 40 WWF experts participated, presenting on a wide range of topics including establishment of MPAs, best management practices, identification of the benefits, fisheries, private sector engagement, sustainable financing, and regional approaches. This was not only a unique opportunity to share practices and experiences but also to continue learning from others, test ideas, and seek innovation.
The Congress and the Ministerial Conference acknowledged the role of well-designed and managed networks of MPAs and recognized that MPAs must come into play if we are to turn around the decline in the world’s ocean resources with greater urgency and at a large scale. MPAs not only restore but also sustain local economies through providing fish, food, income, and jobs in the longer term.
Voice from the PacificThe importance of MPAs was reemphasized by Ratu Pio Radikedike, founder of the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area Network (FLMMA), who brought the voice of the Pacific communities to Marseilles. His passionate talk on how important the marine environment is to the people of Fiji, not just for food and livelihoods but also the cultural significance of oceans and coasts for Fijian people, was a powerful demonstration of the critical role communities have as guardians in managing those marine habitats and resources. This demonstrated the importance of connecting research with the objectives and the needs of communities and resources owners.
“MPAs are so important for the Fijian communities’ livelihoods because they help in the restoration of seafood species that have been depleted for some time. And the spill-over effect from MPAs helps communities lessen their hours of harvesting resources for food and money,” said Ratu Pio Radikedike.
Regional priority placesThere was substantial interest and support for the development and implementation of regional and sub-regional initiatives both at the Congress itself and the Ministerial Conference and WWF used this opportunity to profile its work in the Coral Triangle amongst other regional priority places.
These places are critical for the livelihoods of millions of people and are under increasing threats and pressure. Strengthened collaboration of all actors is needed to ensure biodiversity protection and development objectives are integrated.
The Coral Triangle and the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security (CTI-CFF) experiences in particular were shared during three workshops on MPAs benefits for fisheries, MPA sustainable financing, and regional approaches to MPAs.
On behalf of CTI-CFF partners, WWF presented the new Coral Triangle Marine Protected Area System framework and action plan developed by CTI-CFF. This triggered discussion about regional frameworks and highlighted issues which could impact at the national level on MPA managers and governments, particularly for small countries with limited capacity to engage in regional initiatives.
“IMPAC3 offered the chance for WWF and colleagues from Fiji to share understanding and learning, and to develop closer relationships, which should enhance the work of WWF nationally and globally while building on the capacity of Fiji practitioners in the critically-important strategic planning sector,” said Jackie Thomas, Coral Triangle Global Initiative Deputy Leader.