On 26 August, US President Barack Obama expanded the boundaries of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands from its previous size of 362,000 km2 — already one of the largest MPAs in the world — to an enormous 1.5 million km2. The expansion creates the largest protected area, marine or terrestrial, on Earth.
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At the World Conservation Congress in coming days (1-5 September in Honolulu, Hawai‘i), there will be much talk about how the MPA community can best meet Aichi Target 11. That target, established under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), calls for at least 10% of coastal and marine areas...
“especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, to be conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures”
In late July 2016 a group of recreational divers in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana in the US, noticed something weird. The water was green and hazy instead of the normal clear blue. Large and dense white mats of an unknown substance covered corals and sponges that had previously been healthy. And untold numbers of other reef invertebrates — including brittle stars, sea urchins, crabs, worms, and shrimp — lay dead on the bottom.
A joint team of Portuguese and French researchers has proposed a new system for classifying MPAs based on what activities the sites allow and how those activities could impact biodiversity. The proposed system relies on scoring. An MPA that allows relatively impactful activities like bottom trawling, for example, would receive a different score than one that allows less impactful activities, like spearfishing. And both MPAs would receive a different score from an MPA that allows no fishing at all.
The article “MPAs as ‘eco-cultural systems’: Indigenous people and the intersection of culture and conservation” in your June-July 2016 issue illuminates an important element of the heritage of these places. Too often the indigenous communities have had to work much harder than they should to have MPA managers understand, recognize and integrate their perspectives into the stewardship of these sites.
Russia to expand an Arctic park
The relationship between indigenous people and MPAs can be one of shared advantages and cultural transfer. Many indigenous cultures have a history of managing natural resources sustainably. If MPA practitioners can harness that cultural knowledge — and cultural support — while accepting native people as partners, all may benefit.
The political spotlight that often shines on MPAs has fostered a view among some that MPAs pertain only to addressing the effects of fishing, as that is the role that attracts the most media attention. But that view sells MPAs short. In truth, MPAs can play valuable roles in addressing a variety of non-fishing-related threats facing the oceans.
The decision by UK voters in July to withdraw from the European Union is likely to have significant impacts on the UK economy and policy in general. The Brexit vote — for British exit — could impact the nation’s MPA policy as well.
Deep sea mining of minerals is coming. The International Seabed Authority, which governs such mining in areas beyond national jurisdiction, has granted 23 contracts so far for exploration of potential mining sites. Of those contracts, most of them (13) are in just one region: the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone (CCZ), a 6 million-km2 area swath of the eastern Pacific Ocean.