June 2020 (21:2)

Issue PDF archive:

Last month, MPA News featured first-hand accounts from ten MPA practitioners worldwide on how the COVID-19 pandemic was already impacting their MPAs – from steep declines in tourism, to cuts in budgets and staffing, to increased poaching at some sites. The likelihood of a lasting global financial crisis, and uncertainties about the directions COVID-19 will take, threaten to prolong these and other challenges for the foreseeable future. If the MPA field does not prepare and adapt, it risks losing gains in protection that have been made to this point.

This month, we continue our coverage of the pandemic and financial crisis:

  1. Insights from Markus Knigge of Blue Action Fund on how the financial crisis could impact grants to MPAs
  2. Highlights from a June panel on MPAs and COVID-19, moderated by MPA News
  3. A list of additional resources, including guidance and grants

Blue Action Fund supports the work of NGOs to conserve oceans and coastlines in the developing world, including via MPAs. Based in Germany, the Fund is a private foundation that receives its funding from the national governments of Germany, Sweden, and France. Its relatively unique position – with one foot in the foundation world, and one in the government world – gives it a valuable vantage point on trends in the philanthropic sector.

MPA News asked Markus Knigge (mknigge [at] blueactionfund.org; Twitter @OceanKnigge), executive director of Blue Action Fund, for his views on how the coming financial crisis could impact grant funding for MPAs.

What do you see as the main challenges facing the marine philanthropic community – both governments and foundations – in the coming months?

Markus Knigge: "The COVID-19 pandemic has swept across the world, causing tremendous human tragedy and a historic economic setback of which we still do not know the full impact. This is likely to negatively affect the availability of funding for marine conservation in the short term:

  • Public and private donors have started to shift significant amounts of funding to address other urgent and essential needs.
  • Losses in the stock market combined with low interest rates will severely impact investment earnings from endowments.
  • NGOs are likely facing decreases in private donations.

"However, COVID-19 has brought to the forefront the notion that prevention is far more cost-efficient than treatment. This creates an opportunity to secure more investment for crisis prevention in the future. This is true for mitigation and adaptation work to fight the climate crisis. Similarly, it is true for active habitat management and restoration to avoid zoonotic disease outbreaks originating from wildlife."

As the marine philanthropic community adjusts to the financial crisis, what will the impact look like for grantees?

"Currently, donors are using many tools to accommodate the short-term needs of their grantees and partner organizations. These range from flexibility to use funding for different purposes, to opportunities to delay implementation and reporting, to providing additional funding.

"There also seems to be a general agreement that investments in economic recovery need to promote the transition to a greener and more socially-just economy. More financing will be needed for habitat management, restoration, and rehabilitation to make ecosystems more resilient. Conservation trust funds might well play an important role in this through their long-term financing of necessary conservation actions."

What advice do you have for MPA practitioners for how they can maintain their programs and funding through the crisis?

"COVID-19 creates an opportunity to use private donations and public funding more wisely. Over the last few years, too many resources have been spent on visibility, events, travel, and ‘nice-to-have’ investments instead of more cost-efficient solutions and real conservation actions on the ground. All such investments can make sense in a certain context. Yet far too often ideas and approaches are transferred or replicated without reflection about their cost-effectiveness and serious evaluation of alternatives.

"In some MPAs, efforts to diversify income and to rely less on tourism revenues need to intensify further. Also, the topic of nature-based solutions will receive increased attention from funders. This includes the protection and management of coastal ecosystems like mangroves, sea grass, coral reefs, and tidal marshes, which are particularly relevant for climate change adaptation. (In the coming years, Blue Action Fund will finance these types of measures in the Western Indian Ocean, with up to €50 million provided by the Green Climate Fund and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.)

"In recent weeks and months, we have seen how fragile our global world is. There is a major opportunity to use this experience to explain how the health of the ocean is directly linked and positively correlated to human health, security, and prosperity. Investing in effectively managed MPAs is an investment in our future."

On 2 June 2020, MPA News moderated an online panel discussion on the impacts of COVID-19 and the financial crisis on marine protection. The panel was part of a global, week-long, online conference for ocean action – the Virtual Ocean Dialogues, hosted by the World Economic Forum and Friends of Ocean Action.

The panel featured:

  • Nirmal Shah, Chief Executive of Nature Seychelles, an NGO that manages the Cousin Island Special Reserve, an MPA;
  • Marina Gomei, Regional Projects Manager for WWF’s Mediterranean Marine Initiative; and
  • Susanna Fuller, Vice President (Operations and Projects) for Oceans North, an NGO that supports marine conservation in Arctic and Atlantic Canada in partnership with Indigenous and coastal communities.

A recording of the discussion is not currently available to the public, but MPA News has excerpted the panelists’ remarks here. Edits have been made for length and clarity.

On the current situation with MPAs and COVID-19:

Nirmal Jivan Shah:
“Even before the pandemic, governments in the Western Indian Ocean were hard-pressed. Many of these governments are highly indebted, and many are struggling to achieve targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Now with COVID-19 and the financial crisis, some governments are talking about freezing some of the SDG targets. Government budgets are shifting to economic bailouts, food security, and so forth. In the Seychelles, for example, the government has promised to pay everybody a salary till the end of this year, which is incredible – that will consume almost the entire national budget. So I think a lot of former priorities, like marine protection, are going to be shelved for the time being.

“The public will turn more and more to the environment for sustenance. In my country [Seychelles] the local fishery, which is already heavily exploited, is now expanding as even marine tourism operators are going fishing to eke out a living. How long will it be before our friends turn into poachers?

“The highest priority for us is to keep our MPA institutions afloat. If we don’t do that, my fear is that many of the gains of the previous years could be eroded almost overnight, with irreversible damage. Where do we find money? The MPAs that have established trust funds or had investments may be lucky enough to dig into their savings for a period of time. Others that are government-funded could be resilient – until government’s attention moves elsewhere. Some MPAs that have donor-funded projects may keep activities going, but often such donors do not fund recurrent budgets.

“Our staff is our most important resource. Unfortunately, MPA managers like myself are on the horns of not one but many dilemmas. Do we lay off staff? Who do we lay off? What happens when things get back to normal but we have lost trained and experienced staff? There are some very tough decisions to be taken. Leaner institutions will be needed, which means cost-cutting measures that include shedding of staff and assets – but not to the point where long-term harm is done to MPA management.”

Marina Gomei:
“The work of WWF’s Mediterranean Marine Initiative is very much directed to supporting the local communities working in MPAs in the region. Those communities that are most vulnerable are the ones that will be most impacted by COVID-19 and the financial crisis. We need economic development that takes into account the protection and recovery of biodiversity, because it is a fundamental economic asset.

“In the Mediterranean, we have MPAs that were already suffering before COVID from lack of funding and support from their governments. Although 10% of the Mediterranean is within MPAs, only 1.2% is in MPAs that have implemented a management plan. So our MPAs are facing many challenges.

“A guiding principle of our post-COVID work should be using an inclusive conservation approach. Only through shared responsibilities and management – with local communities – will we be able to implement successful conservation actions.

“The situation is challenging. The local tourist operators who operate in the Mediterranean’s MPAs have seen the drop in tourism arrivals from COVID. Some related businesses have already closed, like small restaurants or hotels that are linked to the MPAs’ tourism. And the small-scale fishers who operate in our MPAs are seeing the drop in local seafood demand because of the lack of tourists and the closure of the restaurants, as well as a drop in exports.”

Susanna Fuller:
“Oceans North, the NGO where I work, prides itself on being able to pivot quickly. When social and economic activity started to shut down in the middle of March in Canada, we immediately rethought how we supported the communities we work with. We decided the money we spent on travel, for example, could be better deployed within those communities. So instead of having Oceans North scientists from southern Canada go to the north as planned, we worked to employ people in those northern communities to conduct the research instead, in a way that helped further build capacity around monitoring and data collection.

“We also provided hand sanitizer and masks to Indigenous communities that may not have had access otherwise. We have been incredibly fortunate in Canada’s Arctic that there have been no cases of COVID-19 so far. Hopefully it will stay that way as long as travel is restricted.

“This year, 2020, was billed to be the ‘Ocean Super Year’, including with an agreement on a new global treaty to protect biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Those negotiations were supposed to conclude by April 2020, but the end was postponed due to COVID-19. Oceans North is involved in the talks. Negotiating international agreements at a time of such geopolitical stress, and doing it remotely, is complicated. However, I know there are countries that are dedicated to making it happen.”

On the concept of operating MPAs more like businesses, with plans for management, contingencies, and revenue:

“Most of the MPAs on which we’re working in Canada are new – they have been designated in the past five years. Many don’t have management plans yet, much less business plans. Regarding the concept that MPAs should be run like businesses, I personally find that objectionable. I think treating nature like a business is part of the problem with the planet right now.

“That being said, there are inshore MPAs and offshore MPAs and the financial needs and requirements for each of those, as well as their conservation objectives and outcomes, are different. For coastal MPAs – particularly those that have depended on tourism to fund some of their monitoring, management, and research – those are going to be the most impacted by COVID, and would benefit from planning.”

“From a southern perspective, our organizations need to have a business plan, one where the outcome is not profit but conservation. If my organization did not have a business plan – with emergency funds we had set aside and a trust fund we built on our own – COVID would have run us into the ground already, like some NGOs are experiencing.

“Some of our objectives will have to be phased in more slowly. For example, Nature Seychelles’ protected area has suffered coastal erosion due to climate change that has damaged our international research center on Cousin Island and some of the warden’s infrastructure. The money that we raised to combat this coastal erosion is currently having to be used to support staff and recurring budgets.

“Cousin Island Special Reserve is heavily dependent on tourism for its revenue, and it is easy for people who are not ground-level managers to suggest we diversify income streams. But when national economies like those of so many small island states are themselves not very diversified, it is not easy. We must engage with governments, including to look at the possibility of establishing carbon taxes on economic activities that are still reaping profits. An idea I’ve floated recently is carbon-taxing the fleets of distant-water fishing nations extracting tuna in our waters, with the tax revenue going to support marine conservation.

“Ultimately the marine protection sector may have to undertake a complete restructuring to survive this crisis. We need to be talking about innovation. We need to start working with unfamiliar partners. We need to work with tech companies, social marketers, behavioral economists – people we’ve never worked with before to be able to develop new funding ideas.”

“The Mediterranean Marine Initiative is working with MPA management and with local communities to strengthen their combined business planning and capacity. We do this by connecting them to people who can help. One example is sustainable fishing tourism (also called pescatourism) where small-scale fishers take tourists out with them and use smaller nets than they normally would: this new form of tourism can reduce overall fishing effort in an MPA while earning revenue for the fishers. The fishers have little idea how to build such a business with the tourists; but by bringing expertise to them, we can help to jointly build sustainable economic activities that work for the future.

“We need to be flexible. Some months ago, for example, my team would not have thought it would be possible to organize Zoom calls with small-scale fishers in the region. Now those fishers are also using Zoom to develop site management plans with MPA managers. Together they are looking for alternative business solutions to the crisis – such as by promoting direct sales to individual buyers. Direct home delivery of fish increases the value of the product and reduces the influence of fishmongers.”

On making the case for MPAs despite the ongoing COVID/financial crisis:

“The MPA field is trying to convince decision makers that what we are protecting – marine protected areas – is national infrastructure that provides ecosystem services and supports the health of coastal communities. The argument is not difficult. But getting people to listen to it now amid the Tower of Babel environment where everybody’s scrambling to survive, that’s the challenge.

“How do we get people’s attention? That’s what I personally am trying to do with all my writings [like this] and all my running around to governments. All of us have to do that.”

“Prior to COVID-19, the world was already in a biodiversity crisis and a climate crisis, and we’re still in those other crises. Can we take what we have learned from addressing COVID-19 – including responding to it in such a concerted and mobilized way – and wire that into how we’re responding to the other crises? We already know that climate change and biodiversity loss are also about human wellbeing.

“As countries come out of COVID-19, their recovery has to be tied to addressing climate change and biodiversity loss. Those three things need to go together – they can’t be separated.”

“A healthy marine ecosystem is a fundamental basis for a thriving economy in the future. If we consume our marine assets – our marine capital, to use an economic word – then the recovery itself is not possible.

“In Europe, the EU financial recovery package has been tied to the EU Green Deal to ensure that green conditions and commitments that have already been made are actually implemented. However, WWF has stressed that clearer guidance is needed on the mechanisms of implementing and enforcing the green conditions of the recovery plan.”

“I have personally pushed for greener deals and bluer deals here in the Seychelles. But we see now the government is encouraging more people to fish because it wants to reduce the nation's imports. The government has increased taxes on imports of foodstuffs, so more and more people are fishing, and more and more people are asking for fishing licenses. And the local fishery is at overcapacity already. Then you have industrial fishing: Europe may talk about a Green Deal, but they are still subsidizing their distant-water fishing fleets, and those fleets are coming here and overfishing already-threatened yellowfin tuna.”

“The marine conservation field needs to tie a healthy ocean to healthy human wellbeing, including the ocean’s role in addressing climate change. We need to drive the narrative that the ocean is critical to human survival.

“It will be an uphill battle. Everybody with the privilege to be able to drive that narrative right now needs to do it, because there are a lot of other people who are struggling simply to survive right now. Those of us with the privilege need to carry that carefully and well.”

For more information:

Nirmal Jivan Shah, Nature Seychelles. Email: nirmal [at] natureseychelles.org

Marina Gomei, WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative. Email: mgomei [at] wwfmedpo.org

Susanna Fuller, Oceans North, Canada. Email: susannafuller [at] oceansnorth.ca

COVID‐19 and protected and conserved areas, PARKS, May 2020. Co-authored by 35 protected area practitioners, this essay suggests three potential scenarios for how the pandemic will impact protected areas and their role in society’s recovery:

  1. A return to normal;
  2. A global economic depression and decline in conservation; or
  3. A new and transformative relationship with nature – “the only sustainable pathway,” write the authors.

BIOPAMA Rapid Response Grants to support protected areas (terrestrial and marine) facing the COVID-19 pandemic in African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries. The call is open until 31 December 2020. Maximum grant size is EUR 50k with no co-financing required.

Eight ways to rebuild a stronger ocean economy after COVID-19, by Douglas McCauley, Kristian Teleki, and Gloria Fluxà Thienemann. Published by World Economic Forum. The authors suggest eight pathways for rebuilding a more sustainable ocean economy, including “staying the course” on MPAs and rebuffing calls to reopen closed areas to industrial fishing amid the pandemic.

Five Ways Coronavirus Will Change the Charity Sector, by Zoe Amar. Published by Charity Digital. The long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will reshape the NGO sector for years to come, including in fundraising.

Three guides from the Mulago Foundation (MPA News mentioned these guides last month, too, but they’re worth repeating!):

Stretching Your MPA Budget: How to Do More with Less Funding, MPA News, April 2002.


By John Bohorquez

Editor’s note: John Bohorquez is a Ph.D. candidate at Stony Brook University (US), where his research focuses on sustainable finance and economics of MPAs, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean. He is also a technical specialist with the Conservation Finance Alliance and a citizen of the US and Colombia.

In this essay, John refers to the murder of George Floyd by police in the US, and the ensuing widespread street protests against police brutality – both in the US and countries worldwide. MPA News and OCTO strongly support these protests and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Sometimes you can find insight in surprising places. As a graduate student who studies marine conservation and protected areas, I admit I found myself asking after the murder of George Floyd, “How could my work possibly be more useless right now?” It’s difficult to stay focused when there are so many other issues afflicting the world. Even this year’s World Oceans Week often felt like an afterthought. 

But as this historic moment has developed, I have begun to see some parallels between my research in marine conservation and what disadvantaged communities in the US are protesting against just outside my door. How policing is conducted and how police are held accountable in each of these settings affects the wellbeing of all.

When marine protected areas (MPAs) are successful, they can help preserve pristine ecosystems, help degraded ones recover, and even enhance their resilience to impacts from climate change. But to succeed, MPAs need to be guarded and their regulations enforced by individuals or organizations including park rangers, navies, coast guards, the police, and other agents that may have legal authority over activities in the area. In other words, they need to be policed to some degree.

Anywhere there is policing, though, there is the potential for abusive enforcement. In extreme cases, conservation (especially when militarized) has been accused of driving the displacement or oppression of disadvantaged groups. These concerns resonate particularly closely to issues of police brutality and militarized police departments. A more common complaint is in response to the political message that protected areas sometimes send to communities in developing countries, many of which are indigenous groups or former slave colonies.

“Fishermen don’t like being told what they can’t do,” a man once told me on a Caribbean island I was researching for my dissertation. “Perhaps you’ll understand this being Colombian,” he continued. “People like us, we especially don’t like it when it’s a white man from the United States or Europe saying what we can’t do.” In many developing countries, protected areas have sometimes been viewed as forms of neo-colonialism, where wealthy countries from afar impose their interests on communities in ways that often restrict their access to local environments that have been important parts of their culture for generations.

I regret to say it is true: many conservation efforts have failed to adequately consider the concerns and knowledge of local communities. But the tide is changing. Research increasingly demonstrates the importance of positive communal relations and even participation in conservation management. For example, a 2018 study in Mexico found that MPAs that were co-managed by the government and local communities were more effective than exclusively federally controlled ones.

When done well, MPAs can benefit from good communal relations and participation in a variety of ways. Most MPAs have insufficient funds for management and enforcement, and communal participation allows for increasing the management capacity of protected areas beyond their budgetary limits. Community members can also offer generations' worth of experience and knowledge of the local ecosystems. And, perhaps greatest, there is less need to spend resources enforcing protected areas when people you might otherwise be enforcing against are your allies instead of your adversaries. These lessons can apply equally well to policing our communities.

In US communities, calls for “conversations” or “opening dialogues” – however well-intended – have not been followed up on and thus have done little to change the course of racial injustice and police brutality in recent years. It’s time to take real action and seek and identify concrete ways to move forward.

With their many commonalities, including intersections with disadvantaged groups, developments in MPA management and enforcement could be looked to for improving policing elsewhere, especially on the importance of communal support and participation. Here are a few potential ways to accomplish this for police departments in the US that I believe are not only the right thing to do, but could also be practical towards better and more effective law enforcement:

1. Like many MPAs that have benefited from active participation from local communities, we need to increase the ownership and decision-making power that American communities have over how law enforcement is conducted on their streets. This includes opening more pathways for individuals to take a participative role in local governance. These measures go double for the Black community whose political influence has long been undermined by systemic racism.

2. Many MPAs invest heavily in stakeholder and community outreach to demonstrate the importance of healthy marine environments and how communities can benefit. In US communities, we need to expand current outreach efforts between law enforcement and local communities far beyond what is currently being done. Police departments should help communities understand the benefits of having a well-operating police force in their neighborhood, and also treat outreach efforts as opportunities to listen to and take feedback from local community members (and, of course, take action based on that feedback).

3. This is the most important, and a must for #1 and #2 to succeed: MPAs seek to provide a healthy marine environment for the benefit of life within and the people who depend on it. Enforcement and penalization are tools to help achieve this goal, but are not the primary objective. Similarly, law enforcement in America must ensure that the primary objective is to build a safe and positive environment for everyone in the community, including actively working to uplift oppressed groups. Enforcement and penalization must be treated as last resorts among the many other tools that can be used to work towards that goal. There are many more ways that police can support communities beyond making arrests that are consistent with the idea of “to protect and serve”, and perhaps the importance of those other roles should be reinforced. Many police departments may be compelled to embrace those other roles amid calls for allocating their budgets to other public services. Furthermore, it is my hope that many individual police officers already embrace this mindset, and perhaps those men and women should be looked towards to help guide reform in their departments.

In the same way that marine conservation is a diverse field and no one solution is appropriate for every context, there is no one simple solution to tackle the problem of racial injustice in law enforcement in our nation. I by no means propose these three measures as a prescription for all problems related to policing and racial justice, nor do I expect they would be easy to implement. But as we look towards solutions to drive positive police reform and the dismantling of systemic racism, we must remember that we all have a stake in issues that affect even a subset of our communities. The fact that we can see the need for these changes – even in a field as seemingly distant from urban Black neighborhoods as marine conservation – tells me that what is happening on the streets of the US right now truly affects us all, and we have to solve it together.

For more information:

John Bohorquez, School of Marine & Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, US. Email: john.bohorquez [at] stonybrook.edu; Web: www.johnbohorquez.com

By Catherine Piante

Editor’s note: Catherine Piante is the PHAROS4MPAs program manager for WWF France.

The PHAROS4MPAs project, coordinated by WWF over the past two years, has explored how Mediterranean MPAs are affected by several maritime sectors, and how the environmental impacts of those sectors can be prevented or minimized.

The sectors studied were maritime transport, offshore windfarms, cruises, leisure boating, small-scale commercial fisheries, recreational fisheries, and marine aquaculture. The project has released a set of practical recommendations – excerpted below – for MPA managers, maritime spatial planning (MSP) authorities, and businesses.

Competition for space

Except for commercial fisheries, each of the maritime sectors mentioned above has been developing significantly in the semi-enclosed Mediterranean Sea in recent decades, and is expected to keep growing. (Commercial fisheries have been declining in the Med for several years now, due to overexploitation of fish stocks.) At the same time, Mediterranean countries need to reach global conservation targets by designating new MPAs. And at the site level, MPA managers must deal increasingly with new or expanding uses, which requires new capacities and skills. Competition for maritime space is thus increasing, reflecting the pressing need to manage our waters more coherently.

The Mediterranean Sea hosts a multitude of areas of important ecological value that deliver a wide range of ecosystem services and are rich in biodiversity. Some ecologically or biologically significant areas (EBSAs) in the Mediterranean are already identified under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. This web of valuable areas needs to be linked by so-called blue corridors – connecting important ecological features like stepping stones and currents, and free of disconnecting factors like physical infrastructure, noise barriers, polluted areas, heavily used shipping lines, and regular trawling grounds.

The region’s existing MPA network covers part of this web of important areas. MPAs are the best-known and most effective tool developed so far to protect marine ecosystems. However, marine management and planning needs a much broader perspective that will accommodate not only MPAs but all other areas of high ecological value, too.

Including MPAs in spatial planning

European countries are required to prepare maritime spatial plans by April 2021. Under EU law, those plans should apply an ecosystem-based approach, and the PHAROS4MPAs project has shown it is important to include MPA networks – and all other areas of high ecological value – as a central component. MPAs should be treated as an essential function for maintaining critical ecosystems and marine resources, not as simply another marine sector to be accommodated along with the others. To date this has not happened widely enough in European MSP, and there needs to be a change in attitude.

Effective MSP can significantly complement the aims of MPAs by using spatial and/or temporal regulations for specific areas (such as maritime transport regulated areas, marine concessions for aquaculture development, no-mooring zones for leisure boating, or seasonal fisheries closures) and carefully managing the spatial distribution of competing maritime sectors. MSP should:

  • Play a critical role in achieving Good Environmental Status in Mediterranean waters.
  • Avoid negative impacts on priority areas.
  • Minimize negative effects in larger areas with important ecological value.

In or near MPAs, priority in decision-making needs to be given to impact-avoidance strategies. Avoiding impacts means siting an activity, marine use, or sector in an area where the pressures it generates will not impact valuable ecosystems. While this may seem in some cases to place heavy constraints on decision-makers, it is a cost-effective long-term approach: when impacts are avoided in the first place, business sectors will not face mitigation costs, and legal risks are minimized or canceled. Such an approach can take many forms: for example, locating offshore wind farms outside significant bird areas, fish farms away from sensitive habitats, and maritime shipping routes outside key habitats for marine mammals, as well as forbidding ships from anchoring on Posidonia meadows, and so on.

Project recommendations to national and regional authorities

  • Apply thoughtful, ecosystem-based maritime spatial planning to avoid putting new pressures on existing MPAs.
  • Where economic activities do take place, mitigate their impacts in an appropriate manner, taking into account cumulative impacts and the carrying capacity of local ecosystems.
  • Implement legislation to sustainably regulate the interactions of the sectors with MPAs.

Project recommendations to MPA managers

  • Engage in planning processes (MSP and integrated coastal zone management) that concern the MPA and surrounding areas.
  • Monitor the impact of Blue Economy activities within and in proximity to their MPA.
  • Integrate recommendations on the interactions between economic sectors and the protected areas in MPA management plans.
  • When relevant, advocate for adequate buffer zones around MPAs to avoid pressure from economic activities along their borders.

Project recommendations to maritime business sectors

  • Endorse and implement sustainability best practices in and around MPAs.
  • Cooperate with national and MPA authorities to co-develop strategies to avoid impacts on marine ecosystems and biodiversity.

Recommendations for each of the seven maritime sectors can be found here: https://pharos4mpas.interreg-med.eu/.

For more information:

Catherine Piante, WWF France. Email: cpiante [at] wwf.fr


Scientists invited to sign letter supporting 30x30 target for MPAs

Over 100 marine scientists have already signed a letter calling on the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to set a target to safeguard 30% of the ocean in a network of “highly or fully protected, well-managed MPAs and other effective area-based conservation measures” by 2030. The letter, coordinated by Marine Conservation Institute, remains open for more signatories as of this writing (mid-June 2020). To read the letter and add your signature, click here.

EU to protect 30% of waters by 2030

The European Commission has committed to protecting 30% of EU waters in protected areas by 2030, and that at least one-third of these MPAs should be ‘strictly protected’. The Commission expects to put forward guidance later this year for identifying, designating, and managing additional MPAs, including an official definition of strict protection. (The Commission estimates that 11% of EU waters is currently in MPAs, and less than 1% is strictly protected.)

EU Member States will be responsible for designating the additional protected and strictly protected areas. The commitment to the 30x30 target came as part of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. The strategy also calls on the EU to use “all of its diplomatic leverage and outreach capacities” to help broker agreement on designation of three large MPAs in the Southern Ocean, two of which (East Antarctica and Weddell Sea) were co-proposed by the EU. The strategy notes, “If agreed, [the Southern Ocean MPAs] would constitute one of the biggest acts of nature protection in history.”

MPA Agency Partnership invites additional members

The Marine Protected Area Agency Partnership (MPAAP) is a coalition of national MPA agencies from around the world. MPAAP provides an informal venue for senior government officials to discuss common issues and opportunities for cooperation. Membership is open to any national MPA agency, and new members are welcome.

Current MPAAP members are Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Spain, South Africa, UK, and US, as well as the IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme. The partnership was launched in 2012. To learn more or to request to join, contact Lauren Wenzel (Lauren.Wenzel [at] noaa.gov) or Gonzalo Cid (Gonzalo.Cid [at] noaa.gov) of the US National MPA Center.

Independent review calls for more no-take MPAs in English waters

An independent review led by a former UK fisheries minister has recommended that the UK implement more highly protected (no-take) areas as part of its national MPA system. Of the 355 current MPAs in English inshore and offshore waters and in Northern Ireland offshore zones, just three have no-take areas that prohibit all forms of fishing. The review was commissioned in 2019 by then-Environment Secretary Michael Gove, and was released in June 2020.

In related news, an investigation by Greenpeace UK determined that foreign supertrawlers spent nearly 3000 hours inside UK MPAs in 2019. The supertrawlers were all operating legally. These vessels are over 100 meters in length and can catch hundreds of tons of fish per day. A Greenpeace statement said, “Banning supertrawlers from fishing in MPAs would be a first step towards designating a network of Highly Protected Marine Areas, as recommended in the [independent] review.”

Report: 26% of US waters are in MPAs, 3% are in no-take MPAs

The US National Marine Protected Areas Center has released its 2020 report on the state of the nation’s MPAs and progress the US has made toward establishing effective MPA networks. As of June 2020, 26% of US waters are in some form of MPA, while 3% are in highly protected (no-take) areas. Nearly all the highly protected areas are in two large sites in the remote Pacific Ocean: Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. Excluding those sites, less than 0.1% of US waters are in highly protected MPAs.

The report offers directions for strengthening the nation’s MPA management to achieve networks that are more representative, connected, effectively managed, and integrated within the broader seascape. Marine Protected Areas 2020: Building Effective Conservation Networks is available here.

President Trump reopens large MPA to fishing

US President Donald Trump has removed a ban on commercial fishing inside the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, a 12,720-km2 MPA off the nation’s Atlantic Coast. Trump said reopening the MPA to fishing would help fishing communities that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and financial downturn. (His proclamation on 5 June did not change the boundaries of the MPA, nor affect its ban on drilling and mining.)

Conservationists said reopening the MPA to fishing would not significantly help fishing companies impacted by COVID-19: the pandemic has generally made it harder to find markets for their catch, not harder to catch fish. A US senator from the region said Trump’s trade wars with other nations have placed more of a burden on the fishing sector than the MPA has. A coalition of conservation NGOs – the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Conservation Law Foundation, and the Center for Biological Diversity – filed a lawsuit on 17 June to block Trump’s move, arguing that the country’s Antiquities Act, under which the MPA was designated, allows only for strengthening protections not weakening them.

The MPA, with its prior ban on commercial fishing, was designated by then-President Barack Obama in 2016 to protect three underwater canyons and four seamounts, as well as the marine wildlife and habitats there.

India allows new desalination plant just outside MPA boundary

In May, India’s Environment Ministry approved a proposal to build a desalination plant just 25 meters outside the boundary of the country’s Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park. The plant will produce 60 million liters of freshwater per day, while being allowed to discharge up to 42 million liters per day of brine into the sea. Brine – water with high concentrations of salt – is the primary waste product of desalination.

The proposal was delayed earlier this year due to concerns about its potential environmental impacts on the adjacent MPA. But the regional water board responsible for building the plant offered to build artificial lagoons to collect some of the brine, and to explore other means of decreasing brine discharge. The Environment Ministry judged these accommodations to be adequate.

Documentary series seeks MPA stories and practitioners in Azores

OceanX is producing a companion digital documentary series project within a larger TV documentary series project, to be filmed in the Azores. Lindsay Blatt of OceanX writes: “We're currently researching potential stories and characters who are working in the Azores region and would like to hear from you! Some themes we are especially interested in featuring include Coral, MPAs, Megafauna, Fisheries/Food Sustainability, Human Impact, and Technology. We're also looking for topside stories that are connected to marine science. Please contact lindsay.blatt [at] oceanx.org with a brief summary of your work and what we might be able to film together.” 

Comic-style guide on MPAs shows importance of protection level and stage of establishment

A brief, comic-style booklet is now available to educate public groups about MPAs. Specifically, the guide explains the importance of an MPA’s level of protection (from minimal to full) and stage of establishment (from proposed to actively managed) to understand its likely conservation outcomes.

The five-page “Graphic Guide to Marine Protected Areas” draws from “An Introduction to the MPA Guide”, which was published in 2019. It also complements the forthcoming MPA Guide, which will provide a detailed framework for classifying MPAs according to their level of protection and stage of establishment. These MPA Guide materials are developed by a coalition of partners: Oregon State University, IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, Marine Conservation Institute, National Geographic Society, and UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

New online tool tracks spread of stony coral disease in Caribbean

As stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) spreads in the Caribbean region, a new online tool is tracking its progression and recording efforts to control and respond to the threat. SCTLD spreads rapidly and affects some of the slowest-growing and longest-lived reef-building corals, including brain, star, and pillar corals.

The tool, called the Caribbean SCTLD Dashboard, provides data from in-water coral reef monitoring to help managers shape their response to the disease. Maps show the presence of SCTLD around the region, a time lapse of its progression, which coral species have been most affected, and the geographies that are most susceptible. The tool was developed by MPAConnect (a learning network of Caribbean MPA managers) and the Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment Program (AGRRA). For more information, contact mpaconnect [at] gcfi.org or info [at] agrra.org.

Book offers lessons from California’s MPA planning process

A new book details the successful effort by the US state of California to establish a large network of MPAs last decade. The book Beyond Polarization: Public Process and the Unlikely Story of California’s Marine Protected Areas, by Steven Yaffee, focuses on California’s political leadership and the inclusive process to plan the first science-based, statewide MPA network in the US. Its lessons are designed to be applicable to similar collaborative processes worldwide. The book costs US $45 and is available here. OCTO is hosting a webinar with Steven Yaffee about his book on 15 July.

New ocean finance handbook for decision-makers

A new guide provides an introduction to concepts in marine conservation finance, including recent tools like impact investment, parametric insurance, and carbon credit schemes. Published by Friends of Ocean Action, The Ocean Finance Handbook serves as an overview of the current landscape of ocean finance. Its target audience is decision-makers within governments, NGOs, the private sector, and communities.

MPA-related readings from around the web

Conservation Leadership More Important than Ever (Resources Legacy Fund) – The success of California’s Marine Life Protection Act initiative during the 2007-2009 global recession shows that, even in difficult times, good leadership can help ensure environmental progress.

Will fish boom amid pandemic-driven fishing bust? (Mongabay) – Experts say it is difficult to tell whether the global fishing slowdown will allow marine life to recover; factors include the duration and timing of the slowdown, as well as whether illegal fishing will increase in the absence of enforcement.

Scientists agree on the need to protect 30% of the seas. But which 30%? (Mongabay) – Two recent studies feature areas of overlap and divergence on how best to protect 30% of the ocean.

Protecting 30% of ocean is easier said than done (China Dialogue Ocean) – The 30x30 target is in an early draft of the post-2020 framework for the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, but the pace of MPA progress in the past decade suggests meeting that target could be a challenge.

From 10% to 30×30 – no time to waste for marine biodiversity (EURACTIV) – The EU’s new Biodiversity Strategy will increase Europe’s network of MPAs, writes Virgilius Sinkevicius, the EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans, and Fisheries.

In Tanintharyi, an indigenous alternative to Big Conservation (Frontier Myanmar) – Communities in Myanmar’s Tanintharyi region are spurning large, top-down projects and seeking recognition for their own approach of indigenous stewardship.

From the MPA News vault

Features and news items from yesteryear

Five years ago: May-June 2015

Ten years ago: May-June 2010

Fifteen years ago: June 2005

Twenty years ago: June 2000

For these and all other issues of MPA News, go to https://mpanews.openchannels.org/mpanews/archives