March - April 2015 (16:4)

Issue PDF archive: PDF icon MPA142.pdf

The UK Government has indicated its intent to designate an MPA around the Pitcairn Islands, a remote and lightly populated UK territory in the South Pacific, midway between New Zealand and Peru. It is anticipated that the MPA would encompass the islands' entire 834,334-km2 marine area, and most of the MPA would be no-take.

A "Protect Pitcairn" coalition that has advocated for the MPA in recent years - led by Pitcairn's population of 50 residents, the Pew Charitable Trusts' Global Ocean Legacy program, and the National Geographic Society - has proposed that 99% of the MPA be off-limits to fishing ("A proposed no-take MPA where 100% of the citizens support it? Meet the Pitcairn Islands", MPA News 15:3). Under that proposal, commercial fishing by Pitcairners would continue to be allowed within 12 nm of the sole inhabited island (Pitcairn Island) and one nearby reef area. The UK Government has not yet announced a zoning plan for the proposed MPA.

At present, there is very little commercial fishing activity inside the Pitcairn Islands' EEZ, due in part to the archipelago's remoteness and its low biodiversity, at least compared to other Pacific islands. The Pitcairn Islands are not a significant habitat for migratory tuna, for example. As a result of the lack of commercial activity (there is also no port or natural harbor for Pitcairn), the waters are an intact, relatively pristine ecosystem.

Jo Royle of Pew's Global Ocean Legacy said, "With this designation, the UK raises the bar for protection of our ocean. The Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve will build a refuge of untouched ocean."

Main opposition party promises more MPA plans

The government chose an indirect way to indicate its intent to designate the Pitcairn MPA, announcing it in a pre-election budget. The UK is holding a national election on 7 May 2015. The current government - a coalition of the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats, with a Conservative prime minister - released the budget in March laying out its post-election governing plan.

Should the current government lose the 7 May election, a decision on Pitcairn would fall to the incoming government. The main opposition Labour Party has already announced that if it assumes power it will designate the Pitcairn MPA as well. In the party's "Green Plan" that it released in April, Labour goes even further, saying it will also work to designate new MPAs in the UK's South Atlantic territories of Ascension Island and South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (

If the Conservative Party retains control of government, its pre-election budget still provides some caveats for designating the MPA. According to the budget, the designation "will be dependent upon reaching agreement with NGOs on satellite monitoring and with authorities in relevant ports to prevent landing of illegal catch, as well as on identifying a practical naval method of enforcing the MPA at a cost that can be accommodated within existing departmental expenditure limits."

The satellite-monitoring program is already operational. Pew and the UK-based innovation firm Catapult launched Project Eyes on the Seas in January 2015. The project helps authorities monitor illegal fishing activity in near real time, from a watchroom in the UK ( The Swiss-based Bertarelli Foundation has reportedly agreed to help fund Project Eyes on the Seas to support monitoring of the Pitcairn MPA for the next five years.

In terms of the cost of naval enforcement of the Pitcairn MPA, it would require £4 million (US $6 million) annually, according to a source in the UK Government. Work is being undertaken to determine where that funding would come from in the naval budget.

Most of Pitcairn's inhabitants are descendants of the mutineers of the HMS Bounty, who settled the main island in 1790 with their Tahitian companions. Annual total income for the territory is less than £100,000 per year (US $150,000), accounting for about 3% of the territory's annual expenditure (the UK Government contributes the rest). Supporters of the MPA assert it would boost marine tourism in the islands.

BOX: UN tribunal decides UK violated international law with Chagos MPA; could lead to reopening no-take area to fishing

Within days of the Pitcairn announcement by the UK Government, there was more big news with regard to a sizable MPA in a UK overseas territory. A UN tribunal ruled in March that the UK's designation in 2010 of a 640,000-km2 MPA around the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean violated international law, and that the governments of the UK and Mauritius must now negotiate new terms for the MPA, which at present is almost entirely no-take.

The Chagos archipelago and its surrounding waters were detached from Mauritius prior to the latter's gaining independence from UK colonial rule in 1968. Mauritius argued to the tribunal that the UK should honor its original undertaking to return the islands and their waters to Mauritius. Mauritius also argued that designation of the Chagos MPA disregarded Mauritian interests in Chagos resources, and was designated largely to suit the UK's electoral timetable and to favor the US, which operates a military base on Diego Garcia, an island in the Chagos Archipelago.

The tribunal agreed with Mauritius on these points. The UK has promised to return Chagos to its former colony when the archipelago is no longer required as a strategic defense asset. At the earliest, that could occur in December 2016 when the current UK/US agreement on the military use of Diego Garcia expires.

With regard to the MPA, the tribunal ruling could lead to an eventual reopening of the no-take area to fishing, depending on forthcoming negotiations between the UK and Mauritian governments. The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) oversees the Chagos MPA. An FCO spokesperson told MPA News the UK will work to ensure conservation continues in Chagos waters. "The UK is committed to working with neighboring states, including Mauritius, to ensure proper conservation management of the Marine Protected Area," the spokesperson said. "Since the declaration of the MPA, the UK has made extensive efforts to engage with Mauritius on related issues, including fishing; Mauritius has refused these offers. We will now seek to work with Mauritius to explore how any fishing can be compatible with conservation."

The UN tribunal's March 2015 ruling, as well as other documents of the Chagos MPA arbitration, are available at

In January of this year, the United Nations agreed to develop a legally binding treaty on high seas biodiversity ("Notes & news", MPA News 16:3). This decision by UN Member States is a promising development for high seas conservation. Effectively, such a treaty could provide a worldwide framework for conserving the 64% of the global ocean that is beyond national waters, including by enabling a system of high seas MPAs.

Kristina Gjerde has spent the past decade advocating for such a treaty, both in her role as high seas policy adviser for IUCN and as a member of the High Seas Alliance ( In a statement following the UN agreement in January, she said there were high hopes for the forthcoming treaty but that the final results of the treaty-drafting process remain uncertain. MPA News spoke with her.

MPA News: What could the range of outcomes be from the forthcoming process?

Kristina Gjerde: Call me an eternal optimist. I think that the January decision demonstrated that governments are now willing and able to tackle the pernicious problem of managing our vast global commons of the high seas and seabed in areas beyond national boundaries, for the benefit of present and future generations.

The ideal outcome will be a science-driven agreement with overarching objectives of a healthy, productive, and resilient global ocean beyond national boundaries. This would include an ecologically representative and well-connected system of MPAs based on the UN Convention on Biodiversity's Aichi target 11 - which calls for at least 10% of marine and coastal areas to be protected through such a system by 2020. It would also include ecosystem-based and precautionary management for all human activities likely to affect marine biodiversity and ecosystems beyond national jurisdiction.

A less-than-ideal system would be something that leaves us with little better than the status quo, where areas are subject to ad hoc management by different sectors, with no coordination, no overarching goals or objectives, and no accountability for outcomes - and, ultimately, little protection for biodiversity. Fortunately the tide has turned in favor of a more ambitious regime.

The final results of the forthcoming process are nevertheless uncertain as high seas MPAs and other conservation tools such as environmental impact assessments are part of a wider package of issues that will need to be addressed in the new treaty. That means governments will need to agree on fair and equitable provisions for benefit-sharing of marine genetic resources, capacity building, and technology transfer. This should not be too hard, but may require some creativity and targeted funding.

MPA News: Under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, there has been a process to describe Ecologically or Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs) on the open ocean or deep sea ( Do you anticipate that some of the EBSAs will eventually become MPAs under the forthcoming treaty?

Gjerde: To date, over 200 EBSAs have been described and officially recognized by the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). These are areas of ecological or biological significance meeting the scientific criteria adopted by the CBD in 2008. According to CBD reports, 47 EBSAs either straddle or are entirely located beyond national boundaries. Some of these are vast, such as the Sargasso Sea or North Pacific Transition Zone, and others are discrete places such as the White Shark Café.

EBSAs provide a good starting point for future MPAs, as these areas have already undergone a rigorous scientific review process as to their importance. But not all EBSAs need to become MPAs. Some may just require improved fisheries management measures to address bycatch issues through, for example, dynamic or temporal fisheries closures. But those that would benefit from a more comprehensive management focus should be considered as potential MPAs.

At the same time, not all ecologically or biologically significant areas have been captured by the CBD process. We still need further data, information, and tools to identify important, distinctive, or even representative areas. Additional targeted research remains essential, as well as environmental impact assessments that require project proponents to assess the ecological or biological significance of potentially affected areas.

MPA News: What is the timeline for the treaty drafting?

Gjerde: We anticipate that a preparatory committee (Prep Com) will be convened in early 2016 and span over two years. The Prep Com is technically to make "substantive recommendations" to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on elements of a draft text of an internationally legally binding instrument under the Convention. By the end of 2017, the Prep Com is to report to the UNGA on its progress. The UNGA, during the course of 2018, is charged with taking the decision to convene an intergovernmental conference, which has the ultimate responsibility to elaborate and adopt the final treaty text. Many of us hope the intergovernmental conference could finalize its work by the end of 2018.

For more information:

Kristina Gjerde, IUCN. Email: kristinagjerde [at]

BOX: Want to help the process to develop a high seas treaty?

Kristina Gjerde of IUCN says the global MPA community can play a significant role in the process of developing a treaty on high seas biodiversity:

  1. Share information and data about places of ecological or biological significance in the open ocean and deep sea, and help improve understanding of underlying ecosystem processes and functions and their connections to coastal concerns.

  2. Promote improved protection for areas in the remote ocean as well as closer to home, to build public and political understanding of the importance of MPAs in sustaining marine and coastal biodiversity and ecosystems.

  3. Join with the High Seas Alliance at international meetings to share research and findings relating to the science behind MPAs and the importance of connectivity, representativeness, and resilience in the design of systems of MPAs.

  4. Sign "An Open Letter from International Scientists on the Need for a High Seas Biodiversity Agreement" posted on the High Seas Alliance website at

One of the main challenges facing MPAs is securing enough funding to meet their program and staffing needs. MPAs are typically dependent on government sources for most or all of their funding. In an era of budgetary cutbacks, this has led to financial shortfalls for many sites.

Who is going to pay for MPAs? In the Bahamas, an effort is underway to create an MPA that is financially self-sufficient from the start. The approach: build a site that serves the needs of researchers and filmmakers in a very user-friendly way, and charge them for that service.

A unique property and operations program

The Long Island Marine Management Area (LIMMA) - an 870-km2 area of water that has been proposed for national designation as an MPA - features coral reefs, blue holes, sand bars, wetlands, and grouper spawning aggregation sites. While the site awaits an official decision on protection, several NGOs and academic institutions that support its designation are building a set of programs to help the site generate its own income.

Leading that effort is the Ocean CREST Alliance (OCA,, an NGO with offices in the Bahamas and the US. "For the Long Island site, OCA has developed a unique property and operations program," says Joe Ierna, founder of the organization. "This program provides a means for the site to be financially sustainable, while also operating sustainably within nature and the adjacent community." (OCA's partners on LIMMA include the Bahamas National Trust, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Florida Biodiversity Institute, Mission Blue, and the University of Florida Conservation Clinic, among others.)

Ierna's background is in the yachting business, and he says that MPAs should be run more like the private sector. "To have successful MPAs, we must design and operate them like any other successful business venture," he says. The same way that businesses are focused on serving their customers' needs, says Ierna, an MPA should do so as well.

In the case of LIMMA, he says, those customers are likely to be researchers and filmmakers. Long Island is a relatively rare example of a site with significant baseline marine resource population data generated prior to MPA designation. So Ierna believes it will be in demand among scientists looking to do controlled before-and-after studies of the MPA's effects (the site is expected to be zoned with some no-take areas). Long Island's spectacular marine features, too, like its blue holes (vertical underwater caves), should prove popular with filmmakers, he says. As a result, the site must meet the needs of these two groups.

Building the architecture of a site

Central to meeting users' needs, says Ierna, is having facilities that support them. He refers to this as MPA architecture. For Long Island, the architectural plan is designed to provide researchers and filmmakers with all they need:

  • Each facility associated with the MPA will offer lodging space, a workshop area, equipment, vessels, storage, and communications capability, as well as food gardens.
  • Each facility will run on renewable energy, avoiding dependence on delivered fossil fuels.
  • Containerized mobile lab spaces called "docking stations" - 20 feet or 40 feet in length - will be available and customized to users' requirements, for both land and sea deployment.

OCA anticipates building the first facility on site by the end of 2015.

Selling timeshares to users

The funding will enter through another business idea imported to LIMMA: timeshares, or what OCA calls E-shares (for environmental). By purchasing a share of the time available at one of the MPA's facilities, researchers and filmmakers will have dependable access to the services provided without having to compete with others for space. For US users (Long Island is 590 km from the US), the payments will be tax-deductible.

Taken all together, this is an ambitious program. "Now we have to make it reality," says Ierna. He says the E-share program will be operational as soon as the first facility is ready this year, whether the MPA has been designated by that time or not.

For more information:

Joe Ierna, Ocean CREST Alliance, Long Island, Bahamas. Email: jijr-oca [at]

By Jayson Horadam and Emma Doyle

Editor's note: Jayson Horadam is the senior consultant at MPA Enforcement International, a firm that advises MPAs on enforcement programs, management, and leadership, particularly in the Caribbean region ( Emma Doyle is a consultant to the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute ( on its support to MPAs in the Caribbean.

In recent months, several MPA managers in the Caribbean region have been approached by various firms that produce drone technology. These firms have marketed the potential benefits of air- or sea-based drones to MPA management, particularly with regard to enforcement. (We acknowledge that drones may also be of use in environmental monitoring of MPAs, but we focus here on the enforcement implications.)

Drones remain a relatively new technology, and few MPA managers have direct experience with them yet. In this light, some of the MPA managers who have been approached asked us for our input on the value of drones. We are providing our advice here in hopes that it may be of use to the broader MPA community, beyond just the Caribbean.

To assess the value of drone technology for MPA enforcement it is important to consider the following:

  1. Drones can be a useful tool in your enforcement toolbox but they will not meet all your enforcement needs. Drones can contribute to one aspect of enforcement: surveillance to detect violations. However, MPA enforcement is more than just surveillance. Enforcement encompasses the full range of actions that can be taken to promote compliance with MPA rules and regulations. These include education, communications, community alert networks, intelligence gathering, and the procedures for responding to violations (e.g., search/inspection and arrest, evidence gathering, and case preparation).

  2. To incorporate drones into an MPA surveillance strategy, the costs for investment, maintenance, training, and potential loss should be evaluated. The cost of drones (including their acquisition, operation, and potential loss) should be weighed against their usefulness just as for any investment in MPA vessels, motors, communications equipment, GPS, cameras, binoculars/night vision, uniforms, and safety gear. We suggest that MPAs prioritize investment in basic infrastructure and equipment needs ahead of drone technology. Suitable vessels and well-equipped officers serve multiple purposes in enforcement. In contrast, drones are an additional piece of technology with a single benefit.

  3. If drones are incorporated into surveillance based on the expectation that they will improve the detection of violations, then the MPA must also increase its capacity to respond effectively to those drone-detected violations. In other words, the investment in drone technology needs to be complemented by an increased investment in staff, supporting equipment, and training. Beyond the MPA, there should also be a complementary increase in case-processing capability by authorities and the judiciary, which is typically out of the hands of the MPA manager. If an increase in detection capability is not matched by increases in officer response capability and in prosecutions, the result will be significant frustration and unmet expectations about enhanced effectiveness.

  4. Navies and other enforcement authorities (e.g., Coast Guard or fisheries enforcement) often play an important supporting role in MPA enforcement, so it may be important to determine whether there are any plans by your country's navy for the application of drone technology. Similarly, it is important to examine whether the navy will have the increased capability required to respond effectively to MPA violations detected by drone.

  5. In the case of air-based drones, aviation regulations may be applicable in some jurisdictions, and these regulations are evolving in response to the technology. Be aware of current aviation rules and permitting processes pertaining to drone use. Privacy regulations may also be applicable and could limit drone use near communities adjacent to MPAs.

  6. Potential negative environmental impacts associated with the use of drones in MPAs should be evaluated. Caribbean MPAs, for example, often provide important habitat for seabirds and migratory waterfowl. The appropriateness of drone use (and its attendant noise in the case of airborne drones) near important bird areas should be carefully considered.

In summary, while the application of drones may be appealing to some MPAs, we believe the fundamental aspects of an enforcement program must first be in place and operating effectively to fully underpin MPA compliance.

For more information:

Jayson Horadam, MPA Enforcement International. Florida, US. Email: j.horadam [at]

Emma Doyle, GCFI. Email: emma.doyle [at]

Madagascar designates three new MPAs, doubles MPA coverage

Madagascar has announced it is designating three new community-led MPAs that together will reportedly double the surface of the country's MPA system. The three new sites - Soariake Marine Park on the southwest coast, and Ankarea and Ankivonjy Marine Parks on the northwest coast - will protect diverse coral populations, as well as mangrove habitat, marine mammals, whale sharks, and more. Together the MPAs will cover about 3100 km2 in area. A press release by the Wildlife Conservation Society, which has worked at the three sites to help develop a community-driven MPA model for them, is at

Madagascar announced last November at the World Parks Congress that it would triple its national MPA coverage in the next 10 years ("Nations announce new MPA commitments", MPA News 16:2).

US doubles the size of two national marine sanctuaries

In March 2015, the (US) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced it is expanding two adjacent national marine sanctuaries off the coast of California. The expansion, which more than doubles the current size of the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries, is the result of a decade of public consultation and research by NOAA and its scientific partners.

The expansion bans oil and gas exploration in the newly protected waters. The expanded area includes areas of major upwelling that support a wide array of sea life including 25 endangered or threatened species, 36 marine mammal species, over a quarter-million breeding seabirds, and one of the world's most significant great white shark populations.

For more information, go to

Phoenix Islands Protected Area announces no illegal fishing since full closure

Since 1 January 2015, all commercial fishing has been banned inside the 408,250-km2 Phoenix Islands Protected Area, in the Pacific island nation of Kiribati ("Notes & news", MPA News 15:5). Prior to that date, most - 88% - of the MPA had allowed purse seining for tuna, the predominant fishing industry in the region. Since the full closure, the Kiribati government reports that no vessel has been detected fishing inside the MPA. The country requires all vessels licensed to fish in Kiribati waters to carry a Vessel Monitoring System, which allows authorities to track the vessels' movements in real time. For more information, go to

New book on protected area governance and management includes chapter on MPAs

IUCN has just published an authoritative, 992-page book on protected area governance and management. More than 160 protected area experts from around the world contributed to writing the book, which took nearly three years to complete.

The book Protected Area Governance and Management includes a 43-page chapter on MPA issues in particular. Jon Day from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University was the chapter's lead author, along with Dan Laffoley (Marine Vice Chair, WCPA/IUCN) and Kathy Zischka (Acting Director, Australian Committee for IUCN). "While the MPA chapter is aimed primarily at students, it will also assist current practitioners, policy makers, planners and other professionals with the effective management of marine protected areas," says Day.The entire book is downloadable at The MPA chapter is at

Great Barrier Reef in the news

In June 2015 at its annual meeting, UNESCO's World Heritage Committee will again consider whether the Great Barrier Reef should be added to the list of World Heritage in Danger in light of various threats the site faces, including runoff and coastal development (MPA News 15:6 and 16:1). In the run-up to that meeting, the Great Barrier Reef has been the focus of reports and other publications examining its overall health and what is needed to protect the ecosystem over the long term. Here are some recent ones:

"Six ways Australia is selectively reporting to the UN on the Great Barrier Reef"

"Is Australia meeting the UN recommendations for the Great Barrier Reef?"

"Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan: Position Statement of Australian Academy of Science"

"Commentary: Securing the future of the Great Barrier Reef" (available by subscription or purchase)

"The Impacts of the Abbot Point Port development on the Outstanding Universal Value of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area: A report by the Australian Coral Reef Society"

"Study vindicates the benefits of no-fishing zones on the Great Barrier Reef"

Report: Managing protected areas for disaster risk reduction

A new report from IUCN describes how protected areas can be better managed for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. Featuring 18 case studies from around the world, the report provides an array of emerging practices, lessons learned, and key recommendations. Although some of the cases are terrestrial, most of them are coastal or marine. The 183-page report Safe Havens: Protected Areas for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation is available at

MPA accommodates new user group

In early April 2015, South Africa's first nudist beach officially opened in the Mpenjati Nature Reserve, a marine and coastal protected area on the country's east coast. Nudity is now allowed on a secluded, 500-meter-long stretch of the MPA's beach, with new signage to alert visitors. The opening ended months of appeals by a citizens' group, including religious leaders, who opposed the move. Opponents gathered at the beach to stop the April opening, telling the arriving nudists to put their clothes back on. Municipal officials - who voted last October to allow the nudist beach - intervened, telling the nudists they could remove their clothes again. News coverage is at

MPA Campaign Tracker: Bering Sea Canyons

The MPA Campaign Tracker, a web-based tool produced by, maps and describes active campaigns to designate new MPAs around the world ( Currently it is tracking more than 80 campaigns in various stages of development. In this occasional feature, MPA News will briefly highlight particular campaigns.

Campaign: Bering Sea Canyons

Campaign website:

Background: Two of the largest canyons in the world are found in the Bering Sea: the Zhemchug and Pribilof canyons, situated between Alaska and Russia. Here the upwelling of nutrient-laden waters creates a rich ecosystem that is considered the "green belt" of the Bering Sea - home to ocean albatross and kittiwakes, orcas, walrus and fur seals, king crab, squid, and salmon. A 2012 publication by researchers from the University of California at Santa Barbara, NOAA, and Greenpeace revealed that the canyons are home to high densities of deep sea corals and sponges that provide important benthic habitat for fish and other marine life. The (US) North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which has the authority to designate fishery closures around the canyons, is in the process of analyzing whether such protection for the canyons would benefit regional fisheries. The council's discussion paper and a summary of potential management measures are available at