November 2016 (18:2)

Issue PDF archive: PDF icon MPA152.pdf

Dear reader,

Welcome to our second all-electronic issue! If you previously received MPA News on paper, we have switched you to email delivery.

We have returned to monthly distribution — the same frequency we had for the first decade of MPA News. In general this will mean more frequent and more concise issues. 

A quick note: In our last issue (October 2016), I mentioned we would soon report on an array of new financing strategies and opportunities for MPAs. Our extensive coverage of that topic will now be in our next issue.

Thanks for reading MPA News!

John Davis, Editor, mpanews [at]

The world will soon have a new largest protected area, marine or terrestrial. In October, member states of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) agreed by consensus to designate a 1.55 million-km2 MPA in the remote and relatively pristine Ross Sea. The purpose is to protect benthic biodiversity, populations of commercially valuable toothfish, and critical habitat for penguins, seals, and other predators.

The Ross Sea MPA will come into force on 1 December 2017. In a concession to CCAMLR members concerned about a permanent MPA, the designation is set to expire in 35 years — the year 2052 — at which point it will be up for renegotiation.

The agreement, which occurred at CCAMLR’s annual meeting in Hobart, Australia, capped several years of negotiations on the Ross Sea within CCAMLR. These negotiations are detailed in the following perspective piece in this issue. Under CCAMLR regulations, the decision on designation had to be made by consensus of the Commission’s 25 members. Holdouts by particular CCAMLR member nations over the years, especially Russia, resulted in several changes to the proposal over time, including reducing its size and adding the 35-year duration.

The new MPA — more than twice the size of France — will include most of the Ross Sea shelf, eastern slope, waters around the Balleny Islands, and seamounts to the north. A map of the MPA, provided by, is here. Approximately three quarters will be closed to all commercial fishing (General Protection Zones). The remaining quarter will allow limited research fishing that is strictly controlled by CCAMLR under advice from the Commission’s Scientific Committee, and which must be approved by consensus.

The current record holder for largest protected area is Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the US’s Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Papahānaumokuākea was expanded to 1.51 million km2 in late August of this year.

For more information on the Ross Sea MPA:

By Rodolfo Werner, Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition

This October, something extraordinary took place in the Southern Hemisphere. After years of negotiations at the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), 24 countries and the European Union finally agreed to designate the world’s largest MPA in the Ross Sea. This marks the first time that world leaders have agreed — and by consensus — to protect a large area of the high seas from commercial fishing.

This victory, while falling short of a permanent MPA designation, is a significant development for marine protection in the Southern Ocean and elsewhere on the high seas. It was a long time coming. Efforts to advocate for a protected area in the Ross Sea date back to 2002 when renowned Antarctic scientist David Ainley declared his personal mission to establish an MPA there. The documentary film The Last Ocean later played a key role in raising the profile for a protected area in the Ross Sea, joined by efforts from the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC) and the Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA), the latter of which was established and supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts and Oceans 5.

Years of negotiation, stagnation

In October 2012, the US and New Zealand submitted separate proposals for an MPA in the Ross Sea to CCAMLR’s Scientific Committee. After behind-the-scenes discussions, the two nations combined these into a joint proposal to be considered further by the Commission. By this time another proposal — to designate a network of MPAs in the waters off East Antarctica, completely separate from the Ross Sea — had also been introduced by Australia, France, and the European Union.

Both the Ross Sea and East Antarctica MPA proposals were then discussed at a special session of the Scientific Committee and the Commission in Bremerhaven, Germany, in July 2013. The special session was only the second time that CCAMLR has convened a session of this nature. The Bremerhaven session was to focus on agreeing to designate both MPA proposals.

Unfortunately, the special session in Bremerhaven failed to result in any MPAs. Russia, with some support from Ukraine, challenged the legal basis that would allow for the creation of large-scale marine reserves in Antarctica. In addition, fishing nations — led primarily by Norway — expressed concerns about the scale of the proposals, the duration of the MPAs if adopted, and the levels of protection in both MPA proposals (no-take areas versus multiple-use). In response to the fishing concerns, proponents of the Ross Sea MPA reduced its area by over 40% at one point. (There were similar reductions for the East Antarctica proposal, which has been reduced over time from a network of seven representative MPAs to just three. That proposal is still wending its way through CCAMLR.)

Despite changes to the Ross Sea proposal, the years that followed Bremerhaven were mired in stagnation. Although Norway came to endorse the Ross Sea plan by 2014, Russia — with support from China — repeatedly blocked the proposal from moving forward.

Negotiations continued, however. China pushed for creation of a Krill Research Zone (KRZ) in the proposal, allowing an area in which controlled research fishing for krill would be allowed. Following bilateral discussions on this between the US and China, a KRZ was added in October 2015 and China came on board.

Although a wide body of research shows the benefits of a permanent duration for MPAs, several CCAMLR member states advocated for sunset clauses for the Ross Sea MPA of 50 years or less. In 2015 the proposal’s duration clause was changed from a “soft stop”, which would have required consensus to cease the MPA, to a “hard stop” that includes a firm expiration date. During the October 2016 CCAMLR meeting in Hobart, Japan and China continued to advocate behind closed doors for a duration as low as 20 years. This advocacy continued until the final moments of the meeting’s Ross Sea MPA negotiations, even after Russia had agreed to a proposal for a 50-year duration.

Working behind the scenes

The evolving discussions around the Ross Sea, East Antarctica, and a broader network of MPAs in the Southern Ocean have been a joint effort among all 25 CCAMLR members and the international NGO community advocating for their designation. Under the umbrella of ASOC and AOA, The Pew Charitable Trusts, WWF and Greenpeace mounted a global effort to build support among opponent countries through various tactics. These included public awareness-building through in-country media, active policy outreach with proponent countries to minimize further concessions, and — by far the most effective effort — encouraging high-level outreach at all levels of government between the United States / New Zealand and their counterparts in China and the Russian Federation.

In addition to high-level outreach, actions on the ground were critical to building a network of support within the Russian government and NGO community. It can be complicated to work in Russia: Russian NGOs cannot receive any funding from foreign organizations, so it is difficult to organize workshops or meetings to promote issues and support any organizations financially. Proponent NGOs worked with their Russian NGO colleagues on the ground and established relationships with key Russian officials to the extent possible. They also liaised with organizations that had existing connections with Russian counterparts, including the National Geographic Society. The intent was to get a sense of the real concerns of the Russians. This all complemented the bilateral government-level discussions between the US and Russia that were key in paving the road and unblocking the establishment of the Ross Sea MPA.

Similar efforts took place in Norway, China, Ukraine, and other nations over the years. NGOs worked closely with proponents of the Ross Sea MPA — the US and New Zealand. And there was further on-the-ground work in other CCAMLR member countries to build broad buy-in for the Ross Sea MPA.

This process took several years to line up, slowed at times due to the continually degrading relationship between the US and Russia. From US sanctions put in place due the conflict in Crimea; later to disagreements over a proxy war in Syria; and capped off by the US government formally accusing Russia of hacking emails from one of the US’s two major political parties in 2016, the ability to impact the negotiations was slow-brewing and often opportunistic. And while the Ross Sea MPA is based on the best available science, ultimately the agreements from China and Russia were largely political.

All things considered it is a time to celebrate, and to appreciate the tireless efforts of the US and New Zealand who invested a lot of time and political capital to achieve this remarkable victory for the Ross Sea MPA. This applies also to the proponents of protection for East Antarctica, who continue to push their proposal forward after many years of negotiations. It is crucial that eyes remain on the road ahead, and that support is provided to new proposals coming to the table.

With a global momentum and millions of square kilometers announced in 2016 for marine protection worldwide, CCAMLR must move forward to establish the system of large-scale MPAs in the Southern Ocean that its members previously agreed by consensus to pursue by 2012. In addition to the East Antarctica proposal, CCAMLR is considering a newly introduced MPA proposal for the Weddell Sea that came online this year. And as early as next year, CCAMLR expects to consider an MPA proposal for the Antarctic Peninsula region, with others in development across the Southern Ocean.

For more information:

Dr. Rodolfo Werner, Advisor to the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition and The Pew Charitable Trusts, Argentina. Email: rodolfo.antarctica [at]

The author thanks Ryan Dolan for his important contributions to the preparation of this article.

MPA News does not normally report on elections of national leaders. However, the early-November election of Donald J. Trump to serve as the next President of the US could be relevant to the MPA field. In particular there is the possibility it could bring a rollback of some significant MPAs.

Trump has stated his intent to “cancel every unconstitutional executive action” issued by current US President Barack Obama. Depending on how Trump and his administration choose to define “unconstitutional” (the term is often used loosely in US politics), those executive actions could include MPA designations. Namely these would be MPAs that Obama enacted or expanded without congressional approval, using the executive authority accorded to him as President under the US Antiquities Act.

Three marine national monuments fit that criterion:

At this time such a rollback is purely speculative. But proponents of a rollback may already be at work. On 17 November, US Congresswoman Aumua Amata Radewagen from American Samoa met with incoming Vice President Mike Pence and reportedly asked that the Trump Administration cancel the executive orders that created and expanded the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. All commercial extractive activity is currently banned in the MPA. (The Congresswoman’s press release on the meeting does not mention the monument request.) Incidentally the MPA was designated originally by former President George W. Bush by executive order in 2009, prior to being expanded by Obama five years later.

This may not be the only impact of the Trump Administration on MPAs. Bills were introduced to Congress earlier this year to block a plan by the National Park Service to designate a 42.5-km2 no-take area within 583-km2 Biscayne National Park, off the coast of Florida. The no-take area was planned over the course of several years to protect the park’s most sensitive coral habitat. The Obama Administration has not taken a position on the bills. Trump, who has voiced support for recreational fishing and hunting and whose sons are avid anglers and hunters, might support them.

More broadly, Trump’s stance that man-made climate change is a hoax suggests that the US — the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases — may back away from global emissions targets, potentially worsening the impacts that climate change is already having on the ocean.

Impossible to know

That being said, it remains impossible to know for sure what impacts Trump’s election — and his eventual Cabinet appointments — will have on MPAs in US waters or elsewhere. He has no prior political record on which to base expectations, and his only business connections to the ocean have been the several coastal resorts and golf courses that his company owns.

Asked by Scientific American magazine what his presidency would do to improve ocean health and sustainable fisheries, Trump’s campaign responded simply that he would “work with Congress to establish priorities for our government and how we will allocate our limited fiscal resources.“ As noncommittal as that answer is, it is the best one available from his campaign. Aside from various general statements the campaign made on the need to balance conserving resources with a thriving economy, it is the only time the Trump campaign provided a position on ocean health as a whole.

Editor’s note: Liezel Paraboles and Wilfredo Campos are both with the OceanBio Laboratory at the University of the Philippines Visayas. Samuel Gulayan is with Bohol Island State University in the Philippines. Campos and Gulayan are co-leads of the project described in this piece.

By Liezel C. Paraboles, Wilfredo L. Campos, and Samuel J. Gulayan

Danajon Bank is the only double barrier reef in the Philippines and across Asia. Historically, this area likely had the richest coastal marine habitats among islands and shoals in Central Philippines (e.g., extensive coral reefs, dense seagrass beds, expansive mangrove areas), and was perhaps the region’s most productive marine area. But because of continuously increasing fishing pressure brought about by an ever-growing coastal population, marine resources in Danajon Bank have been heavily exploited for decades, leading to dwindling fish catches for small-scale fishermen. Thus several NGOs and government agencies have come in to address these threats to coastal marine habitats and the living resources they harbor.

One of the conservation efforts has been the establishment of MPAs. Because of the active participation of municipalities along its coast near the Danajon Bank coast, Bohol Island has 182 MPAs — more than any other province in the Philippines. The hope is that with proper management, these sites will result not only in biodiversity conservation but in enhancement to adjacent fisheries as well (e.g., higher catch with low fishing effort). Such MPA functions can be enhanced if individual sites are interconnected, forming both an ecologically functional network of sites and a knowledge-sharing network of MPA managers.

Hence, under the umbrella of ECOFISH (a joint Philippines/US program to enhance Philippine fisheries), a one-year project is underway to assist in networking MPAs in the Western Danajon Bank, to strengthen the MPAs’ management, and to train local partners in coastal habitat assessment and fisheries monitoring.

The Western Danajon Bank MPA Network

The project identified 14 MPAs across five municipalities (from Tubigon to Getafe in Western Bohol) to be included in the network. In determining which MPAs should be included, several criteria were used. These included physical criteria — e.g., MPA size, habitat condition, distance between MPAs, and surrounding hydrography — to identify existing MPAs that already functionally formed an ecological network. There were also managerial considerations like existing management structure, community and Local Government Unit (LGU) support, and need for management strengthening.


Figure: Map of Bohol Island and Danajon Bank. The project’s participating municipalities extend from Getafe to Tubigon. Danajon Bank extends from the northeastern end of Bohol down the western side past Tubigon, and includes the islets you see in that area.

A series of consultations, planning processes, and workshops was conducted to determine the current status of the identified MPAs and to formulate a five-year management plan for each site.

Next, a workshop was conducted to align the different management programs and interventions of the participating municipalities, thus forming a one-year action plan (2017) for what is now the Western Danajon Bank MPA Network. This action plan covers management activities ranging from fishery law enforcement to livelihood development, information, education and communication, fund raising, marine habitat management, infrastructure development, solid waste management, and monitoring and evaluation.

The project then formed a management organization for the MPA Network, including the election of officers. The Network organization follows the typical management body:  chairman, vice chairman, secretary, treasurer, auditor, and board members. But the management structure is unique from other MPA network initiatives in the Philippines in that it is primarily composed of stakeholders, not elected officials.

Aligning Network management with on-the-ground concerns

In the Philippines, local governance of approximately 70 provinces is by Provincial Governors. Each province is composed of around 50 municipalities, administered by the mayor and city council of elected officials. The jurisdiction of both land and water is under the city executive officials of the LGU. In typical coastal alliances for marine management in the Philippines, management is either by the local chief executive (mayor) who has the decision-making and policy-formulation position, or by municipal agriculture officers or fisheries technicians. The advantage of this traditional set-up is that LGU funds for operation of fisheries and MPA management are already controlled by these officials. However, because of the extensive responsibilities of these officials, MPA management is not always among their priorities. This has been a major obstacle for continued operation of coastal alliances.

In contrast, the management organization of the Western Danajon Bank MPA Network consists of villagers who directly benefit from, and are closer to the day-to-day operations of, each MPA and fishery area. As a result, the management of the Network is coordinated with the needs and concerns of people on the ground level. In support of this stakeholder-based organization, the project has ensured LGU commitment through resolution — a legal document institutionalizing LGUs’ support and funds to their own municipal MPAs and collectively to the inter-LGU MPA Network.

Although this project ends in 2017, we would like eventually to see a similar networking of management of all established MPAs in Danajon Bank.

For more information:

Liezel Paraboles, OceanBio Laboratory, University of the Philippines. Email: liezparaboles [at]

Editor’s note: The Blue Solutions initiative supports the exchange of successful approaches to marine and coastal conservation and development — sharing what worked where and why. Each case is authored by a practitioner and is published on the Marine and Coastal Solutions portal of the Panorama web platform. MPA News is drawing from these cases.

By Jennifer O’Leary, California Polytechnic State University (adapted by MPA News)

In 2009, the Kenya Wildlife Service and California Polytechnic State Institute jointly established the Science for Active Management program (SAM) to help East African MPA managers and local fishers understand and manage their reefs. At first the program focused on a single Kenyan MPA. At that site, managers had a very low understanding of marine systems and the MPA had lost many corals. Fishers felt disengaged from MPA management and were not contributing actively to management of their fishing grounds. Most people who worked on the beaches serving vacationers had no knowledge of marine ecosystems, and the beaches had been polluted with plastic trash for decades.

Through SAM, managers, fishers, and beach stakeholders received training in marine ecological and socioeconomic systems, and learned to conduct scientifically sound monitoring. The project guided MPA managers and fishers through the process of developing measurable social and ecological objectives for marine systems. MPA rangers and stakeholders then started monthly monitoring of ecological and social factors to document changes in the system as they occurred.

The results have exceeded expectations:

  • For five years now, rangers and stakeholders have been collecting and analyzing data, and their research has shown to be of comparable quality to that of experienced researchers. The rangers are now training their peers in monitoring and management techniques.

  • Managers have based their actions on the monitoring data, including instituting a coral restoration program with help from fishers.

  • The County Government has made plastic-free beaches a priority. More than 550 local people attended a recent beach cleanup, including police forces, hoteliers, beach vendors, and the Minister of Tourism.

  • Beach vendors have become MPA ambassadors, resulting in an increase in domestic tourism to MPAs.

The SAM program has since been applied to other sites. In Kenya, it is in practice at all four national MPAs (Malindi, Watamu, Mombasa, and Kisite). In neighboring Tanzania, it has been piloted at Mafia Island National Park, and will soon be rolled out nationally to all marine parks and reserves. And in the Seychelles, the national parks authority is holding a national training on SAM for all MPAs.

For more information on this case, please visit the Panorama web platform.

For the SAM program website, click here.

Cook Islands announces MPA will cover entire EEZ

In mid-November, the South Pacific island nation of the Cook Islands announced that the proposed Marae Moana (Cook Islands Marine Park), which has been under planning since 2012, will now cover the nation’s entire 1.9 million-km2 EEZ. Previously the plan had been for the MPA to cover just the southern half of the nation’s EEZ. The decision to expand the planned MPA was based on consultations with stakeholders in the Cook Islands’ northern island group, as well as local and outside scientific information.

The MPA will be multiple-use and will represent a ‘whole domain’ management approach for the waters of the Cook Islands — balancing biodiversity conservation with sustainable economic growth, food security, livelihoods, and cultural traditions. What areas of the MPA will be under full protection is still being negotiated between the government and stakeholders. In 2012, MPA News reported on the multiple-use plans for the MPA.

Canada designates new Arctic MPA based on indigenous traditional knowledge

Canada has designated a new MPA under its Oceans Act: the 2361-km2 Anguniaqvia Niqiqyuam Marine Protected Area in the Beaufort Sea, off the nation’s Arctic coast. All commercial extractive activity is banned in the new MPA. The government noted this is the nation’s first Marine Protected Area with conservation objectives based specifically on indigenous traditional knowledge. Subsistence fishing and hunting by indigenous Inuvialuit people will still be allowed in the area.

The marine area is highly productive and provides habitat for species such as Arctic char, beluga and bowhead whales, polar bears, ringed and bearded seals, and seabirds. Together with the nearby Tarium Niryutait Marine Protected Area, the new MPA will protect critical habitat for about 28%, or close to 40,000, of the world’s belugas.

The site was nominated as an Area of Interest for consideration as an MPA back in 2010. A government press release on the MPA designation is here and a backgrounder is here. A June 2016 regulatory impact analysis statement on the proposed MPA by Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans provides more background on the site, the rationale for protection, a cost-benefit analysis, map, and more.

Philippines and China may have agreed on marine reserve for disputed shoal in South China Sea

In what could be a breakthrough in the multi-year geopolitical dispute over national territory in the South China Sea, the Philippines has indicated it has received approval from China to turn the lagoon inside Panatag Shoal (also called Scarborough Shoal) into a no-take area — a peace park of sorts. The MPA designation plan comes four months after the Philippines won an international arbitration ruling that challenged China’s claim to the shoal. China seized the shoal in 2012 and has held it since then. As this issue of MPA News went to press, the Chinese government had not yet officially acknowledged its approval of the forthcoming no-take area. More coverage of the Philippine announcement is here.

Australian scientists urge Government not to reduce no-take areas in national MPA system

In response to a Government-sponsored review of Australia’s national MPA system that recommended significant cuts to the system’s no-take areas, a group of Australian scientists has urged the Government to reject the review’s recommendations and instead expand protections.

In a statement the Ocean Science Council of Australia wrote, “While the Review has proposed some improvements in areas protected from the expansion of extractive industries such as mining, it has failed to address core gaps in representation of marine habitats in the network, and eroded the coverage of the [no-take Marine National Park Zones] that were established in 2012.” The Ocean Science Council’s statement is here.

The Government review was released in September and recommended the removal of a total of 127,000 km2 of Marine National Park Zones from the MPA system. Hardest hit would be the 1 million-km2 Coral Sea Marine Reserve, whose no-take coverage would be reduced from 50% to 41%. The Director of National Parks is now using the review’s recommendations and public feedback as the bases for preparing new draft management plans for the reserve system.

New issue of PARKS journal

The latest issue of PARKS journal (Volume 22.2) is available here. It includes articles on equity in protected area conservation, transforming a paper park to a model protected area, insurance programs for rangers, and more. The journal is produced by the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas and is free to download.

New IUCN report on how MPAs can help mitigate and build resilience to climate change

A new report from IUCN describes the roles and importance of MPAs in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Potential roles for MPAs include serving as ‘stepping stones’ or corridors for shifting species; providing sentinel sites from which to monitor climate-based ecosystem changes; serving as blue carbon sinks; and reducing other ocean stressors that could otherwise worsen the impacts of climate change. The report features eight brief case studies. “Marine Protected Areas and climate change: Adaptation and mitigation synergies, opportunities and challenges” is free to download.

Earlier this year, MPA News reported on how MPAs can help mitigate the impacts of climate change through coastal blue carbon, ‘fish carbon’, and more.

From the MPA News vault

Features and news items from yesteryear

Five years ago: November-December 2011

  • Marine Debris and MPAs: Managing the Impacts of Litter on Marine Ecosystems
  • MPA Perspective: Creation of a Network of Locally Managed Marine Areas in the Western Indian Ocean

Ten years ago: November 2006

  • Bringing MPAs Online: The Use of Webcams for Education, Monitoring, and Other Purposes
  • MPA Perspective: A Practical Rule of Thumb for Spacing in MPA Networks

Fifteen years ago: November 2001

  • Conserving Habitats that Are Poorly Understood: Deepwater Corals and Efforts to Protect Them
  • MPA Perspective: Why and How MPA Planners Should Obtain Fishermen's Knowledge

For these and all other issues of MPA News, go to

Poetry Corner

MPAs, an acrostic

By Anna Zivian

Most of us think about

Parks as places we hike

And play sports, take pictures.

Some parks, though, take us a

Minute to recognize

A second thought, a look

To the sea, underneath

The waves, out of view, where

Everything’s connected.

Right before us, hidden

There in plain sight, parks of

Ocean habitats keep

All of us afloat; our

Lives rely on those waves,

Layers, multitudes, with

Otters, orcas, urchins,

Fish, algae, pelicans,

Under or floating on

Sea foam, flying above

Sky shimmer reflected

Underneath. We need to

Protect these hidden-seen

Places, familiar but

Obscure at once, places

Revealed only when we

Think, touch, are shown; places

That give us food, life, breath,

Health and a space to heal.

Enigmatic but known

Magic but still real.

About the poet: Anna Zivian is a senior research fellow at Ocean Conservancy.

If you would like to submit a marine-themed (and ideally MPA-themed) poem to Poetry Corner for consideration, please email it to mpanews [at] Selected poets will receive an MPA News tote bag.