November - December 2020 (22:3)

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Dear Reader,

Amid this pandemic and its impacts across our work and lives, I know many of us have wished for everything to return to normal. With vaccines for COVID-19 starting to roll out, there is reason for hope.

If things returned to normal in the MPA field, what would that look like? Before COVID-19, most MPAs lacked adequate funding to meet their goals. Many sites relied on just one revenue stream. Way too many MPAs were paper parks. That was our normal.

Is that what we want again? Or do we want to build a new normal with better financing and greater effectiveness? That’s easier said than done, I know. But if new ambitious goals for national and global MPA coverage – like 30% by 2030 – are to be reached without simply creating a glut of underfunded paper parks, we’ll need to improve the ways we do things.

This is why MPA News has dedicated most of our reporting this past year to new ideas in MPA financing, in addition to how sites and practitioners have responded to COVID. We continue that focus in this issue.

In 2021, we anticipate returning to more of a traditional mix of coverage. But MPA News will continue to highlight new ideas and strategies, including expertise from other fields. Because if our field simply returns to our old normal ways of doing things, that will not be good enough.

On behalf of the MPA News team and the broader OCTO family of projects, I wish you a happy, healthy, and productive new year. Please stay in touch.

John Davis, Editor
john [at] octogroup.org

 

The 34-km2 Brijuni National Park in Croatia comprises 14 islands and their surrounding waters in the Adriatic Sea. When MPA News reported on Brijuni in 2014, we said it might be the most revenue-savvy MPA in the world. During the summer high season, the park collects a visitor fee of 27 euros (US $33), which includes a ferry ride, a guide for four hours, a tourist train ride, and entrance to museums on the main island. The park manages three hotels and three guest villas on site, with villa rentals ranging up to 1800 euros/night (US $2186). In addition, it hosts and caters several weddings per year, generating additional revenue. It also operates a golf course and a safari park.

To be clear, Brijuni is a national park first, with extensive conservation, research, and education programs. But the park is really smart about tourism, on which most of its revenue is based.

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, and tourism nearly everywhere slowed or stopped, Brijuni’s budget took a big hit. MPA News returned to Brijuni to see how the MPA has responded to this challenge, and what lessons it could provide to other MPAs on lowering costs, securing revenues, and rebuilding a tourism base.

Marno Milotić is the general manager of Brijuni National Park, and Sandro Dujmović is the park’s scientific manager. 

MPA News: Marno and Sandro, in what ways has the COVID pandemic impacted tourism to Brijuni? 

Marno Milotić: The COVID pandemic has strongly impacted tourism in all of Croatia, including the Brijuni National Park. By the end of October 2020, our revenues decreased significantly compared to the same period in 2019:

  • The number of visitors declined 61%.
  • Revenues from the sales of excursions declined 53%.
  • Revenues from our restaurants declined 44%.
  • Revenues from the Department of Accommodation (our hotels and villas) declined 33%.
  • Revenues from our park’s Department of Sports and Recreation – which includes our golf, tennis, diving, cycling, and kayaking activities – declined 16%.

What has stabilized us to some extent has been revenue from international projects, which have grown in recent years. That revenue remained steady for us in the past several months. So the total reduction in revenues for the park as a whole, compared to 2019, is around 50%.

Those international projects have helped diversify your revenue stream over the past decade. Can you describe what the projects are?

Sandro Dujmović: Yes. The projects are described here. Briefly, in partnership with other institutions, we have won two EU-funded grants as part of the Interreg Med program, which focuses on sustainable growth in the Mediterranean region. These grants support the employment of several staff at the park and the hosting of trainings, workshops, and research. We also secured a large, 6-million euro grant of EU funds through the Croatian government to finance an array of projects within the park from 2016-2021.

How has Brijuni National Park responded to the decline in revenue this year? Have you cut costs?

Milotić: We have been constantly trying to adapt to the situation, in various ways.

First, we have tried to keep our guests – as best we can under the circumstances – while attracting new ones. What’s been important to recognize is that the habits of our guests have changed during the pandemic: they are now looking more for places with fewer people and less crowds. It is about building a relationship of trust. The guests need to be sure that the destination they are coming to is safe for their health – now more than ever.

Our region of Istria in Croatia introduced measures at the beginning of the pandemic that have contributed to keeping the number of infections low. At one point, Istria had the fewest infections per capita of any region in Europe. In the National Park, we have reduced the number of passengers on boats and in tourist trains, in museums, at exhibitions, and in guided groups in general. We introduced the mandatory wearing of masks in transport and indoors, as well as by our staff.

After each boat crossing or train ride, the vehicles (train and boat) are disinfected. We also place shoe disinfectants at the entrance to the boat. Our museum spaces are cleaned after each group, etc. We have done everything we could to reduce the possibility of infection. Our visitors have accepted it and recognized it as good practice.

We also introduced the Brijuni Pocket Guide app for smartphones, so our guests could have the option of exploring the park on their own and avoiding close contact with other visitors, such as on guided group tours. By a stroke of luck, we were already developing this app before the pandemic began. The app cost about 13000 euros to build. It is free for users.

At the same time, we have cut costs. In spring, we stopped investments and large projects worth about 3.5 million euros that were not already financed by the EU funds that Sandro mentioned. Due to the spring lockdown and the reduced mobility in the following months, many surveys and monitoring exercises could not be implemented on time, so we postponed them for the fall or for 2021. We also postponed several international collaborations, workshops, and trainings, or did them online.

We managed as best as we could. Although our revenues have decreased, we are proud to have kept all our employees and no one has been let go. When you permanently employ around 250 people and you finance largely by yourself, it is certainly not a small thing.

You mentioned attracting new guests. Even with the new safety measures, that can't be easy to do during a pandemic.

Milotić: We are advertising more and have introduced significant discounts on ticket prices. There are still guests on Brijuni, the weather is nice, and people are ‘fleeing’ to nature. They feel safe here, as there are no crowds.

Along that line, we have noticed that spending per guest has actually increased this year – as when people are less stressed, they spend more. The pandemic experience has been so stressful for everyone, locked in their homes most days, that a visit to Brijuni is by comparison even more relaxing than in normal years.

Dujmović: Therefore opportunities exist to attract new guests. We just need to recognize those opportunities and turn the situation into an advantage for us, instead of thinking that we have an unsolvable problem. We believe that people will turn to nature, visiting its beauties more and spending less time indoors. That represents a great opportunity for us – together with great responsibility, since we are primarily a national park where tourism must never be ahead of nature protection.

With vaccines on the way, the COVID pandemic will end in a year or so, hopefully. But the possibility of a future pandemic or other unforeseen interruptions will remain. In terms of Brijuni National Park, do you expect that the post-COVID future will be the same as before COVID, with tourism returning? Or have things changed for the park in a fundamental way?

Dujmović: Life after the pandemic will not be the same as before, at least not for a very long time. Our business strategies will change accordingly. As we mentioned before, we have already introduced the Brijuni Pocket Guide app for smartphones, which, without much advertising, has already been used by about 30% of our guests as an alternative to a classic guided tour. Online ticket sales have also increased compared to before.

People are obviously no longer comfortable being around strangers. That is why we plan to introduce changes in passenger transport on the island itself. For example, we are considering a “hop on - hop off” type of tourist train so guests are not confined with the same group of people for a significant time. At the same time we want to expand the guest’s experience of the park. These changes all go in the direction of better visitor management. We are working with a consultant company now to conduct a visitor management study on Brijuni. That document will help us better understand the present status of tourism here, and foresee future alternatives.

For more information:

Marno Milotić, Brijuni National Park, Croatia. Email: marno.milotic [at] np-brijuni.hr

Sandro Dujmović, Brijuni National Park, Croatia. Email: sandro.dujmovic [at] np-brijuni.hr

 

Even before the COVID pandemic started, the MPA field was in need of new ideas and tools for financing, with many sites chronically underfunded or too reliant on a single source of revenue. Now amid the pandemic, with government budgets being cut and tourism dwindling, the need for robust and diverse revenue streams is clearer than ever.

This month, MPA News highlights three new concepts for MPA finance, and how practitioners are exploring their possibilities:

  1. MPAs, public-private partnerships, and collaborative management - by Nicolas Pascal
  2. Using mobile financial technology to incentivize local communities to protect marine wildlife - an interview with Sari Tolvanen
  3. Building MPA financing mechanisms around a network of quantifiable climate management tools - by Chris Butler-Stroud

A. MPAs, public-private partnerships, and collaborative management

By Nicolas Pascal

Editor’s note: Nicolas Pascal is Executive Director and Co-Founder of Blue finance, which partners with governments, stakeholders, donors, and investors to develop joint partnerships and blended finance solutions for the collaborative management of MPAs.

For MPAs globally, insufficient finance is considered a major factor stymieing management effectiveness. At the same time, some of these protected spaces can become financially sustainable, and seem ripe for blended finance investment opportunities, especially as traditional sources of public interventions, like grants and philanthropy, are insufficient.

Impact Investing – the new kid on the block – can assist with closing the financing gap. However, investing still carries a whiff of negativity in the conservation world and this, along with inadequate knowledge, harms the ability of MPAs to tap into this source.

Impact Investing is defined as “investments made with the intention to generate positive, measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.” It is growing globally. The Global Impact Investment Network reported the worth of deals increasing from US $35 billion in 2017 to almost US $69 billion in 2019.

Conservation on the whole, however, has not received much investment attention so far, and marine projects even less so. The reasons for this can be categorized as:

  1. Lack of investment readiness of MPA projects.
  2. Insufficient knowledge – of opportunities (both from the investor and investee side), of baseline data to assess impact, and of investment success stories.
  3. Fear of change, including the need for NGOs to transition from grants to loans, and for governments to transition from full management to co-management.

However, as recently demonstrated in the Dominican Republic, MPAs can become ‘bankable’ especially for specific financial products such as contingent refundable grants1 and concessionary loans.2 Impact investors and donors have a clear need for a pipeline of blended finance investments3 for marine conservation, with tangible business models.

In short, for MPAs to be ‘bankable’, they must be able to generate revenue and become self-financed. This is linked to basic entrepreneurial skills and targeted marketing. Importantly, these are two areas in which governments often do not excel. Therefore, collaboration with a non-governmental entity allows for responsibilities to be shared (whether fully or partially) and offers a way for the strengths of both entities – public and private – to be utilized.

Collaborative management

Collaborative management can take different forms in terms of the degree of delegation of responsibilities, which should be set out in a service agreement, signed by both entities. Partners can include a variety of organizations, but most often are non-profit enterprises, NGOs, and community groups. These non-governmental partners generally have a stronger business approach, as well as greater degrees of flexibility and the incentive to raise capital and retain and reinvest profits.

Primary business models used to raise revenues in MPA sites are linked to tourism through user fees, eco-tourism enterprise, and innovative visitor center solutions. Other emerging income generators include the sale of blue carbon credits and Payments for Ecosystem Services.

There are many good examples of co-managers that are progressing toward financial sustainability with their MPAs. These include the Belize Audubon Society; Chumbe Island Coral Park Limited, in Zanzibar; the National Parks Bonaire Foundation; the Punta Cana Foundation in the Dominican Republic; and the Bahamas National Trust. (For a brief on any of these projects, please contact Blue finance at info [at] blue-finance.org.)

How to get started

The question is, Where and how to start? This is a challenge. In one scenario, MPAs would have the resources to hire external experts to identify and assess the potential business models to be developed. There are also several guidebooks on MPA finance that have been published over the past two decades. However, crafting a business plan or revenue strategy and bringing it to reality requires time, dedicated staff, entrepreneurship skills, market knowledge and…money for initial capital expenditures. The reality is that most MPAs do not have extra financial resources to implement these mechanisms, and most MPA managers are already overwhelmed with their day-to-day work. MPA managers may also lack basic business skills.

In a second scenario, MPA project developers and aggregators such as Blue finance have a role to play. Such companies, usually repaid through the success of the investment project, can work together with the MPAs to improve their financial sustainability. At the same time, they will improve the quality of the project design and execution while building entrepreneurial capacities, and ensuring that MPA investment projects meet the donors’ and investors’ criteria. Services include the design of a blended finance facility, mixing grants, performance grants, concessionary loans, and de-risking mechanisms.4 Many donors and certainly investors will ask for this kind of specialized technical assistance alongside their investment, to reduce the risk of providing capital to “inexperienced investees” that are expanding from traditional non-profit programs to innovative self-financing models.

Building local capacity for improved management and financial sustainability in social and conservation entrepreneurship is a key aspect to successfully introducing a business approach to MPA management. Mechanisms can only be smoothly implemented when capacity building takes place at the operational level with MPA managers, local administration officers, NGO employees, and local communities clearly understanding the mechanism and its contractual approach.

With the right business model, partners, and training, some MPAs can produce adequate returns to support their management needs.

For more information:

Nicolas Pascal, Blue finance. Email: npascal [at] blue-finance.org

Footnotes:

1 Contingent refundable grants are grants that are refundable to the grantor if the grantee secures financing from another lending institution.

2 Concessionary loans are loans that offer more generous terms than market-rate loans, allowing borrowers to access capital at terms that are more affordable.

3 Blended finance refers to the use of development finance and philanthropic funds to mobilize the flow of private capital to emerging markets, resulting in positive results for both investors and communities.

4 De-risking mechanisms involve leveraging public finance and policies to lower the financial risk for private investors. This is a way to encourage private investment in sustainability-related programs.


B. Using mobile financial technology to incentivize local communities to protect marine wildlife

A new app for smartphones – Ocean Eye – uses mobile financial technology to raise funds for local communities through tourist sightings of marine wildlife. In short, the platform creates a way for communities to be paid for effective marine conservation. 

Here’s how it works. Through the app, dive centers and other marine tourism operators report sightings of particular marine charismatic species by their customers. Each report is then linked to a small payment from those same customers, and the payment goes to local communities. The more wildlife the tourists see, the more they pay and the more the communities benefit.

The app is being piloted now in Morotai, one of the northernmost islands in Indonesia, and known for its shark diving. A new MPA is in the process of being designated there. Ocean Eye is partnering with three local dive operators and three local communities. The money received will be used locally for monitoring of the MPA, education, women’s business development, and environmental restoration. (Domestic dive tourism is still active in Morotai during the pandemic.)

Sari Tolvanen, CEO of Ocean Eye, says the app could revolutionize the way coastal communities are incentivized to support long-term marine conservation, while helping to support the recovery of critical species. According to the company’s models, the expected payments attached to sightings in Morotai could reach US $400,000 by year 6, or US $10.20 per diver per day. The model takes into account increased wildlife sightings as species recover, as well as related tourism increases in Morotai. 

MPA News spoke with Tolvanen about the new Ocean Eye app.

MPA News: When we first learned of your app, we imagined tourists tapping their smartphones each time they saw a particular animal. But your user will actually be the marine tourism operator, as opposed to the tourists themselves.

Sari Tolvanen: Yes, for Ocean Eye (and the upcoming terrestrial counterpart) the idea is that the operators who take the tourists out – be they a ranger, other MPA staff, or a private sector player – will operate the app. That ensures a good scientific standard of identifying animals, and means the data can be put into good use for management. Operators can also view their own sightings data and trends over time, which they can then use to sell and promote their activities.

The app is designed for places where there are MPAs, tourists, and local communities. If an MPA has no tourists, or maybe no nearby communities, could it still benefit from the app?

Tolvanen: For the time being, the payments will rely on visitors being there and being willing to pay for the ecosystem services, i.e., the animals. We do have some plans for when we expand to regions like Antarctica that lack local communities, in which payments could be collected and then channeled to communities elsewhere – perhaps places that are critical and have communities but receive no visitors. We are open to ideas, and want this to work in as many situations as possible.

What are your next steps?

Tolvanen: We are running the Morotai pilot in the last half of 2020 and will make sure everything is working well. Then we’ll be ready to expand more globally at the start of 2021. Even if international tourism is still slow at that point, there are many places where domestic tourism can be making a stronger conservation and community impact already.

For more information:

Sari Tolvanen, Ocean Eye. Email: oceaneyeconservation [at] gmail.com


C. Building MPA financing mechanisms around a network of quantifiable climate management tools

By Chris Butler-Stroud

Editor’s note: Chris Butler-Stroud is CEO of Whale and Dolphin Conservation, an international NGO based in the UK that has been investigating the contributions that whales make to MPAs, and vice versa, since the early 2000s.

MPAs require sustainable funding strategies if they are to be a success. At present, MPA financing in developed countries has usually come from government budgets. Whereas in developing countries, international donors as well as other instruments such as user fees, trust funds, and taxes can constitute an important source of MPA finance. Innovations in financing MPAs of interest to managers include biodiversity offsets, Blue Bonds, and payments for ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration.

There is growing evidence, and resultant calls, for nature recovery for marine species as critical components in climate nature-based solutions. Chami et al. (2020) have valued whales in terms of delivered ecosystem services, including carbon capture in whale bodies and through phytoplankton enhancement, fisheries enhancement, and ecotourism – suggesting an average asset class value for the great whales at some US $2 million per whale.  

Mariani et al. (2020) note that, “Since 1950, fisheries have emitted 0.2 gigatons of carbon (GtC) into the atmosphere and prevented the sequestration of 21.8 ± 4.4 megatons of carbon (MtC) through blue carbon extraction.... If we include a recovery, even partial, of marine mammals and all…fish species, then we may expect far more.”

The authors go on to argue that the rebuilding of fish populations to sustainable levels (i.e., where biomass is greater than maximum sustainable yield) could induce a much higher amount of carbon sequestered by large marine vertebrates. Indeed, the sequestration could be comparable to coastal nature-based solutions for climate change such as the carbon mitigation potential of coastal wetland restoration (54 to 233 MtC per year). This thinking points to the need for a broader natural capital approach where extractive resource quotas are considered within the wider context of environmental management of marine natural capital, rather than only as a commodity extraction issue within MPAs and other effective conservation measures (OECMs).

Climate-smart MPAs, OECMs, and no-take MPAs within the context of national waters and UN high seas negotiations could play a crucial role in creating a network of quantifiable marine climate management tools. Allied with funding mechanisms that incentivize this rebalancing of extraction and the utilization of currently often zero-priced ecosystem services, we can create a more sustainable framework for states, businesses and financial institutions to cooperate in ensuring the resilience of tools such as MPAs.

Certainly, where large marine vertebrates such as cetaceans or tuna populations move from one jurisdiction to another, careful analysis of temporal and spatial habitat use will be critical to considering additionality and non-permanence issues – key factors in determining carbon sequestration. This is where cooperation through bodies such as the Convention on Migratory Species will be as important as cooperation within and between regional fishery management organizations.

Managing MPAs for their carbon sequestration potential and investment opportunities

Managing MPAs for their carbon sequestration potential will involve medium- to long-term time thresholds. Planning for 25 years plus, with intermediate targets, would allow for a vision for recovery, as well as being a long-enough timeline for investors to see real returns from supporting such initiatives.

We can be even more imaginative in how finance markets can work to fund MPAs. An enhanced ‘natural capital approach’ can allow managers to create frameworks that can model assets, flows, and benefits that allow measurement metrics that work for conservation managers and investors to see and value gains. It may be that some highly protected or no-take MPAs are established primarily to enhance adjacent fisheries; but the fact that enhanced fish population growth could also benefit increased carbon capture gives us an additional value to be attached to the MPA. Effectively, the approach means that more arguments can potentially be identified to support the establishment and maintenance of an MPA. And understanding the multiple benefits of MPAs and spillover effects for ocean recovery can then be codified, enabling us to potentially access a wider source of funding opportunities.

Organizations such as Whale and Dolphin Conservation are now exploring how a future market within National Declared Contributions (NDCs)1 could be used in overseas development aid and blended finance mechanisms. This could allow countries and businesses to invest in MPAs and benefit from growing carbon sequestration assets and future carbon price increases. Investments in MPAs could see reciprocal returns against their own NDCs for ‘donor/investing’ countries as well as delivering for recipient states.

Blue bonds or similar instruments issued by states could also allow businesses such as pension funds to make long-term investments and see real returns – namely by receiving tradable carbon offsets/credits that would increase in value over time while reducing their carbon outputs.

This is all, of course, challenging. Governments, businesses, and conservation managers must be convinced that deep blue carbon should be an issue that can affect policy and investment decisions with respect to ocean recovery. The evidence base is growing but there is some considerable work still to be done. In addition, some conservationists and governments may be reluctant, or at least highly cautious, when discussing whether markets can play a role in conservation. That investing states could benefit from what historically would have been labeled ‘development aid’ may also cause concern.

However, if such mechanisms could increase the overall level of investment, we need at least to explore these potential opportunities. Initiatives such as the ‘30x30’ campaign being championed by several governments mean that MPAs will need new creative funding mechanisms where managers, visitors, investors – and nature – benefit.

For more information:

Chris Butler-Stroud, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, UK. Email: chris.butler-stroud [at] whales.org

Footnote:

1 NDCs embody the efforts by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. They are reported every five years.

 

This year amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, MPA News has been compiling related resources for our readers. Here is our latest collection:

Journal article

Opinion: Biodiversity conservation during a global crisis: Consequences and the way forward, PNAS 117 (48). The pandemic has shown that seemingly extreme solutions and their implementation, such as a mandatory lockdown of human activities for a specific duration, can result in rapid and visible changes in environmental variables. Such solutions, if repeated over time for conservation purposes, could play a role in helping to restore the planetary environment, or at least delay tipping points of future environmental crises.

Report

The environmental impacts of COVID-19: Perspectives from fishing communities. Published by COBI, this report reflects perceptions from 161 interviews (33 women, 128 men) about impacts of the pandemic on Mexico’s marine environment and economy. Roughly half of the interviewees live or work near an MPA. The report covers topics including MPA and fisheries management, waste management, and more. It is also available in Spanish.

Grants

BIOPAMA Rapid Response Grants are available 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 50,000 euros with no co-financing required.

From The Skimmer (MPA News’ sister newsletter on sustainable ocean management)

How the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting marine ecosystems, Part 1: Fisheries and aquaculture, The Skimmer, April 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic, Part 2: Perspectives on the future of coastal and marine tourism and its implications for coastal and marine ecosystems, The Skimmer, May-July 2020

More on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting coastal and marine tourism and usage, The Skimmer, August-September 2020

Prior MPA News articles

MPAs, COVID-19, and the coming financial crisis: What impacts are practitioners already seeing, and how are they responding?, MPA News, May 2020

“Donors have started to shift funding to address other urgent and essential needs”: An interview with Markus Knigge of Blue Action Fund, MPA News, June 2020

“We need to be talking about innovation”: Insights from the World Economic Forum panel on MPAs and COVID-19, MPA News, June 2020

More resources on MPAs and COVID-19: Management challenges - How sites are coping - Instituting new user policies, MPA News, July-August 2020

More resources on MPAs and COVID-19: COVID and SDGs - Impacts on sites - Grants, MPA News, September-October 2020

 

The 5th International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC5) is confirmed for 23-29 June 2022 in Vancouver, Canada.

Originally scheduled for late 2021, IMPAC5 was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now with many countries starting to roll out the new COVID-19 vaccines, the IMPAC5 team is confident they can deliver a hybrid event – combining in-person and online elements – just nine months later than originally planned.

Held every four years, IMPAC is the main global gathering for marine conservation professionals to share knowledge, experience, and best practice for protecting the natural and cultural heritage of the world ocean. IMPAC5 is expected to be the largest IMPAC to date by attendance. Organizers aim for it to expand the growing movement for global ocean conservation, including by charting a course toward protecting 30% of the ocean by 2030.

Two key focus areas for IMPAC5 are to highlight the leadership role of Indigenous Peoples in MPAs around the world and to engage the next generation of marine conservation professionals.

An IMPAC5 Ministerial Summit will follow on 30 June 2022, where officials from participating governments will hear the results of the Congress, address key issues, and affirm commitments to expanding ocean protection.

For the latest on the Congress, please visit www.IMPAC5.ca and subscribe to IMPAC5’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram channels.

 

These recent articles on MPA-related science and policy are each free to access.


Article: Cabral, R.B. et al. A global network of marine protected areas for food. PNAS 117 (45).

Finding: This study uses distribution data for commercially important fish stocks worldwide to model how MPAs in different locations would affect catch. The modeling suggests that strategically expanding the existing global MPA network by 5% could improve future catch by at least 20%.


Article: Cashion T. et al. Shifting seas, shifting boundaries: Dynamic marine protected area designs for a changing climate. PLoS ONE 15(11).

Finding: This study suggests that dynamic MPAs – with boundaries that shift over time in response to climate change – could bring about regional increases in both fish population biomass and fisheries catch.


Article: Meehan, M.C. et al. How far have we come? A review of MPA network performance indicators in reaching qualitative elements of Aichi Target 11. Conservation Letters, published online 6 September 2020.

Finding: This study finds that the evaluation of MPA network effectiveness typically overlooks qualitative factors such as equity in management and how MPA networks are integrated into the wider landscape and seascape. This is believed to be the first systematic review of indicators used to assess MPA networks.


Article: Magris, R.A. et al. A blueprint for securing Brazil's marine biodiversity and supporting the achievement of global conservation goals. Biodiversity Research, published online 1 November 2020.

Finding: This study presents a model for a comprehensive ecological approach to identifying strategic priorities for marine conservation. It combines cumulative impact assessment with a conservation planning approach that covers a broad diversity of marine habitats, threatened species, and their associated vulnerabilities.


Article: Devillers, R. et al. Residual marine protected areas five years on: Are we still favouring ease of establishment over need for protection? Aquatic Conservation 30:9.

Finding: This study explores the impact on MPA policy and management of a publication from 2015 that found that the placement of MPAs was often ‘residual’ – i.e., created in places of low economic interest, no matter their value for conservation. The follow-up study finds uneven impacts of the earlier research on MPA policy and management.

 

Several more nations commit to the 30x30 target

The target of protecting 30% of national and global waters by 2030 (30x30) continues to gain momentum, with a growing number of national governments making commitments to it:

  • As of mid-December, 35 countries have joined the Global Ocean Alliance, a group that favors the 30x30 target and supports its adoption under the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2021. That is up from 22 nations this past July. The group was started by the UK in 2019.
  • In early December a separate group – the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy – announced its intent to pursue the 30x30 target. The group comprises the heads of state of 14 countries. There is only partial overlap (five countries) between this panel and the Global Ocean Alliance.
  • Several additional governments have committed to protecting 30% of their waters as part of agreements with the Blue Prosperity Coalition, which supports those nations’ work to produce comprehensive marine spatial plans, including MPAs.

Tristan da Cunha designates largest fully-protected MPA in Atlantic

In November, the government of the remote UK Overseas Territory of Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic Ocean designated a 687,000-km2 MPA around 90% of its waters. The MPA will be off-limits to all extractive activity, and is the largest fully-protected MPA in the Atlantic Ocean. The designation was the result of collaboration among the Tristan da Cunha government, the UK government, and a number of conservation groups. Planning of the MPA has been underway for over four years. About 245 people live on Tristan da Cunha.

MPAs in waters of the UK Overseas Territories – including Tristan da Cunha, Ascension Island, the British Antarctic Territory, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, the Pitcairn Islands, and others – now cover a total of 4.3 million km2. More media coverage of the Tristan da Cunha designation is here and here.


Survey of EU MPAs finds them lacking effective protection or management

A survey of European MPAs has determined that nearly all of them allow some extractive activity, and most lack active management. The survey focused on 3449 MPAs designated under the EU Natura 2000 program, the largest network of European MPAs. The findings included:

  • 96% of sites allowed at least one extractive or industrial activity, or infrastructural development, within their boundaries.
  • Of a subset that included the largest Natura 2000 MPAs from each EU country, 53% of sites reported no active management.
  • Where management plans existed in that subset, 80% of the plans were incomplete or failed to address major threats affecting the sites.

The survey was conducted by Oceana, an NGO. The report is available here.


Population growth in seabirds in Galápagos tied to La Niña and COVID-19 pandemic

A census of two endemic seabird species in the Galápagos Islands – Galápagos penguins and flightless cormorants – found their numbers increased significantly in the past year. The penguin population rose from 1451 to 1940 individuals, and the cormorants from 1914 to 2220. According to the survey, which dates back 43 years, these are record numbers for both species. Researchers attribute the growth to the presence of La Niña – a meteorological phenomenon that causes Equatorial waters to drop in temperature, thus increasing food supply for the birds – and to the COVID-19 pandemic, which restricted tourism to the area and hence reduced the disturbance of nesting areas this year.


37 metric tons of debris removed from atoll in Papahānaumokuākea

A cleanup project in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (US) in November removed 82,600 pounds (37 metric tons) of marine debris and trash from the atoll of Lalo. The atolls and islands of Papahānaumokuākea are a major sink for marine debris in the Pacific Ocean. In the case of Lalo, some of the collected trash was also the result of Hurricane Walaka in 2018, which scattered debris from former military infrastructure on the atoll. The 16-day cleanup was led by Papahānaumokuākea Marine Debris Project, an NGO, in partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Lalo, also known as French Frigate Shoals, provides essential habitat for 500,000 breeding seabirds, 90% of Hawaii’s population of green sea turtles, and endangered Hawaiian monk seals.


New guide for resource managers on coral reef restoration

NOAA and The Nature Conservancy have released a new guide to help resource managers begin active coral reef restoration programs or assess existing programs. The guide features a six-step, adaptive management planning process, leading to creation of a Restoration Action Plan. A Manager's Guide to Coral Reef Restoration Planning and Design is available here.


Report offers insights on poaching operations

A report featuring interviews with 73 convicted wildlife traffickers in South Africa sheds light on the organization and activities of their criminal operations, which included poaching of abalone. Produced by TRAFFIC, an NGO, the report Insights from the Incarcerated is available here.


Abrolhos National Marine Park is latest recipient of Blue Park Award

Abrolhos National Marine Park in Brazil is the latest MPA to receive the Blue Park Award, given by the Marine Conservation Institute. Abrolhos is the 17th MPA worldwide to receive Blue Park status, designed to incentivize nations to protect important ocean areas with strong, biodiversity-focused, science-based regulations. The Blue Parks program was previously known as the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES). For information on the program, including award criteria and how to nominate a site, click here.


MPA-related readings from around the web

How Fishers Became Data Scientists to Strengthen Their Marine Protected Area (Hakai Magazine) – A South African project that has small-scale fishers doing real science is a boon for jobs, data, and trust.

The Number of Small Fishing Vessels Smuggling Illegal Drugs Has Tripled (Smithsonian Magazine) – A lack of options for commercial fishermen in coastal communities in Mexico has led to a boom in trafficking, including inside MPAs.

A New Generation of Autonomous Vessels Is Looking to Catch Illegal Fishers (Smithsonian Magazine) – A design challenge has tech companies racing to build a robot that can police illegal fishing in marine protected areas.

An Action Agenda to Achieve 30×30: Brian O’Donnell at Campaign for Nature Outlines the First Steps (Our Shared Seas) – This interview discusses tangible actions that the marine conservation community can take to help secure an ambitious global deal for ocean protection in 2021.


From the MPA News vault

Features and news items from yesteryear

Five years ago: December 2015 – January 2016

  • How MPAs can help mitigate impacts of climate change via coastal blue carbon, “fish carbon”, and more
  • Seychelles project combines ocean planning, climate change adaptation, and debt restructure

Ten years ago: November-December 2010

  • With Global MPA Coverage Falling Short of 10% Target, Biodiversity Summit Extends Deadline
  • Views on Global MPA Coverage and the 10% Target: Interview with Kristina Gjerde and Mark Spalding

Fifteen years ago: December 2005 – January 2006

  • Sacred MPAs: Where Protected Areas Hold Spiritual Value for Stakeholders, and How This Affects Management
  • A Year After the Tsunami: Surin Marine National Park, Thailand

Twenty years ago: December 2000 – January 2001

  • Coelacanths Discovered in S. African MPA; Tourism to Follow?
  • In Galápagos, Clashes Between Fishers and Managers Jeopardize Conservation Efforts

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