September 2006 (8:3)

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Marine protected areas in Lebanon and the Philippines were hit by major oil spills in the months of July and August, with clean-up crews working into September and likely beyond to remove oil from blackened beaches and other habitats. The events highlight the threat posed by spill emergencies to MPAs and surrounding ecosystems, and serve as a reminder to MPA managers of the need for response planning.

In Lebanon, the 13-15 July bombing by Israel of a power plant near Beirut caused up to 5 million gallons of oil from the facility to flow into the Mediterranean Sea, fouling more than half of the Lebanese coast and part of Syria's as well. Lebanon's 5-km2 Palm Islands Nature Reserve, comprising three uninhabited islands and their surrounding waters, was hit by the spreading oil. The site's shores - used as nesting grounds by endangered loggerhead turtles and as staging areas for migrating birds now on their way through the region - have been covered by sheens and sludge. According to an assessment mission on 19 August by the reserve's management team and IUCN, significant amounts of oil have sunk to the seabed as well, making clean-up more difficult.

Immediately following the mid-August assessment, reserve management began clean-up operations on an ad hoc basis on the main island of the reserve, where the turtle beaches are located. To coordinate this clean-up and monitor impacts on biodiversity, the Lebanese Ministry of Environment created an Oil Spill Operations and Coordination Center (OSOOC), consisting of international spill response experts and ministry staff. Hala Kilani of IUCN, involved in the OSOOC work, says the clean-up and damage assessment will take "several months, if not years" to carry out. Several foreign governments have contributed spill-response expertise and millions of dollars in aid to support the clean-up.

Response operations were hampered by an Israeli sea blockade of the Lebanese coast, which made the safety of spill-responders uncertain. Although a ceasefire between Israeli and Hizbullah forces took effect on 14 August, Israel continued its blockade until 8 September, with an Israeli war ship remaining positioned off one of the reserve's islands - rock-lined Ramkin Island. As of early September, the assessment and clean-up teams had not yet gone to Ramkin - in part to avoid potential trouble and in part because the sandy beaches of the main island (Palm) had been prioritized for rapid response in the OSOOC response plan. "There is no guessing what the Israeli reaction would be if they saw a bunch of people landing on Ramkin," says Kilani, who notes the August assessment team was accompanied by an NGO and a film crew. "Here in Lebanon, people prefer to take precautions."

In the Philippines on 11 August, a tanker ship (M/T Solar I) containing 2 million liters of bunker fuel as cargo sank in rough seas off the coast of Guimaras Island, spilling more than a tenth of its fuel cargo so far. The resulting slick, 20 nautical miles wide, has heavily impacted 11 coastal communities, or "barangays", as well as four locally managed marine sanctuaries and the 10-km2 Taklong Island National Marine Reserve.

The Taklong reserve - featuring mangroves, coral reefs, and seagrass beds - has served as a field laboratory for MPA research, including on larval export and reserve effects ("Measuring Larval Spillover from a Reserve", MPA News 4:9). Willy Campos, a marine biologist at the University of the Philippines in the Visayas who has studied the reserve for years, is leading a team of researchers to examine the impact of the spill on young fishes, which normally depend on the now-oiled mangroves as a nursery area. "It is good that we have baseline data on Taklong [from studies prior to the spill]," Campos said in a statement. "Now, at least, we can compare the research results to the original data we have on the reserve." His comments are available at

Within two hours of the tanker sinking, the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan was activated and the Philippine Coast Guard assigned a task force to provide overall strategy and direction for spill management. A Coast Guard briefing on the spill described the remaining fuel on the sunken tanker as "an environmental time bomb". Liza Eisma-Osorio of the Coastal Conservation and Education Foundation, an NGO that is assisting with fundraising to support response efforts, says, "We have had oil spills before in the Philippines but never of this magnitude." (Donations can be made at Shoreline clean-up of affected areas has begun, including the use of sacks of human hair clippings, gathered nationwide by barbers and hairdressers, as improvised spill booms to adsorb the oil.

To guard against such a disaster occurring again, the Philippine government has indicated its intent to establish sea lanes for vessels carrying oil and other hazardous substances to keep them away from ecologically sensitive areas. Currently the Philippine archipelago, with more than 7000 islands, relies on a fleet of 200 tanker vessels to carry fuel oil from Luzon Island - where the country's two refineries are located - to outlying islands.

Preparing for spills

There are steps MPA managers can take to prepare their sites against spills and reduce the risk of irreparable environmental harm. Management of Cousin Island Special Reserve in the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, for example, has actively contributed to the development of the country's oil spill contingency plan, overseen by the Seychelles Coastguards. In the case of a spill, the manager of the small reserve (with a marine portion of 1.5 km2) will contact the Coastguards with information, and the Coastguards will mobilize other agencies and take action. A helicopter pad is available on-site for responders to use to deliver equipment and personnel.

On a larger scale, the US National Marine Sanctuary Program has conducted multi-agency spill-response exercises the past two years to test readiness for a major spill in a national marine sanctuary. Called "Safe Seas" (previously "Safe Sanctuaries"), the program uses biodegradable drift cards to simulate spill pollutants, and involves multiple vessels and hundreds of people in training, field operations, oceanographic surveys, and incident command-post activities. "Spill exercises are excellent opportunities to test your personnel and expertise, or to try new equipment," says Lisa Symons, who coordinates the drills. "They should challenge and stretch responders with real-time environmental conditions and a complex, realistic scenario, rather than being a pro-forma 'check-the-box' activity."

Symons encourages MPA managers everywhere to make sure their local response organizations are aware of the resources at risk in the MPAs, as well as what assets and expertise the managers may be able to contribute during an emergency. "It is a good idea for managers to invest in training for scientific and enforcement staff so that they can be an effective part of a response," she says. Information on the 2005 exercise in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the 2006 exercise in the Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries is available at

For more information:

Hala Kilani, IUCN Lebanon Mission, Lebanon. Tel: +962 777 888 182; E-mail: Hala.Kilani [at]; Web:

Liza Eisma-Osorio, Coastal Conservation and Education Foundation, Rm 302, Third Floor, PDI Condominium, Banilad, Cebu City, Philippines. Tel: +63 32 233 6947; E-mail: ccef-ed [at]

Lisa Symons, National Marine Sanctuary Program, 1305 East-West Highway, SSMC #4, #11606, Silver Spring, MD 20910, USA. Tel: +1 301 713 3125; E-mail: lisa.symons [at]

Jim E. Peschel is an 11-year veteran of the US Coast Guard specializing in pollution response and waterways management, and was the marine operations manager of a national spill-response organization. He now serves as quality assurance manager of a tug and barge company, using training, maintenance, and tools to prevent spills from occurring. Below, Peschel discusses with MPA News what MPA managers can do in response to the threat of oil spills.

MPA News: What advice do you have for MPA managers to help them prevent oil spills from occurring near their sites?

Peschel: Work with local trade organizations and major shipping lines to voluntarily keep shipping traffic away from your MPAs. A great example is the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary in the US, which has a voluntary Area to Be Avoided (ATBA) designated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) at the request of the sanctuary. With this designation, vessels voluntarily transit 20-100 miles off the coast, depending on their risk, to minimize the chances of an engine casualty, drift grounding, or collision with another vessel. If an event does occur, this buffer zone allows more time for the response to ramp up, for locals to be notified, and for aggressive clean-up techniques to commence before the oil reaches the MPA. Although only voluntary, any vessels that are tracked going through this area are sent a "reminder" letter from the US Coast Guard and the manager of the marine sanctuary. There is an amazing amount of compliance through the use of this peer pressure.

MPA News: What are the most important steps that MPA managers can take to prepare for a spill emergency, even in cases where funding for response exercises may be very limited?

Peschel: Get to know the players involved with emergency response, and organize governmental organizations, NGOs, volunteer organizations, and big shipping companies BEFORE an event occurs. The best tool during an emergency response is a friendly face. Attend emergency response drills now to meet the players and find out everyone's capabilities.

Large oil-shipping companies are constantly conducting table-top exercises and spill response drills to prepare for unfortunate spill events. If you know a large company that transits your MPA, contact it and let the principals know you would like to get involved. They are always willing to include locals in their contingency planning and will view you as a positive tool in preparing for disaster response.

MPA News: Sometimes there is little a manager can do when a spill happens: the recent Lebanon spill was precipitated by the bombing of a power plant, and a naval blockade prevented a full response to the spill for weeks. If you are an MPA manager whose shoreline is now thoroughly black and oiled, what are your site's chances for recovery?

Peschel: There are a number of spill-response techniques and each one is dependent on the volume of oil spilled, the persistence of the product, and the shoreline type onto which it gathered. The typical methods of clean-up include open water skimming, use of absorbent materials, pressure washing, purposely set fires, chemical dispersants, and physical removal by digging or scraping away the contaminated shoreline. In some cases, actually leaving it alone may be the best response option since the impact of human intervention may be more detrimental to the environment (or dangerous to the responders) than allowing nature to take its course. An example of this would be in muddy marshland, where footprints or heavy equipment may actually drive the oil deeper into the earth, making it harder for the ecosystem to recover. There are naturally occurring organisms in soil and coastal environments that can eat the oil and remediate it over time releasing harmless CO2 as a by-product. Although it is a very slow process, it does a good job in the long run.

The key is to keep people and wildlife out of these areas if possible until the contamination has been cleaned up and the healthy ecosystem has returned to normal. This may be difficult in highly productive areas like MPAs, where wildlife gather and people may fish (depending on the regulations of the site). The real key is to emphasize prevention and keep the incidents from happening in the first place.

For more information:

Jim E. Peschel, Foss Maritime, 660 West Ewing St, Seattle, Wa 98119, USA. E-mail: JimE [at]

With the intent of encouraging readers to consider where various ocean areas managed for conservation fit along the continuum of "marine protected areas", the August 2006 edition of MPA News polled readers on which MPA constitutes the largest one in the world, and why. To answer from among the six available choices, readers had to decide first which sites qualified as MPAs. The choices ranged from a relatively archetypal MPA (the recently designated 362,000-km2 Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument) to more unorthodox choices like the International Whaling Commission's Indian Ocean whale sanctuary or even the high seas, which are subject to a UN moratorium on large-scale pelagic driftnet fishing.

With the poll results in, it is clear there is no consensus on this issue. None of the candidates earned more than 22% of the votes cast. For what it is worth, there was a three-way tie for most votes: the Mediterranean/Black Seas bottom trawl closure; the marine area covered under the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Living Marine Resources (CCAMLR); and a write-in candidate mentioned by multiple respondents - the entire world oceans. Although the number of votes was too small to be scientifically conclusive, we present a selection of responses below to illustrate readers' conceptions of how to assess the world's largest MPAs. These have been edited by MPA News for length and content:

Answer: Write-in candidate - Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (344,400 km2)
Reason given: "In terms of the diversity and size of ecosystems protected and the ways in which they are managed, I consider the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP) to be the largest MPA. The GBRMP remains the world's best managed protected area: there is no guarantee yet that the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument, which is larger in size, is not just another paper park."

Answer: Mediterranean/Black Seas bottom trawl closure (1.63 million km2)
Reason given: "This closure offers a degree of protection in law. Conventions and codes, such as pertain to the CCAMLR area, the Indian Ocean whale sanctuary, and the high seas, do not require non-members' compliance and are toothless to a great extent in ensuring members' compliance."

Answer: CCAMLR area (35.7 million km2)
Reason given: "This is an actively managed area, in contrast to the high seas or the Indian Ocean whale sanctuary."

Answer: Write-in candidate - the world oceans (361 million km2)
Reason given: "As Wikipedia notes, 'The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) bans all nuclear explosions in all environments, for military or civilian purposes.' Thus, under the IUCN definition for 'marine protected area', the world oceans qualify as an MPA via the CTBT. The Treaty has been pretty effective for the oceans: there have not been any nuclear bomb tests there since it was opened for signing in 1996."

BOX: Do not "quibble over definitions"

MPA News received the following response to the reader poll from Doug Myers, habitat restoration manager for the Puget Sound Action Team, which coordinates and implements conservation plans for the Puget Sound waterway on behalf of the Washington state government (US):

"I think all of the areas mentioned in the poll are good starts for improved planetary management of marine resources, and we should welcome any kind of designation/protection measure rather than quibble over definitions [regarding which ones should be considered MPAs or not]. We should use these designations as springboards for discussion on increasing protections worldwide, including the economic discussions of long-term vs. short-term benefits and strategic placement of MPAs to protect biodiversity between national borders. It may be appropriate to reopen some areas to limited fishing activity once stocks have recovered.

"The bigger challenge is keeping a lid on fishery quotas and enforcing that lid under considerable political pressure. Like terrestrial protected areas, MPAs are often negotiated to places where the least political resistance exists, or used to placate environmental stakeholders in cases where the alternative policy of reducing fisheries quotas would be political suicide for managers. To truly rebuild the world's fisheries, more ambitious closures, species quotas, and buyouts will be needed. Large MPAs by whatever definition demonstrate political will and re-educate people that our actions, both positive and negative, have planetary implications."

For more information:

Doug Myers, Puget Sound Action Team, Office of the Governor, P.O. Box 40900, Olympia, WA 98504, USA. E-mail: dmyers [at]

In August 2006, the Fish and Game Commission of the US state of California unanimously approved a proposal to designate a network of marine protected areas along the state's central coast, encompassing 18% of Central California's coastal waters. Totaling 204 square miles (528 km2), the proposed network of MPAs will now undergo environmental and regulatory review before taking effect, which could occur in early 2007, say officials. The proposed network consists of 29 MPAs each extending seaward from the coast for three nautical miles, the outer boundary of state waters. Approximately 94 square miles (243 km2) of the network would be no-take marine reserves, while the remainder would allow limited recreational or commercial fishing.

The proposed network is the first product of California's seven-year process so far to build a state-wide system of marine reserves in its waters. The California state legislature passed the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) in 1999 with a goal of redesigning and strengthening the state's fragmented system of MPAs (MPA News 1:3). But the MLPA-based process to plan and designate a marine reserve network got bogged down in stakeholder opposition (MPA News 3:9) and budget shortfalls (MPA News 5:7). California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger revived the process in 2004 with funding contributed by private foundations, appointing a special task force of experts to spearhead the planning. In a statement following the Commission's approval of the proposed network, Schwarzenegger said, "[This] milestone makes California a national leader in ocean management and is proof of what can be done when all those involved - the fishing industry, environmentalists, and others - work together."

Fishing groups, however, have expressed disappointment with the proposed network. United Anglers of Southern California (UASC), which represents nearly 50,000 recreational fishermen, said in a press statement that although the proposed network was "not the worst possible outcome" (there had been larger reserve packages on the table for consideration), the reserves would have an unnecessarily large impact on sport boat operators who depend on access to areas now slated for closure. UASC Fisheries Specialist Bob Osborn specified that the proposed network focused disproportionately on rocky reef habitats, thereby limiting anglers' opportunities to catch rockfish, a popular target. Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, said that despite no-take regulations, the proposed reserves would still be vulnerable to the threat of coastal pollution and runoff from the region's major cities and farming areas, and called for stricter controls on these impacts.

The Commission's proposed network provided less protection than several environmental groups would have liked, but these organizations applauded the step forward. "This is a solid start toward restoring our ocean and implementing ecosystem-based management," said Kaitlin Gaffney of The Ocean Conservancy. "Although we believe that a higher level of protection is warranted, the Commission action does protect important central coast habitats like kelp forests, nearshore reefs, and submarine canyons, consistent with science guidelines on preferred size [of reserves] and protection levels."

In January 2007, the California Department of Fish and Game is expected to begin meetings with stakeholders about possible marine reserves in the Southern California region.

For links to more information:

The proposed network for Central California, including maps and regulations:

Response from United Anglers of Southern California:

Response from The Ocean Conservancy:

BOX: US federal government unveils plan for more reserves in Channel Islands

The US National Marine Sanctuary Program has released a plan that would roughly double the area of no-take zones in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, off the coast of California. The new no-take areas in federal waters of the sanctuary would complement a system of reserves designated in the sanctuary's shallower state waters in 2003 (MPA News 4:6). The proposed federal designations represent the final steps to completing a marine zoning network in the MPA. If the federal plan is approved, a total of 19% of the sanctuary, or 802 km2, would be no-take. (The zoning system in state waters also includes two "marine conservation areas" that allow for limited harvest, and the federal plan proposes creation of an additional, similar marine conservation area. Together, these marine conservation areas would comprise less than 1% of the total sanctuary area.)

Details of the plan are contained in a draft environmental impact statement available at The plan is undergoing a 60-day public comment period through 10 October 2006, after which NOAA will write a final environmental document. In 1999, the sanctuary and the California Department of Fish and Game developed a joint federal and state process to consider marine reserves in the Channel Islands based on the agencies' overlapping and complementary jurisdictions.

Croatia designates first major protected area dedicated to marine conservation

In August 2006, Croatia designated its first protected area with a primary goal of marine conservation: the 526-km2 Losinj Dolphin Reserve, which comprises nearly 2% of the nation's territorial sea. Several other protected areas with marine components already existed in Croatia, but were designated primarily for terrestrial conservation. The Losinj Dolphin Reserve is reportedly the first Mediterranean MPA dedicated specifically for the protection of one dolphin population - a population of roughly 100 bottlenose dolphins that has shown a decline in number over the past decade.

The designation bans development of any new human activity in the reserve for a maximum of three years, allowing time for establishment of a management body and preparation of a management plan. Effectively, the protection puts a hold on plans for a 400-berth marina development proposed for inside the reserve area. Peter Mackelworth, conservation director of Blue World Institute for Marine Research & Conservation in Losinj, says any increase in tourist boat pressure could displace the dolphin population. Current tourism and fishery activity in the MPA will continue pending establishment of the management plan and institutional authority. The reserve also includes wintering sites of loggerhead turtles, seagrass beds, and underwater archeological sites.

For more information:

Peter Mackelworth, Blue World Institute for Marine Research & Conservation, Kastel 24, Veli Losinj, Croatia, HR-51551. Tel: +385 51 604666; E-mail: peter.mackelworth [at]

Study indicates factors in success of various marine conservation strategies

Research on the conservation success of several types of managed coral reef in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea - from national parks to co-managed marine reserves and traditionally managed areas - suggests that, in cases where funding for enforcement is lacking, management regimes designed to meet community goals can achieve greater compliance than regimes designed primarily for biodiversity conservation. In the paper, the traditionally managed areas were periodic reef closures or gear-restricted areas managed by communities for various reasons, including to provide food for special feasts or to mitigate conflicts. Published in the 25 July 2006 issue of the journal Current Biology, the paper measures "effective conservation" via ecological indicators, including average size and biomass of fishes. It is among few studies to simultaneously examine types of marine managed areas and the socioeconomic factors that affect success.

Study co-author Tim McClanahan of the Wildlife Conservation Society says conservation works best when it is aligned with socioeconomic interests. "The problem with benefits of MPAs, which has not been fully recognized, is that there is a scale of benefits - ranging from the individual to the national and even international," says McClanahan. "Scientists and government people involved in MPAs often recognize and argue for the large-scale benefits at the regional and national levels, but resource users will focus on the individual, family, or community-level benefits. Scientists and governments often claim there are local-level benefits from MPAs, but this view is not often shared by those people the MPAs are supposed to benefit. This scale problem is easily missed in debates on the benefits of MPAs."

For more information or to request a reprint:

Tim McClanahan, Wildlife Conservation Society, Kibaki Flats no.12, Bamburi, Kenyatta Beach, P.O. Box 99470, Mombasa, Kenya. Postal Code: 80107. Tel: +254 41 548 6549; E-mail: tmcclanahan [at]

Book provides guidance on MPAs for Philippines

A new book extracts lessons learned from the planning and management of MPAs in the Philippines and offers guidance on how practitioners there can adapt the lessons to their own sites, as well as create new MPAs and MPA networks. Co-authored by Alan White, Porfirio Alino, and Anna Meneses, the book is based on the country's two decades of experience with MPAs so far. The book addresses the unique legal and institutional framework of the Philippines, where most municipalities and cities have established at least one MPA along their shores. The national government has also designated 30 larger sites as MPAs.

"Every country has a different legal and institutional framework and differing capacities for developing and managing MPAs at both the national and local levels," says White. "Many of the MPAs in the Philippines are initiated at the local government and community level and this book provides guidance to these groups. It also helps educate the national government and national NGO staff on processes that are proven and currently being used." White says that for readers from outside the Philippines, the book's lessons include how sites are being supported through co-management arrangements, and how MPAs have provided documented fisheries benefits through increased catches outside of no-take areas.

The book builds on a 2001 publication with updates on recent advances in the Philippine MPA field, including the development of a national database and management rating system for MPAs ("Rating system available for MPA management in the Philippines", MPA News 6:3). The book Creating and Managing Marine Protected Areas in the Philippines is available in PDF format at and at

For more information:

Alan White, Tetra Tech EM, Inc., 707 Richards St., Suite 300, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA. E-mail: alan.white [at]

Report: Modeling marine reserves based on proxies for biodiversity

A new report published by the US National Marine Sanctuary Program demonstrates how proxies for marine biodiversity - namely sediment type and sea temperature - can be used to help model potential configurations of conservation areas. In the 24-page report Developing Alternatives for Optimal Representation of Seafloor Habitats and Associated Communities in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, researchers Rosamonde Cook and Peter Auster describe a process by which they modeled representative sets of no-take areas within a multi-use MPA in the northeastern US. For this theoretical modeling exercise, Cook and Auster used MARXAN software, a computer program that has been utilized in real-life reserve-planning initiatives worldwide ("Using Computer Software to Design Marine Reserve Networks...", MPA News 6:4).

Data on sediment type came from previous multibeam sonar surveys of the study area, and water mass characteristics (consistent with temperature) are well established for the region. Prior research by Auster and others had established that substrate and water mass are highly correlated with the composition of benthic communities. "Use of sediment type and temperature as a proxy for habitat in conservation planning, in the absence of robust data on the distribution and abundance of fauna at the spatial scales of individual protected areas, allows managers to develop conservation alternatives in a precautionary manner," write the authors. The report is available online at

Guidelines released on "fish-friendly" structures

The Australian state of Queensland has released a set of guidelines to help make aquatic infrastructure along urbanized coastlines and waterways (such as piers, seawalls, marinas, and boat ramps) more "fish-friendly". Developed by Kurt Derbyshire of the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, the guidelines aim to minimize damage to natural habitats while enhancing the use of structures as artificial fish habitat. The document also advises on making existing structures fish-friendly. Derbyshire authored an essay on the subject of fish-friendly structures in MPA News in November 2005 (MPA News 7:5). The guidelines are available online at

Access to some journals is now free to developing nations

The Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) has announced that online access to its publications Conservation Biology, Conservation in Practice, and Biological Conservation is now free of charge to SCB members in developing nations. In addition, online access to three journals published by Elsevier Publishing - Ecological Indicators, Ecological Complexity, and Ecological Informatics - will also be free to those members. For more information, including on how to join SCB, visit Annual membership in SCB costs US $10 in most cases, although a limited number of sponsored memberships are available.

Dear MPA News:

The article "Protecting the Spawning and Nursery Habitats of Fish" in your August issue (MPA News 8:2) cast a refreshing light on design of MPAs. Here we read about the skillful use of a variety of management tools instead of the single-solution approach of the rigid "no-take area", which requires little or no science.

The article suggests flexible use of tools such as seasonal closures to protect spawning aggregations and stresses that "the appropriate measures depend on the biology of the species, nature of the fishery, and local management and social contexts." Identification of mangrove sites "with unusually large importance to reefs" also sounds good. Adequate research combined with strategic use of flexible management tools can pave the way to a bright future for MPAs.

John R. Clark
281 West Indies Drive, Ramrod Key, FL 33042, USA. Tel: +1 305 872 4114; E-mail: JohnRClarkX [at]

[Editor's note: John R. Clark is co-author, with Rodney Salm and Erkki Siirila, of Marine and Coastal Protected Areas: A Guide for Planners and Managers (IUCN 2000).]