Editorial: Sticks, carrots, and the future of MPAs (and the future of MPA News, too)

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The next three years will lay much of the groundwork for the MPA field for years to come. As nations gear up to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 14 as well as Aichi Target 11 under the Convention on Biological Diversity — both of which call for 10% of coastal and marine areas to be protected by 2020 — they will face some decisions. Namely:

  • Should each nation just designate enough area to meet the 10% target and be done with it? Or should they take more time to try to apply good practices for planning and management?
  • If the latter, what are the good practices for planning and management?

To some extent the 2020 targets present a stick or a carrot, depending on the country. For coastal states without the capacity to plan and manage effective MPAs, SDG 14 and Aichi Target 11 might feel like a stick. If these countries don’t reach 10%, they run the risk of being criticized or embarrassed for that failure. So simply designating enough MPAs to reach the targets, without solid planning and management, may seem preferable to falling short — whether the resulting MPAs are effective or not.

But for countries with the capacity to plan and manage effective MPAs, the targets can function as more of a carrot. By applying good science and strategies to help sites meet their conservation and socioeconomic goals, those MPAs can benefit communities, stakeholders, policymakers, and the environment. Nations that plan and manage their MPAs with such practices may find that once they reach the 10% MPA target, it is in their interest to continue designating more.

Moving toward 2020, the ideal is that as many countries as possible will apply the good practices in MPA planning and management (viewing MPAs as a carrot) and not simply go through the motions (viewing the targets as a stick). Right now the challenge before the international MPA community is to gather and deliver those good practices — including for robust MPA financing — to the people and institutions that need them these next three years and beyond.

It is a big task. But in the interest of MPA effectiveness, it is a critical one.

The future of MPA News

MPA News has been covering the MPA field for 18 years now. For the first time, we are taking a three-month break, returning this October.

During this break we will re-examine how we can serve the field better…. How we can be more applied and manager-focused…. And how we can gather and deliver the best practices that governments and practitioners will need as we head to 2020.

At this time, I don’t know exactly what MPA News will look or feel like in three months. But I can assure you it will be useful to you and to your peers in the field worldwide. I will be reaching out to you in the next month to ask for your input and would be grateful for your feedback and suggestions. Thanks.

During the break, if you would like to continue to receive MPA-related news and information, we offer several options, all of them free:

To subscribe to any or all of those services, follow the links. Thank you for being part of the MPA News community. I look forward to continuing to serve you for years to come, and to seeing at least a few of you at the Fourth International MPA Congress in Chile in September!

John Davis, jdavis [at] openchannels.org
Editor, MPA News

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