Nations announce new MPA commitments at World Parks Congress

MPA News

Leaders of several nations announced new commitments to MPA designation and management at the World Parks Congress:

Gabon announced it would designate a network of MPAs covering 23% of the nation's waters, or roughly 46,000 km2. Commercial fishing will be off-limits in the network, which is intended to protect whales, sea turtles, and other marine species inhabiting the nation's coastal and offshore ecosystems. The network will include a 27,000-km2 expansion of Mayumba National Park, extending out to the limit of the nation's EEZ. Currently just 1% of Gabon's waters is in MPAs. (Following the World Parks Congress, the United Arab Emirates announced it would donate a dozen speedboats and a surveillance plane to Gabon to help the latter enforce its forthcoming MPA network.)

Comoros committed to protecting 5% of its EEZ in MPAs by 2017.

Madagascar committed to tripling its MPA coverage in the next 10 years.

Australia committed to ending the dumping of dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park for capital dredge purposes. This decision relates to a controversial plan by the Australian Government to dump three million cubic meters of dredge spoil inside the marine park (MPA News 16:1, 15:6, 15:4), a plan that the Government has since reversed. The Government's new proposal is to dump the spoil on land in the nearby Caley Valley wetlands, an ecosystem that hosts tens of thousands of birds from dozens of species at peak times of year. WWF Australia and other conservation groups oppose this proposal, too (www.wwf.org.au/?12200/Scientists-concerned-by-Abbot-Pt-dredge-disposal-on-Caley-Valley-wetlands).

Russia committed to increasing its MPA coverage to 170,000 km2 in the next 10 years.

South Africa committed to tripling its MPA coverage in the next 10 years.

Brazil committed to protecting 5% of its marine waters by 2020.

French Polynesia committed to creating a new large-scale MPA initiative in the Austral Islands.

The Republic of Kiribati and the US signed a cooperative agreement to coordinate their respective research and protection of their adjacent MPAs: the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (Kiribati) and the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (US). The combined area, known as the Phoenix Ocean Arc, covers an ocean space totaling 1,270,000 km2.


BOX: Voyage of the vakas

To open the World Parks Congress, four sailing canoes, called vakas, arrived in Sydney Harbour, completing an 11,000-km trip across the Western Pacific. Crewed by islanders from Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, Fiji, and New Zealand, the vakas relied almost entirely on traditional navigation techniques. The expedition delivered the following message to the Congress from Pacific Island nations:

"We see the signs of overexploitation. We no longer see the fish and other marine creatures in the size, diversity or abundance of the past. We witness the change as foreign fishing fleets ply our waters in a race to strip our resources. Our coral reefs, the greatest in the world, and our mangrove and wetland spawning grounds are disappearing. Our ocean is vast but not limitless.... growing global populations and the relentless pursuit of unsustainable development are reducing the ability of our ocean to sustain life."

For more information on the voyage and its message: www.muavoyage.com

Comments

The "commitment" by the anti-enviroment, corrupt, fascist regime of Brazil regarding an increase of 5% in marine protected areas is an absolute fake. First and foremost no legitimate Brazilian evironmental authority attended the WPC - all federal employees from Environment ad Parks were there by their own will and funding. A ruling party politician took part in "dialogues" saying platitudes and commonplace simploriety, and that was all. To promote this criminal regime which has simply abandoned the national protected areas system to rot is absurd and unacceptable.

Australia´s bizarre reversal of their stellar Marine Reserves System was left off the hook too lightly by the IUCN nomenklatura running the WPC. It´s unfortunate that Greg Hunt has been given so much leeway to abuse the Congress with his non-announcements on protected areas and not challenged strongly about what the Abbott government is doing to Australia´s unique natural heritage.

Also, it seems that Palau´s commitment to protect 80% of their EEZ was overlooked entirely. In itself it merits a full issue of MPA news in my opinion.

Hi Jose. Happy New Year! Thanks for your comment. As we all know, it's one thing for nations to make these commitments, and another thing for the commitments to actually happen. I defer to your judgment on whether Brazil's commitment is real or not - you are more familiar with the situation there than I am. On Australia, I think the marine WPC leadership was in a tricky spot as they didn't want to criticize their hosts, the Australian Government. As a result, perhaps you are right that the Abbott Government was not challenged enough at the WPC for their MPA moves over the past year. I did see Minister Hunt take some pointed questions from audiences, but those questions were nothing compared to what people were saying on Twitter about his announcements and positions.

Regarding Palau, MPA News reported on that commitment in July 2013 (President Remengesau has been talking about the plan for a while). I agree it's a big deal. Closing one's EEZ is easier said than done, of course, and President Remengesau is taking his time to make sure the closure is implemented in a thoughtful way. When the closure eventually happens, MPA News will definitely report on it.

It might be a useful service to have a global watch list for national MPA commitments, tracking who has pledged to do what and whether it's happened yet. It would apply some accountability. This is an idea we've kicked around at MPA News.

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