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CBD Side Event Highlights Effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas

By Charlotte Gobin

 HYDERABAD, India – Protected Areas (PAs) – on land and sea – are one of the main tools for biodiversity conservation under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and in the conservation community as a whole. Establishing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) provides a way to restore, safeguard and enhance valuable fish stocks and fragile habitats while providing long-term options for sustainable economic development.

 These were among the key messages conveyed by Gustavo Fonseca, Natural Resources Team Leader of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), at a side event held at the Convention on Biological Diversity 11th Conference of Parties (CBD COP11) at Hyderabad, India.

The GEF plays a unique role in helping Parties to the Convention mobilize sufficient resources to achieve the biodiversity targets agreed in 2010 at the CBD COP10 in Nagoya, Aichi province, Japan – the so-called Aichi targets. Since its inception, the GEF has supported the management of a total of 1,119 MPAs protecting 231.77 million hectares.

The side event, hosted by the GEF during the first week of COP-11, highlighted the challenges facing Marine Protected Areas and the success of initiatives in management, long-term financing, and local community involvement. The presentations, made to an audience of experts from government, local and international NGOs, academia and the private sector, highlighted the success of MPAs, relying on an enabling legal framework, functioning in close partnership with the private sector and supported by long-term financing. The discussion afterwards focused on how to replicate the success stories that were presented. The discussion was facilitated by Trevor Sandwith, director of the Global Protected Areas Program at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 


        Reef shark & corals, Marovo Lagoon, Solomon Islands © Stewart Chape

In the strategic plan of the CBD, 193 countries committed to conserve at least 10% of the coastal and marine areas through protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, as defined in Aichi Target 11, by 2020. Today, the total number of MPAs stands at approximately 5,880, covering over 4.2 million km2 of ocean. This is a considerable area – about half the size of Brazil. And while it amounts to only 1.17% of the world’s total marine area (IUCN-WCPA, 2010), Nicole Glineur, GEF Senior Environment Specialist, noted that the amount and the number of MPA projects has considerably increased since GEF’s inception. This growth demonstrates the willingness of GEF recipient countries to advance MPA demarcation and implementation at the national and international levels. Another positive indicator is the recent creation of 13 MPAs with a marine area greater than 100,000 square kilometers, each MPA being larger than Iceland (Protected Planet Report 2012).


The presentations and discussion highlighted four challenges:

1-     The current MPA coverage does not represent all the ecoregions and habitats of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services. Therefore, the support for strengthening the representativeness and resilience of MPA systems has to be reinforced.

Nik Sekhran, Principal Technical Adviser Ecosystems and Biodiversity, United Nations Development Programme, on behalf of the Turkish delegation, presented the ongoing project on “Strengthening Protected Area Network - Catalyzing Sustainability of Marine and Coastal Protected Areas” (GEF: $2.2 million, co-finance: $4.02 million), implemented by UNDP. Since 1990, Turkey’s National Protected Area System (NPAS) has almost doubled to reach 4.4 million ha., or some 5.3% of national marine and coastal area. The proposed long-term solution for biodiversity conservation in Turkey’s marine areas is a reconfigured MPA network designed to protect biodiversity while optimizing its ecological service functions. One of the key elements of this project is the ongoing work to evaluate the economic valuation of the blue carbon in order to help decision making and conservation management in strategic spatial planning.

Dr. Ana Paula Prates, Director for Protected Areas, Ministry of Environment of Brazil, gave a presentation of a newly approved GEF project “Marine and Coastal Protected Areas (GEF MAR)” (GEF: $18.2 million, co-finance: $98.4), implemented by the World Bank, which will support the development of the MPA national network. Only 1.57% of the marine and coastal area in Brazil is currently protected. In 2007, Priority Areas for Biodiversity Conservation in Marine and Coastal Areas was updated (MMA, 2007), and serves as the benchmark for the MPA creation. The MPAs system will be established as mosaic, incorporating different categories of protected area and different management strategies, such as fishing exclusion areas, and land resource use regulations. This system will involve a comprehensive plan of action, in which multiple agendas can be integrated and by this way find the full commitment of all concerned stakeholders.

Jonas Rupp, High Seas Policy Director, Global Marine, Conservation International, presented the Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape Initiative, developed by Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador and Colombia. The effort is working toward a comprehensive network of representative marine protected areas with benefits for the well-being of the ecosystem and people. Over the last 6 years, work on area-based management approaches to fishing activity include development of fished, no-take, and controlled fishing zones within and beyond national jurisdiction. The locations of area-based conservation and management measures are supported by monitoring, science work. The first results of the project assessment show that high protection MPAs possessed a much greater biomass of higher carnivorous fishes than limited-protection MPAs and fished areas.

Gustavo Fonseca, Natural Resources Team leader at the Global Environment Facility, delivers presentation on Marine Protected Areas at a GEF-sponsored side-event at the CBD COP11 in Hyderabad, India. Joining Fonseca, to the left, GEF Senior Environmental Specialist Nicole Glineur.

2-     Increasing collaborative and multi-stakeholder processes are required in the MPAs governance to better face the major challenges from illegal fishing, and unsustainable tourism activity. Dr. Justino Biai, Technical Director for Conservation, Institute for Biodiversity and Protected Areas of Guinea Bissau, gave a presentation on the management of the coastal and marine Bijagos Protected Area, supported by the Guinea Bissau Biodiversity Conservation Trust Fund (GEF: $950,000 co-financing: 2.79 million), implemented by the World Bank. The success of this MPA lies in the successful cooperation with local communities. The early and full involvement of the local population in the PA design and management has led to an effective conservation program. For example, the design process of the PA noted and respected sacred sites and traditional access rules to religious sites.  Half of the local communities are members of the PA management committee, which fosters cooperation between rangers and fishermen in patrolling missions. Since the creation of the Bijagos’ PA in 1991, local ownership in the PA’s maintenance, day to day activities has led both to more cost-effective and successful outcomes.


3-     Pressure on ocean ecosystems will not stop. Climate change will continue to affect oceans through increasing water acidity, rising sea levels, warming oceans, and the introduction of invasive species. Human activities in and around the oceans, including shipping, fisheries, oil extraction, and tourism, will continue to negatively impact ocean biodiversity. Because of all this, MPAs, alone, will not suffice to ensure a successful conservation of marine biodiversity. Therefore, MPAs have to be part of a larger landscape and seascape management, in which human activities are sustainable. Special attention has to be payed to connectivity, linking MPAs to each other and to a broader landscape of environmental efforts.

Ms. Andrea Ramirez, Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, Colombia, presented the on-going project “Sustainable Management of the Shared Marine Resources of the Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystem (CLME) and Adjacent Regions” (GEF: $7 million, co-finance: $47.5 million), implemented by UNDP. It aims to set-up a regional framework in the wider Caribbean. More than 20 countries work together based on a holistic analysis of trans-boundary problems to define a region-wide action program linking conservation measures with recovery and increased sustainability of key marine resources in the region. The first results of this approach have shown that embedding MPA-related actions within a broader, regional package of actions for improved resource governance increases considerably the impacts and chances for success.


4-     The cornerstone of long-term sustainability of MPAs and the benefits they generate is their conservation effectiveness and a sufficient and predictable flow of financing for MPA management. Traditionally, PAs are funded through government budgetary allocations, bilateral and multilateral agencies, tourism, and charities. In recent years, increased attention has been given to identifying innovative national and international financial mechanisms for PAs to supplement these traditional sources and diversify revenue streams for PA management. Mrs. Nenenteiti Teariki RUATU, Deputy Director, Environment & Conservation Division, Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development of Kiribati, presented her government’s approach to ensuring the long-term financing of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA). The PIPA was established to be self-sustaining and self-financing. The funding strategy of PIPA is based on the ‘reverse fishing licensing fee.’ The goal is to capitalize the endowment trust fund at a level that would generate an income stream sufficient to cover the operating and management costs of the trust, and the foregone revenues from fishing associated with the closure or restriction of activities within the PIPA region in Kiribati. The funding target is $25 million, with an interim target of $13.5 million by 2014, based on 25% of the PIPA area under no-take-zone area. The PA receives the support of the “PAS: Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA)” project (GEF: $870,200, co-finance: $1.7 million) implemented by UNEP.


The GEF recognizes that many of these challenges are serious and possibly quite costly to address, but we also note the promising conclusions of a newly published GEF/UNDP report, Catalysing Ocean Finance, which highlights the economic importance of healthy marine ecosystems and finds that significant improvement in ocean environments can be achieved through relatively modest public investment that generates significant private-sector co-financing. GEF looks forward to building on the successful work of many of our partners to scale up the most promising response to the dual challenges of management and sustainable finance.


Charlotte Gobin is a Senior Environmental Specialist on the GEF’s Natural Resources Team


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