Screen Shot 2018-02-22 at 12.14.37

Project video now online

We have produced a video (13 minutes) about the project, featuring interviews with the twinning partners, project team and EU officials.

Translated versions will soon be available and a shorter (2-3 minutes) edit is also in production.

30 Jan 2018 - Brussels, Belgium - Final conference of the Transatlantic MPA Network. © Bernal Revert/ BR&U

Final conference shows strong interest in continuing the partnership

The final conference of the Transatlantic MPA partnership project, held in Brussels on 30-31 January, was opened by Ms Hilde Hardeman, director and Head of Service for the European Commission’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments, which funds the project through its Partnership Instrument. She emphasised the need to work together to manage the shared resource of the Atlantic Ocean, and welcomed the project’s contribution to “providing Marine Protected Area managers with tools and data, and possibilities for exchange of experience, to better implement their area and protect this shared resource”.

“These are times that call for a strong involvement of transregional, transnational and transoceanic cooperation,” said Ricardo Serrão Santos, Member of the European Parliament Committee on Fisheries, adding that MPAs needed assured financing to ensure that they could function effectively, or else risk being discredited.

This point was underlined by Humberto Delgado Rosa, Director for Natural Capital, Directorate General for the Environment, European Commission. “Although the number of designated areas continues to increase worldwide, many MPAs still lack clear conservation objectives and management measures.”

Marc Giacomini of the European External Action Service reminded participants that ocean governance is a matter of foreign and security policy. And speaking for the European Commission’s Maritime Affairs Directorate, Ramon Van Barteveld recalled that less than 3% of oceans are protected; and even less are effectively enforced. “Our shared prosperity is only sustainable if it is based on sound environmental practices.”

Project results and challenges

Puri Canals, team leader of the project, then presented the project’s achievements. Over the two years since it began, it has reached out to MPA managers and stakeholders around the Atlantic, and hosted workshops for up to 73 participants from 31 countries. These include 27 MPA managers, seven representatives of MPA regional networks, 23 from MPA national networks or systems; five regional seas institutions; ten research institutions; six funding bodies and twelve NGOs.

Factors for the project’s success include its innovative nature, in bringing together managers of MPAs to discuss issues of shared interest; the relevance of the three twinning projects – on MPA managers networks, resilience and marine mammals conservation – and their dynamic nature, which saw increasing numbers of partners join the twinnings over the course of the project, and further interest from other partners to join a possible follow-up phase.

Among the challenges experienced were the project’s limited (two-year) timescale, the varying levels of availability, knowledge levels and budgets of the participants, the lack of time to develop the twinning projects, and uncertainty over what will happen after the current project phase.

What is certain, she said, is that the project has created a lot of interest and expectation. It has also shown how MPA managers around the Atlantic face many of the same challenges, that networking makes it possible to accelerate progress towards lasting and effective MPA management, and that this sort of initiative can contribute to much wider efforts, such as peace-building.

Jean-Jacques Goussard, senior MPA expert, presented the project’s scoping study, a shared vision of marine and coastal conservation in the Atlantic Basin, which provides an overview of the Atlantic’s biophysical features, ecological connectivity and emblematic species; its MPA systems, different governance structures, challenges (climate change and the increased density of human occupation of coasts) and good practices. Based on mapping of conservation systems, a review of literature, survey and consultations with regional and national authorities and other stakeholders, the study aims to offer a shared vision of the Atlantic for MPAs, although without attempting to cover fisheries, maritime security, or areas beyond national jurisdiction.

The conference engaged in an active discussion about how the study could be used and on the value of deepening and developing the Atlantic partnership already begun.

Twinning partnerships and next steps

The second day of the conference centred on the three twinning projects: MPA managers networks; resilience, and marine mammals conservation.

Twinning partners had taken part in a pre-meeting the day before to share feedback and results from their involvement, and to suggest how they would like to see the partnership develop in the future. The general consensus was that the project had delivered concrete results thanks to bringing together MPA managers facing similar challenges who would not otherwise have had the opportunity to meet. It had boosted their knowledge and effectiveness, and stimulated ideas for improving management strategies. Among lessons learned, they recognised the need to work more closely and at an early stage with policy makers, local communities, fisherfolk and other sectors involved in the marine environment.

Partners in the twinning of MPA managers networks described how the project had enabled them to build on relationships established in earlier international fora but not followed up. They had drafted a common strategy for a continued partnership and issued a Call for Joint Action at IMPAC4 in Chile, following joint statements at the international parks congress in Hawaii in 2016 and the New York SDG 14 conference in June 2017. Further cooperation would enable them to improve their advocacy impacts, boost MPA managers’ effectiveness through the sharing of tools, information and good practices; and pool advice and efforts to improve fundraising.

Partners from Bermuda and Cape Verde who took part in the marine mammals twinning project reported that working with partners in the US and Portugal had enabled them each to start work on a conservation plan for marine mammals in their country. Ideas for continuing the partnership included sharing good practice on whale watching, to meet demands of a growing tourism sector and a better understanding of whale-watching impacts. In addition, sharing whale ID catalogues would contribute to existing data on humpback whale lifecycles and migration pathways. The partner from Iceland reported that as a result of the twinning workshop they had hosted in October 2017, the country was now looking at creating its first MPAs.

Participants in the Resilience project described the value of being able to meet their counterparts on other continents who face similar challenges, whether with coastal erosion, severe weather impacts or urbanisation. Sharing strategies, such as where mistakes had been made and how to prevent these in the future, helped them to be more effective, said the partner from the Northern Littoral National Park in Portugal. The partners emphasised the role that MPAs could play as a mediator between other stakeholders to promote better resilient territorial management. This was an experience learnt from the Abrolhos national park in Brazil. MPA managers from New Jersey and Gabon described the importance of working closely with local communities and local authorities, and shared their intention to continue collaboration on developing a plan for coastal and inshore waters, which are typically neglected in marine spatial planning.

Puri Canals presented the Call for Joint Action by MPA networks, launched at IMPAC4 in Chile, which had been presented at the High Level event at the outcome of IMPAC4. A discussion on how to build on this, the MPA twinning partnerships and the scoping study prompted a number of recommendations, including to share the results of the projects with more local and regional partners, as well as more MPAs in the southern Atlantic, of which few have been involved thus far. There was a keen interest in promoting the benefits and knowledge of MPAs more actively to local and national decision-makers to strengthen their influence on policy-making and financing, and suggestions for MPA managers to forge links with local universities and research institutions; and better promote the economic benefits of MPAs, as well as the conservation benefits for local communities.

The Honourable Ezechiel Joseph, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Physical Planning, Natural Resources and Cooperatives of Saint Lucia, offered to act as an ambassador for the transatlantic MPA partnership with decision-makers in the Caribbean region. “Let’s prioritise tangible achievable objectives for the next two years,” he urged. “If politicians can appreciate the socio-economic impact and benefits of MPAs for rural communities and development they will give their support.”

The European Commission closed the conference by confirming that the European Union is currently reflecting on a follow-up action. “I’m confident that we will continue to build on this pilot action,” said project manager Daniel Van Assche, of the Commission’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments, adding: “It’s important to keep nature conservation at the heart of the project.”

See also the conference photo gallery.


Final conference, 30-31 January 2018

The final conference of the project will be held in Brussels on 30-31 January 2018. The aim of the conference is to share the results and experiences of the twinning projects and the impact(s) of MPAs networking activities at the Atlantic level. Experts will present the main findings about MPAs in the Atlantic region summarized in the Scoping Study, developed over the course of the project, including a shared vision about marine conservation for the Atlantic Ocean. See Agenda

Selected photos from the conference are now available on the Photos page.

Group photo from the Marine Mammals Twinning workshop in Iceland, October 2017

Whales twinning project partners meet in Iceland

A second twinning workshop for the Marine Mammals Protection Twinning Project took place last week in Iceland. A full report will follow soon. In the meantime, here is the group photo.

Puri Canals, session on Transatlantic MPA Project, IMPAC4, Chile

Transatlantic MPA partnership project hosts session at International Marine Protected Areas Congress, Chile

The Transatlantic MPA project hosted several events at the International Congress on Marine Protected Areas, IMPAC4 , in La Serena-Coquimbo, Chile, from 4-8 September 2017.

On 5 September, the project team introduced the aims and activities of the EU-funded project at the session, ‘Towards a Transatlantic Partnership of Marine Protected Areas’. Several partners from the three twinning projects – focused on resilience, whales and MPA networks – attended the session.

Sharing resilience strategies

Mike De Luca, of the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve in New Jersey, USA, and a partner in the Resilience twinning project, described how growing urbanisation in New Jersey is threatening the ecological integrity of the area’s MPAs, especially the Cousteau Reserve. “I have a lot to gain from our transatlantic partners to identify best management strategies on this topic.”

New Jersey learned many lessons from Superstorm Sandy such as how to help coastal communities prepare to reduce their vulnerability to future storms. “This is an area in which we can transfer resilience strategies to our transatlantic partners,” he said.

Mathieu Ducrocq of the national parks agency of Gabon, where three marine protected areas around the capital, Libreville, are partners in the resilience project, also described how rapid urbanization is threatening protected areas and their buffer zones. In response, the parks agency has taken steps to work with other bodies involved in land management and development to address the problems. The work has been useful, and partially fruitful, but could benefit from a more formal organisation. “The New Jersey experience with the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve playing that role with real capacities has been a true discovery for us, thanks to the project.”

His hope is that, in the rest of this project and beyond, they might, “carry on sharing such experiences; capitalize on good practices together; implement these ourselves and help partner sites to implement them; and push for an evolution of the practices of coastal conservation for a better contribution to building resilient coastal territories.”

Understanding humpback whales

The UK overseas territory of Bermuda is a partner in the marine mammals twinning project. The country’s entire Exclusive Economic Zone is a whale sanctuary, and so the value of taking part in a project to improve knowledge of humpback whale migration paths and enhance conservation of the species was clear. “Whales are a shared population, so working with other regions in their range will increase our understanding of their lifecycle and in turn lead to better conservation overall,” said Sarah Manuel, senior marine conservation officer for the Bermuda government. “We are not part of any other networks so to be included in a collaborative effort such as this is extremely beneficial.”

Better learning through networks and collaboration

Puri Canals, team leader for the Transatlantic MPA partnership project, then introduced the Networks twinning. This builds on links established in recent years between regional networks around the Atlantic Ocean in an attempt to boost the visibility of the role and importance of MPA managers, to ensure that MPAs can fulfil the function for which they have been created. Too many MPAs are established on paper but are not managed effectively enough to provide the ecosystem protection intended.

Alessandra Vanzella-Khouri, a member of the Transatlantic MPA partnership project advisory board, spoke on behalf of the Caribbean network of MPA managers (CaMPAM). In the Caribbean, she explained, “It was agreed almost 20 years ago that a lot more could be achieved through sharing and collaboration among the MPAs”. This collaboration has been fundamental to management effectiveness, she said.

“This same philosophy is true beyond the Wider Caribbean. Sharing and collaboration across the Atlantic can only enhance the work of our individual networks and accelerate MPA effectiveness, while also contribute at a larger scale to meet international conservation commitments, such as Aichi and SDG14, and enhance cooperation and governance of marine living resources,” she added.

Marie Romani of the Mediterranean network of MPA managers (MedPAN), described how past efforts to develop contacts with other regional networks had been enhanced enormously by the means provided by the transatlantic MPA project to strengthen this collaboration. The networks are now developing a joint strategy – focused on MPA capacity-building, influencing policies at international level and network funding issues – that would not otherwise have been possible, she said.

The networks joined together to make a joint statement at the UN SDG 14 Conference in New York in June 2017. “We found that being four regional MPA networks bringing our voices together is much stronger than speaking alone from one specific region,” she said.

Marie Suzanna Traoré of the West African network of MPAs (RAMPAO) spoke of the value of the project for her region. “This cooperation across the Atlantic basin is critical to the health of oceans, particularly in West African coastal areas where climate change, oil and gas exploitation and illegal fishing present major challenges.

“Connecting MPA managers, local communities and people in general across the Atlantic basin can help to promote conservation of marine resources such as fish stocks and to give hope to thousands of small-scale fishermen in West Africa who depend on oceans for their livelihood,” she said. It would also go some way, she hoped, to giving a voice to MPA managers, who are currently not closely involved in decision-making.

Lauren Wenzel of the North American network of MPAs (NAMPAN), voiced her support for the project, while Phénia Marras, of the French Biodiversity Agency, and Maria Victoria González, from the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Environment’s Biodiversity Foundation, spoke of the value of the project from the perspective of national agencies. “It’s important for mangers of national networks to be part of wider networking initiatives, for capacity building, influencing policies and funding of networks,” said González.

‘We share the same ocean’

Ana Paula Prates of CMBIO Brazil, and also a member of the project’s Advisory Board, underlined the value of the partnership from the broader perspective. “We share the same ocean and the same benefits but also the same problems. We may experience these at different intensities, but the impacts are the same. I believe that a project to build a network at a transatlantic scale, sharing management experiences, is one of the best ways to address the problems and challenges to recover the ocean’s health, recover fishery resources and, together, achieve the desired biodiversity conservation targets in the Atlantic.”

Aylem Hernández, representing the Red Parques network, commended the project, while Omer Ntougou, of the Network of Protected Areas in Central Africa (RAPAC), described how it has enabled RAPAC to learn from the experience of other networks as it sets up its first marine and coastal protected areas. Sandrine Pivard, of the Regional Activity Centre for the SPAW protocol of the Cartagena Convention (for the protection and development of marine environment in the Wider Caribbean Region), also welcomed the partnership project.

“There are many issues associated with the achievement of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the SDGs that are transboundary, and so a project like this is important to provide information across regions to feed into the overall global picture,” said Joe Appiott, Marine and coastal biodiversity programme officer of the CBD Secretariat, in closing remarks to the session. “This project can also help MPA managers share critical lessons and experiences directly with each other, which is needed now more than ever at the deadlines for these global targets are approaching.”

“This project can also play a key role in supporting MPAs in the Atlantic in adapting to the effects of climate change,” he added. “A forum that gives information on how climate change affects regions across the Atlantic is a fantastic tool for MPA managers to share and learn from what’s happening elsewhere and to adapt to climate-driven effects such as species migration.”










Transatlantic MPA project partners issue Call for Joint Action by MPA networks in the Atlantic

Members of the Transatlantic MPA twinning project for regional and national networks of MPA managers launched a ‘Call for Joint Action by MPA Networks’ today at the IMPAC4 conference in La Serena, Chile.

The networks of MPA managers – from the Caribbean, Mediterranean, West Africa, North America – as well as national agencies of MPAs in France and Spain, issued the joint call for action with a statement committing ‘to working together towards the common goal of building a transatlantic Marine Protected Areas network’.

Puri Canals, team leader for the Transatlantic MPA project, explained the need for the network: ‘to share knowledge and methodologies for capacity building of MPA managers, and for joint advocacy for MPA managers at an international level’.  Other Atlantic rim regional and national MPA networks, besides those who already in the twinning project – from Canada, Cuba, Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, RAPAC from Central Africa and the Marine and Coastal group of Red Parques from South America – recently attended a twinning project workshop in Tenerife, to join the discussion of how networks of MPA managers could work together, for example to develop messages for donors to finance better management of MPAs and capacity-building.

“The Atlantic is where we have started to practise the large networking approach, but we hope launching this call will inspire other regions to network together too,” said Canals.

“Working together is much more efficient for MPAs with limited resources like those in the Caribbean,” said Alessandra Vanzella, speaking for the network of MPA managers in the Caribbean (CaMPAM). “The example of the current hurricane [Irma, today passing through the region] is especially poignant, and underlines why it is important to move quickly, working together and learning from each other.” In the Caribbean, over 300 MPAs have been established, but only 6% meet management objectives, she added.

“We can have greater impact at international fora working together with other MPA networks,” said Marie Romani, of the Mediterranean MPA network (MedPAN). “It will also help us to fundraise at regional, national and sub-national levels.”

“We can learn from each other and we look forward to the next steps,” confirmed Phénia Marras, of the French Biodiversity Agency, a national MPA network.

“Networks can play in crucial role in increasing the capacity of MPA managers across the Atlantic,” concluded Puri Canals.

The Call, which can be downloaded here, was then opened for signature by the countries, managers, donors, scientists and others.

Mike De Luca, director of Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve in New Jersey, USA, signs the Call for Joint Action by MPA Networks

Mike De Luca, director of Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve in New Jersey, USA, signs the Call for Joint Action by MPA Networks











Group picture from Marine mammals twinning, first workshop, St Martin, May 2017

Marine Mammals Twinning workshop: sharing good practice and deciding focus on whales

A first technical workshop for the Marine Mammals’ Protection Twinning (“a way to enhance transatlantic cooperation between MPAs”) took place in Saint-Martin, French West Indies, on 15-17 May 2017.

The participating partners – who attended either in person or via a weblink – presented their respective MPAs, shared their expectations of the twinning project, and discussed issues of interest for potential future collaboration.

Twinning project partners

  • Filipe Mora Porteiro presented the Marine Park of the Azores, Portugal (Azores Autonomous Region);
  • Sarah Manuel presented the Marine Mammal Sanctuary, Bermuda (UK Overseas Territory);
  • Romain Renoux represented the Agoa MPA, France (Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint-Martin, and Saint-Barthélemy);
  • Liza Lima presented the situation of MPAs on four islands of Cape Verde.

Other participants’ presentations

  • Benjamin Haskell of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, presented the NOAA Sister Sanctuary Program and the North Atlantic Humpback Whale Sister Sanctuary Program.
  • Sabine Garnier presented the Caribbean marine mammals preservation network, Caring for Marine Mammals (CARI’MAM) project
  • Guus Schutjes presented the “Yarari” marine mammal and shark sanctuary in the Dutch Caribbean, Netherlands.
  • Amandine Vaslet shared details of the outreach and education work of a local NGO « Mon école, ma baleine» (my school, my whale).
  • Julien Chalifour and Michel Vely presented the Marine Mammals Monitoring Programs of the Reserve Naturelle de St-Martin.

The participants summarised the relative strengths and weaknesses of each of their MPAs. This enabled the identification of activities that could comprise good practice, including whale-watching; certification (and training) for whale-watching operators; efforts to reduce whale entanglements in lobster trap rope; new shipping lanes to reduce risk of ship strikes of whales; research licence; work with schools.

The meeting agreed that the twinning project should focus only on humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in the entire Atlantic Ocean. They went on to discuss the following topics:

Noise pollution and whale behaviour. More research is needed in this area; Agoa is conducting a study to which it will invite contributions from other participants;

Whale monitoring and database storage. Allied Whale is a collection of information on photo-identified humpback and finback whales in the North Atlantic. The development of a joint protocol and guidelines was discussed to improve photo ID methodology.

Stranding. Several participants emphasised the significance of whale stranding. All agreed to share their protocols/guidelines on this issue.

Socio-economic value of cetacean conservation. There was agreement that a common methodology on defining the socio-economic value of cetacean conservation, including whale watching, would be valuable, as would a transatlantic study on this subject. Participants were invited to share their work related to this.

Whale Watching. This is a valuable economic activity, but not widely developed in some countries. The participants agreed to share their material (guidelines, voluntary guidelines, code of good conduct…), review needs for tools and information, and consider how best to deliver support.

Good practices. Participants agreed to prepare at least one good practice to share with the project partners.

Climate change and marine mammals. Although few impacts have been observed to date, workshop participants discussed whether the project could produce a research recommendation to raise awareness of this topic, including on better monitoring of plankton, which are critical to the survival of humpback whales, as well as most other whale species.

Communication. The importance and need for good communication on the subject was mentioned repeatedly. The twinning project provides an opportunity to share existing communication material, and to develop a transatlantic exchange between schools. Participants will try to identify schools that might take part in this activity.

Next steps

A workshop will be help about the twinning project at the 4th International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC4), 4-8 September 2017, in Chile.

The second technical workshop has been scheduled to take place in early October.

The participants agreed that future collaboration would be desirable beyond the end (2017) of the existing project. Twinning project coordinator Francis Staub will explore how this might be developed.

Field trip

Thanks to the Saint-Martin National Nature Reserve, a field trip was organized and allowed the workshop participants to discover the reserve and meet with the staff.



Transatlantic MPA project at IMPAC4, Chile

The Transatlantic MPA Partnership project will be attending the International Marine Protected Areas Congress in La Serena – Coquimbo, Chile, on 4-8 September 2017.

Come and meet us at the following events:

Tuesday 05/09, 14:00 @ Salon Bahia 2: Towards a transatlantic partnership of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

Wednesday 06/09, 15:30 @ Oceans Pavilion: The Transatlantic MPA Network

Friday 08/09, 10:00 @ Terraza Spa: Twinning and Partnerships, Tools to enhance collaboration between MPA

We are also taking part in several other events. See our flyer for more details.

Dune-side construction and stabilisation planting at Holgate, NJ

Second twinning project gets under way: MPAs and resilience

The second of three twinning projects being launched through the Transatlantic MPA Network has started, with a first meeting of the partners in New Jersey, hosted by the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve from 9-11 May 2017.

The Transatlantic MPA Resilience Twinning Project aims to improve cooperation between marine protected areas in the Atlantic basin to improve their resilience face to rapid changes of their environment due to coastal developments (urbanisation, tourism, infrastructure development, etc), and climate change, and their contribution to build up the resilience of coastal territories.

MPAs participating in the resilience twinning project are the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve (JC NERR) (New Jersey, USA), Emerald Ark ecological complex (three MPAs in Gabon surrounding capital Libreville), Cozumel Biosphere Reserve (Mexico) and the Abrolhos National Park (Brazil). Also at the workshop were representatives of the Transatlantic MPA network project, IUCN Coastal Ecosystems Group, NOAA (USA) and Rutgers University. The North Littoral Natural Park of Portugal, the project’s fifth partner, was not able to attend the workshop.

The coasts of New Jersey were severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. In the years since, JC NERR has provided a continuous support to local communities with the aim of reducing coastal risk and recovery of the natural system.

Participants at the workshop discussed various issues of shared interest regarding MPAs and resilience in a rapidly changing environment:

  • Identification of driving forces and typology of responses according to the change observed, with a key role of prospective studies and anticipated approaches in order to guide proactive decision-making.
  • Positioning MPAs and MPA managers as mediators and front-line players in support to local communities for building resilient coastal areas. Research activities and partnerships with actors and stakeholders are crucial to provide relevant information and support to local decision-makers, land use planners and stakeholders in order to prevent future damage. In various cases, the mediation by MPAs has been a key factor in facilitating recovery and management of event consequences.
  • Importance of research activities and a team approach, in particular regarding the sentinel role of MPAs with regard to climate change and the understanding of natural coastal ecosystems’ response to climate change, through the development of tools such as sand dunes and marsh migration models.
  • The need to identify good practices and related demonstration sites to share good practices and approaches, and the need to systematise transferable and simple tools for capacity building.
  • The importance of connecting coastal spatial planning with marine spatial planning. Various examples were discussed.

The specific experiences of each partner were presented and discussed, leading to the identification of two principle themes:

  • MPA contribution to coastal and marine spatial planning based on vulnerability and sensitivity assessment as a tool to improve resilience.
  • Approaches to managing severe pressures and threats associated with coastal and marine economic activities (tourism, fisheries, etc.).

Both the importance of building partnerships and sharing experience were emphasised. The workshop included field visits to Long Beach Island sites and research station, giving the participants a clearer view of JC NERR’s approach and activities, illustrated by different practical examples of coastal land use planning.

A work plan for the twinning project was drafted. The next stage of the project will be the second workshop at the beginning of July 2017.


About the partner MPAs in the Resilience twinning project

Abrolhos National Park (Brazil) hosts the main coral reef in the South Atlantic. It is a special study site for the knowledge and monitoring of the dynamics of the establishment and extinction of terrestrial species of fauna and flora, which characterises the process of colonisation of island environments. The National Park is one of the main marine tourist attractions on the Brazilian coast, with favourable conditions for diving, tourism and environmental education.

The Abrolhos Region still faces great threats, overfishing probably being the most visible. Human actions in more distant areas also affect the region, such as deforestation of slopes in the watershed basins, or the effects of climate change, especially changes in water temperature, which directly affects marine wildlife. The unplanned development of other economic sectors, such as the exploitation of oil and gas, shrimp farming, coastal tourism, or urban growth over natural areas are also increasing threats to the region. The 2015 Bento Rodrigues dam disaster strongly endangered the park’s ecosystems.

Cozumel Biosphere Reserve (Mexico): Cozumel Island is located northeast of the Yucatan Peninsula, the most eastern territory of Mexico. The island is characterised by a wide variety of environments, species and important ecological processes that provide environmental services. In the northeastern region of Cozumel are reef formations, formed almost exclusively by coralline algae. They are known as “micro-atolls” and are the only ones of their type in the Western Caribbean.

With a high and growing number of visitors (over 4.5 million visitors in 2013), the protected areas of the biosphere reserve face major pressures: rapid development of tourist infrastructure (hotels, restaurants, landing stages) and pressure on land, rapid increase in recreational services and nautical activities, fishing pressure, pressures on farmland, invasive species such as lionfish. All these pressures are seriously impacting the ecosystems of the Reserve. Some of the responses developed for addressing these threats (ie lionfish population reduction) have been successful and could be systematised as good practices.

Emerald Ark ecological complex (Gabon): Libreville, with 800 000 inhabitants and the capital city of Gabon, is located on a peninsula bordered by two estuaries. The coastal ecological complex is characterised by extensive mangrove systems in the estuaries, sandy beaches and rocky grounds on the western coast. Surrounding the wide urban zone of Libreville, the Emerald Ark is a system of three protected areas, including two national parks (Akanda and Pongara) to the east, south and west of the capital. A protected coastal forest is located to the north of the city (Arboretum Raponda Walker).

Ecological values and emblematic species include marine turtles, especially leatherback, manatees, humpback whales and dolphins; coastal migratory bird populations, and terrestrial biodiversity (10 000 plant species, elephants, buffalos, chimpanzees, leopards). Rare species such as elephants, chimpanzees and leopards can be observed within 25 km of the city centre.

The main issues are a very rapid and uncontrolled urban expansion, without spatial planning, which is causing pollution and a rapid increase of coastal risks in the context of climate change. The fast and poorly planned urban growth and its impact on coastal areas and buffer zones is challenging the conservation efforts of Akanda national park.

As buffer zones are partially managed by the National Agency for Protected Areas, this agency strategically undertook a territorial assessment aiming at understanding the causes, driving forces and dynamics of urban expansion. This assessment led to an ambitious programme to support municipalities land use planning efforts in the periphery of the National Parks. The National Parks Agency, as a result of its action, has now been mandated to develop land use planning and environmentally friendly urban planning rules.

Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve – JC NERR – (USA): since its establishment in 1997, the Reserve has managed New Jersey’s coastal environments through science, education, and stewardship. This mission drives the goals, objectives and strategies that address critical coastal management issues in the Mullica River-Great Bay watershed and the New Jersey coastal zone, which were seriously affected by floods during the Sandy hurricane event in 2012. JC NERR management plan for 2015-2019 builds upon past successes and provides a vision for managing future challenges and addressing priority concerns. It demonstrates a commitment to the NERR system and outlines actions to protect valuable natural resources in the face of climate change and emerging ecological threats.

To achieve their goals, programmes at the JC NERR focus on three key management issues:

  • Improve resilience of coastal ecosystems and communities to anthropogenic and natural drivers of environmental change;
  • Monitor response of the ecosystem to habitat change and alteration;
  • Develop processes governing connectivity of habitats and communities from watershed to ocean.

The action framework developed by JC NERR is characterised by the integration of various scientific and technical resources mobilised through diverse partnerships. JC NERR in actively involved in municipal planning evaluation process with about 40 New Jersey coastal municipalities.