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The Transatlantic MPA Partnership: fostering twinning relationships across the Atlantic Ocean

This article is reproduced, with kind permission, from MPA news Vol. 19, No. 4, February 2018 (editor: John Davis).

To promote cooperation among managers of MPAs in countries and territories surrounding the Atlantic Ocean, the
European Union set up the Transatlantic MPA Partnership in 2016. Centered on a new concept of Atlanticism that
includes Africa and South America as well as Europe and North America, the Partnership is designed in particular to
foster twinning arrangements between individual sites, and between regional MPA networks. The Partnership will complete its initial two-year operation in March 2018 and awaits official word now on EU funding for a follow-on project.

The Partnership has focused so far on three types of twinning arrangements: networks twinning to improve cooperation between networks of MPA managers; resilience twinning to boost resilience to coastal changes; and marine mammals protection twinning to promote collaboration among marine mammal MPAs in the Atlantic.
Puri Canals is Team Leader for the Transatlantic MPA Partnership. She is also President of MedPAN, the network
of Mediterranean MPA managers.

MPA News: The Transatlantic MPA Partnership has been active for a relatively short time. Can you point to some of the challenges you’ve faced so far?

Puri Canals: There have been a few challenges in running the Partnership. These have included:

  • The short timescale for setting up three twinning partnerships across the Atlantic – from defining each
    twinning theme, to holding two workshops per twinning, to enabling concrete results – all in two years.
  • Uncertainty over what happens next after the current two-year project is done – in other words, the project’s
    future direction, development, and funding.
  • The lack of adequate data available on the Atlantic MPA system and the ocean itself. The project compiled a
    scoping study with a base map to address this shortfall, which provides an overview of the Atlantic space for
    marine and coastal protected areas. This is somewhat constrained by the data available (some of it conflicting)
    and a limited response to an e-mail survey sent to national and MPA authorities during 2016.
  • Inevitably – but not surprisingly – the distances involved in transatlantic cooperation were always going to be
    a major obstacle, as were the different linguistic and organizational backgrounds, levels of MPA managers’
    knowledge, capacity, and funding.

Have you seen successes yet?

Canals: Strong relationships have already developed over a short time between managers from very different regions and socio-economic contexts. They have discovered how much they have in common and can learn from each other. There are already several tangible and impactful results, with more projects in the pipeline:

  • Cape Verde has begun drafting a marine mammal conservation plan, working with other Portuguese-speaking
    partners (Azores and Brazil).
  • Bermuda is also drawing on the experience of other partners for the preparation of its whale management plan.
  • Iceland is planning the designation of MPAs following its hosting of a workshop on marine mammal twinning in October 2017.
  • Cape Verde and Saint Martin (the latter in the French Antilles, Caribbean) intend to work together on a school
    twinning project, on the model of a whale conservation project run by the Agoa Sanctuary in Saint Martin with
    local schools.
  • Following the severe impacts of Hurricane Irma in 2017 on Saint Martin, which is a partner in the marine mammal twinning via its Agoa Sanctuary, there is interest in bringing that island into the resilience twinning as well and hosting a future event there.
  • There is interest in further cooperation between Brazil and Gabon to develop a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary
    proposal.
  • The resilience twinning partners of Gabon and the US state of New Jersey are preparing to work together to develop strategies for inshore waters.
  • RAPAC – the Central Africa protected areas network, which has been largely terrestrial up to now – is drawing on the experience of regional networks in the Partnership to develop its own MPA network.
  • And perhaps most significantly, there has been a boost to advocacy efforts by speaking with one voice. This has included a joint presentation at the 2017 UN Ocean Conference, including a statement in the closing plenary, and the Call for Joint Action among regional MPA networks that was launched at the International MPA Congress last year in Chile.

What lessons have been learned?

Canals: At the final conference for the two-year project this past January, there were several thoughtful remarks
by participants. One was from Ben Haskell, who manages Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in the northeastern US, a partner in the marine mammals twinning [described below in case D]. Whether this is technically a lesson or not, he had an important message: “As an MPA manager,” he said, “it’s nice to know I’m not alone out there in the world, that there are commonalities across the Atlantic and that we’re all working together. It’s also nice to see other people developing solutions we didn’t think of. This is a valuable aspect of this partnership.”

For more information:
Puri Canals. Email: pcanals@tinet.org

MPA News website: https://mpanews.openchannels.org/

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.

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Jürgen Freund / WWF

WWF publishes assessment of Portuguese MPAs

A new report published by WWF, “MPA X-ray – a diagnosis of Portuguese MPAs”, looks at the type of protection, distribution and area of marine protected areas in Portugal as well as their governance model. It focuses on national, regional and local MPAs (only nationally designated) and clarifies relevant and urgent questions about the MPAs. It also encourages the Portuguese Government and the institutions responsible for the implementation of more efficient MPAs to ensure the ocean’s sustainability. The report has been supported by the Oceano Azul Foundation and the Oceanário de Lisboa. The full report in Portuguese is accessible via this webpage; while an executive summary in English is available here.