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.”