by Olivier Raynaud, Maintirano & Barren Isles Project Coordinator, Madagascar
Following Geeling, Australia in 2005 and Washington DC, USA in 2009, the third International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC3) was held in Marseilles, France in October 2013. Jointly organised by the Agence Française des Aires Marines Protégées (French Marine Protected Areas Agency – MPAA) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), this gathering took place in France’s largest coastal city, at the doorstep of Europe’s first peri-urban terrestrial and marine national park; the Calanques National Park.
Though it may not seem obvious at first, France has a massive responsibility for coral reefs across the globe; it is the only country in the world with coral reefs in the three major oceans of the world, and it is home to 10% of the world’s coral reefs. Thus it was fitting that organisation of the congress was supported by Frederic Cuvillier, the French Minister delegated to the sea.
With over a dozen tropical overseas territories, France has the second-largest Exclusive Economic Zone in the world, at over 11 million km2. This exceptional situation gives France a special responsibility to safeguard coral reefs, and was among its motivation to undertake hosting the world’s largest congress on Marine Protected Areas (MPA). A monstrous undertaking it proved to be, with over 700 proposals submitted, 1500 participants, 93 workshops, 40 knowledge cafes and 14 plenary sessions. This avalanche of interest, information and perspectives is indicative of both the importance and the varied nature of MPAs throughout the world.
At the heart of the congress was the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Aichi biodiversity target number 11, which establishes the goal of protecting 10% of the world’s coastal and marine areas by 2020.
When this strategic plan was signed in 2010 in Nagoya, Japan, only 1.8% of the world’s oceans were protected. Today, according to the IUCN, the United Nations Environment Programme, and based on the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA), as of mid-2013 about 3% of the oceans are safeguarded through Protected Areas. Progress is being made, but it is often painfully slow and there is still have a long way to go.
This is precisely why 1,500 MPA practitioners, government representatives, researchers and private sector representatives needed to meet in Marseilles; to discuss what can be done to reach the 10% target and how we can ensure these MPAs are efficient and actually achieving the goal of biodiversity conservation.
The congress revolved around the notion of “Oceankind”, highlighting the link between the oceans and human kind, and was based on the following concepts; Life, Knowledge, Solidarity and Resilience. Past approaches to protected area creation has often involved the mass displacement of people and the historical lack of development opportunities in management plans is now seen as antiquated and obsolete; today’s MPAs face a multiplicity of stakeholders, interests and constraints, and recognise the importance of involvement of all possible actors. The high diversity of the attendees – from managers, community representatives and promoters to industrial groups, writers, governments and scientists – allowed profound sharing of experience and multidisciplinary insight.
MPAs themselves can be based on diametrically opposed approaches (i.e. small locally-managed marine areas versus huge and remote deep sea MPAs); one size does not fit all. And when discussing themes such as financing, sustainability, efficiency, replicability or development of these various projects, this background diversity is the only hope for pertinent and innovative visions to emerge.
The establishment of Marseilles’ new Calanques National Park, officialised in 2012, illustrates the numerous issues that arise when a new MPA is to be created. The park traverses over three towns, covers terrestrial and marine areas, and project stakeholders are numerous (Marseilles has over a million inhabitants). They are also, as often is the case with MPAs, very diverse, including industrial and artisanal fishermen, abundant tourists, industrial actors, researchers, conservationists. Due to these varied interests, the creation of the park required 12 years of preparatory work, followed by three years of public consultations, totalling over 250 meetings and more than 700 hours of discussion.
Beyond procedural difficulties the congress focused on identifying global issues for MPAs. Today there are about 7,800 MPAs throughout the world, but these are mainly small areas and are for the most part in tropical waters. While protection of coastal areas still falls short of international targets, significant progress has been made. It is apparent, however, what has not been adequately addressed yet is the protection of colder waters, and the creation of deep-sea protected areas.
This need to protect the open sea and improve high seas governance requires partnerships between states for international MPAs. Other major resolutions agreed on include the integration of climate change in resource management, enabling conditions for local management and scaling up community initiatives, opening up to the economic world and improving spatial marine planning, reinforcing current finance mechanisms or promoting the networking of MPAs to favour replication and build on success.
The Blue Ventures participants attended numerous workshops and knowledge cafes focusing on community-based initiatives, MPA networking and stakeholder implication. BV’s vision, approach and efficiency were often looked up to, while new aspirations and an obvious will to favour the spill-over of LMMAs beyond the Pacific and Western Indian Ocean regions drew from these exchanges. I headed back to the Barren Isles with my mind full of innovative case studies, potential solutions to the issues we currently face, and more than ever determined to build regional synergies and ensure our MPA’s sustainable financing.
The five days in Marseilles were followed by a two-day political meeting in Ajaccio, Corsica, where 200 governmental representatives built on the outputs of the conference to develop frameworks fostering MPA creation and development.
Impac3’s results will be integrated in next year’s UN conference and the 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, before Impac4 which will be held in Chile in 2017. By then, if Impac3 was as productive as it seems, we should not be far from our 10% of protected ocean!