The challenge of coordinating across scales in EBM is being met in different ways in different parts of the world. As highlighted in the preceding article, cross-scale EBM is being undertaken in West Africa using an MPA network as a starting point.

West Africa's coastal zone is strategically important to the development of all seven countries of the region – Mauritania, Senegal, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, and Sierra Leone – and supports nearly 15 million inhabitants. (For a map of these countries, click here.) The marine ecosystem, which includes offshore upwelling areas, shallow banks, and nearshore estuaries, is highly productive. Yet like many other areas around the world, coastal and marine systems here have been compromised in recent years due to excessive use and/or poor regulation in fisheries, tourism, development of oil and gas industry, and other ocean and coastal uses. It appears that traditional rules and conventional management have been insufficient in maintaining the fragile equilibrium, given globalization, increasing population, and the push for economic development.

Charlotte Karibuhoye is MPA program coordinator for Fondation Internationale du Banc d'Arguin (FIBA), an organization whose mission is to protect the Banc d'Arguin, a Ramsar site in Mauritania. She says, "Governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from the sub-region have recognized that the existing problems need to be addressed at a regional scale if the structure and the functions of the marine and coastal ecosystems are to be conserved at a regional scale."

Recognizing the common problems, concerns for migratory species, shared resources, and mobility of users, governments and NGOs throughout West Africa see a continuing need to address coastal zone and marine resource management at the eco-regional level. With the help of organizations listed in the box at the end of this case study, an initiative was launched in 2001 to develop a common strategy. That strategy, called RAMPAO, aims to build a regional network of MPAs within the framework of a regional coastal and marine conservation program (PRCM, by its French acronym –

The RAMPAO network has a dual nature: physically connecting ecologically or socio-culturally critical sites, and linking people and institutions through a human network for exchanges, mutual reinforcement, and economies of scale. It has involved all types of stakeholders (government administration, local and international NGOs, research, fishermen associations, local communities) and has political support from each of the seven countries. Importantly, the network's regional objectives take into consideration interests and needs at national and local levels.

Karibuhoye says the RAMPAO project aims to improve the partnerships and co-management mechanisms with local communities by promoting participatory mechanisms and community management. "Such MPAs can be considered one of the main tools for biodiversity conservation and sustainable fisheries management, but are also important for sustainable development," she says. "Witness the involvement of local communities in MPA management, preserving their cultural heritage but also providing reference sites for a better understanding of ecosystem functioning at very large scales."

RAMPAO's Regional MPA Strategy document details how coastal and marine management at the site level contributes to more effective management at the regional scale. "Each marine protected area operates at a local level, where the participation and support of local communities and stakeholders is absolutely imperative," states the Strategy document. "Impacts (both positive and negative) are more immediately felt at this level where people are often asked to make significant investments of time and space. The success or failure of any protected area depends on adapting management approaches to their unique socioeconomic and natural environment to resolve problems that they themselves have identified." At the same time, notes the Strategy, conservation must operate within a context defined by national policy and legislation.

Studies carried out at regional level on the distribution, abundance and ecology of important coastal and marine resources are being used to identify areas in need of protection or management from the "bigger picture" perspective. This is particularly important for the management of migratory species. Regional-level analyses of environmental monitoring data can also help establish whether changes observed at particular sites are simply a local phenomenon or reflections of larger, more-widespread environmental changes. Other activities of mutual interest like professional training, exchange visits and preparation for international conferences can also benefit from coordination at the regional level.

Since the program goes well beyond standard MPA-based management, it is fast becoming a bona fide EBM initiative. Included under the framework of the program are fisheries management, species and habitat conservation, sustainable tourism, scientific research, and education and outreach.

A very recent example demonstrates how this cross-scale effort goes beyond protected areas. Conservationists are mobilizing across West Africa to help provide information to the country of Guinea Bissau as it evaluates whether to allow the export of dolphins from its waters. This information includes population size estimates and dynamics, fishing-related mortality, and other potential threats. According to Mathieu Ducrocq, coordinator of IUCN's Marine and Coastal Regional Program for West Africa, distilling information across the wide geographical scale of the West African region should enable Guinea Bissau to look at trade-offs and make its unilateral decision armed with the best possible information.

As articulated in the Strategy, multi-level cooperation can open the door to special fundraising opportunities – a high priority for everyone. Many bilateral and multilateral agencies as well as private foundations recognize the importance of coordinating environmental management on a larger scale. Karibuhoye maintains that by creating a network of MPAs that respects local needs while integrating national and regional priorities, the regions' institutions create an opportunity for the international community to support economic and environmental development at all levels simultaneously.

This is how she summarizes the lessons about cross-scale EBM that have emerged even in the early stages of this program:

  • Wide (and lengthy) consultations are essential for defining clear and shared objectives and for the definition and adoption of site-selection criteria;
  • Involving all key actors in the whole process is crucial (managers, local communities and resource users representatives, NGOs, research institutions, technical bodies, administration);
  • Political support from the States was decisive (a general policy declaration was signed by ten ministries from six countries);
  • The network's (regional) objectives must take into consideration the concrete needs at local level, in addition to national priorities;
  • The (human) network is a formidable opportunity for mutual learning and reinforcement; and
  • Technical and financial support from international partners was essential.

The shared vision for EBM in West Africa is now embodied in the regional strategy. That there is strong political support to this regional strategy can be seen in the general policy declaration signed in 2003 supporting large-scale regional management. It was signed not only by ministries in charge of protected areas, but also by those of fisheries and the environment as well. The large number of NGOs and community representatives participating in the effort is further testimony to the solid support that cross-scale EBM has in this region of the world.

For more information:

Charlotte Karibuhoye, Fondation Internationale du Banc d'Arguin (FIBA),c/o UICN – BP 3215, Avenue Bourguiba x Castors, Dakar, Sénégal. Tel: +221 33 869 02 88/ 77 570 51 71; E-mail:; Web:

Mathieu Ducrocq, IUCN Marine and Coastal Regional Program for West Africa, BP 4167, Nouakchott, R.I. Mauritania. Tel: +222 529 39 01; E-mail:

BOX: International institutions involved in developing the Regional Strategy

Subregional Fisheries Commission (CSRP)

Regional Network for Coastal Planning in West Africa

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)

RAMSAR Convention Secretariat

World Conservation Union (IUCN)

Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF)

International Foundation for the Banc d'Arguin (FIBA)

Wetlands International

Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique / Géomer, France

Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage (ONCFS), France

Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), France

Fisheries Information and Analysis System Project (SIAP)