At the World Conservation Congress in coming days (1-5 September in Honolulu, Hawai‘i), there will be much talk about how the MPA community can best meet Aichi Target 11. That target, established under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), calls for at least 10% of coastal and marine areas…

“especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, to be conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures”

…by the year 2020.

MPA News has covered Aichi Target 11 several times, including how the phrase “other effective area-based conservation measures” could be interpreted (MPA News 16:5). But as the 2020 deadline grows nearer — and as global MPA coverage still lags well short of the 10% goal — a clear understanding of how to reach the target is becoming increasingly necessary.

A forthcoming article in the journal Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems examines Aichi Target 11 in the broader context of ocean conservation. Mark Spalding of The Nature Conservancy is the lead author and contributed his thoughts below to MPA News.

On the language of Aichi Target 11

“The language of CBD and particularly Aichi Target 11 is excellent. The challenge is in achieving a more balanced implementation of the target. There seems to be something of a race to protect 10% of the oceans, with perhaps half an eye on biodiversity. Target 11 calls for much more. It calls for protection of ecosystem services as much as biodiversity, but where are our prioritization schemes for incorporating ecosystem services into MPA networks? Target 11 also states that protection must be effective and equitable, and more broadly it demands that areas must be representative, well-connected and placed in a wider setting of managed oceans. We barely have the conversations about what these might mean, let alone the tools to measure them. But we could!”

On “other effective area-based measures”

“Another challenging piece in Target 11 is the incorporation of ‘other effective area-based measures’, or OEAMs. This was in recognition of the fact that protection is often effectively provided by other means than formally declared MPAs (which in some countries are tightly held in the hands of the conservation ministries). This is a huge opportunity but it runs the risk of opening a Pandora’s box: recognized MPAs already cover a highly variable suite of management approaches — from sites that offer just a few regulations on one or two activities, to places closed even to visitation. OEAMs will just add to this. The objective of Target 11 is to achieve observable conservation benefits. Understanding the degree of protection provided by different sites should help us to track or predict that.”

On the need to start categorizing MPAs as extractive areas or non-extractive areas

“In this context the IUCN management categories, as applied, are not all that helpful. In a quick assessment of 380 MPAs that we knew to be fully no-take, we found only 30% were listed in the higher IUCN protection categories I-III (in the World Database on Protected Areas). So as a starting point we really need to start using ‘non-extractive’ versus ‘extractive’ as a means to categorize the enormous variety of protection. Further sub-categories could follow, particularly among the extractive sites, but this first subdivision is absolutely critical.

“We are not, however, suggesting that non-extractive is the only real form of protection — far from it. Target 11 and whatever follows [after 2020] should and will be achieved by a balanced suite of protection. In many areas non-extractive protection may not be a sensible or effective option.”

On the “end game” of ocean protection

“Perhaps we need to develop separate targets for both extractive and non-extractive sites. But those targets must not just be about extent, and will be locally informed. Meanwhile, facing the full text of Target 11, we have to think of the entire oceanscape. Globally our ‘end game’ must be for 100% sustainable management of the oceans with special protection embedded in a wider, fully-managed oceanscape.”

On the small print of the 2020 deadline

“Remember that the 2020 target will not be met if we reach 10% without reading the small print. The protection has to be connected, representative, equitable, effective, and focused towards key biodiversity and key ecosystem services. The growth in vast and remote MPAs is exciting and countries must be encouraged and congratulated on their efforts to protect the last great tracts of secure ocean wilderness. But we shouldn’t be over-awed by these. It is relatively cheap and easy to protect a hectare of remote ocean with few pressures and low fishing levels. The bigger challenge is the cost and complexity of designating even just one hectare close to people and multiple threats.

“The potential payback from the latter is immense. Get it right, as witnessed by many locally managed marine areas (LMMAs) from Chile to the South Pacific, and the system will start to snowball. Fishers will be demanding more, tour operators will be pushing for protected dive sites, and investors will be funding blue carbon or mangrove restoration reserves to secure carbon stocks or reduce insurance premiums.”

For more information:

Mark Spalding, The Nature Conservancy, UK. Email:

The paper “Building towards the marine conservation end-game: consolidating the role of MPAs in a future ocean” is in press at Aquatic Conservation: Marine And Freshwater Ecosystems.

Spalding also co-authored a chapter (“Marine Protected Areas: Past, present and future – a global perspective”) in the book Big, Bold and Blue: lessons from Australia’s marine protected areas, available at