A summit meeting this month in Washington, DC (USA), is intended to set priorities and future directions for global MPA management. The meeting on 10-12 April will bring together members of the marine program of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA – Marine) to agree on a plan to support and partner with existing MPA initiatives worldwide.

WCPA is the world’s leading body of protected area expertise, with more than 1200 members in 140 countries. Members include government officials, site managers, scientists, NGO representatives, and others. The mission of WCPA – Marine is to promote the establishment of a global, representative system of effectively managed and lasting networks of MPAs.

Although the April summit will focus on regional and global planning, it carries implications for site-level MPA managers as well, says Dan Laffoley, Vice Chair of the WCPA – Marine program. This month, MPA News talks with Laffoley about the summit, why it is important, and what to expect from it.

MPA News: Considering the regional and global focus of the meeting, why should site-level managers pay attention to what happens at the WCPA – Marine summit this month?

Laffoley: The objective of the summit is to work together as a global MPA alliance to determine priorities and future directions under the umbrella of WCPA – Marine. That focus will help us devise how we will rise as a global community to the new challenges that face our oceans, including climate change. To develop and agree on those priorities, as a first step, the summit brings together an influential set of MPA leaders from around the world. For those who cannot attend the summit, we have also created an interactive website to input their views [see box at the end of this article, “New listserv and website on MPA management to be launched in April”].

From the perspective of individual MPA managers, this process means they have the opportunity to become part of a community of practice – a global network of experts. MPA managers can contribute and benefit from the global network, share experiences on dealing with financing, climate change, fisheries ministries, spatial planning tools, etc., as a virtual community. The ultimate objective is to provide MPA practitioners with new tools, greater access to experience, knowledge, and new initiatives where needed.

The summit is structured around a small set of common priorities that WCPA – Marine may be best placed to focus on, either directly or (usually) in strong partnership with others. These are priorities that need to be addressed to make greater progress with implementing MPAs and MPA networks beyond the remit and reach of individual organizations. Most of these we, as the global MPA community, have a considerable stake in resolving ourselves. My aim throughout is to use WCPA – Marine to add support and value to existing MPA initiatives and celebrate those efforts, rather than duplicate or dilute them.

The seven areas that the Summit will focus on are:

  • The WCPA – Marine “Wet List” concept: a new annual report on the state of the art in marine conservation;
  • MPA networks: Providing best practice guidance for building MPA networks, with regional implementation support;
  • Climate change and MPAs: Developing adaptation and mitigation approaches;
  • Marine species information: Improving coherence between species assessments and MPA management;
  • MPA effectiveness: Improving the achievement of MPA goals, with an emphasis on marine World Heritage and Ramsar sites;
  • Fisheries management and MPAs: Identifying clear messages and global priorities for combining these concepts when useful; and
  • Integrating the concepts of MPAs, ecosystem-based management, and marine spatial planning.

MPA News: What is the significance of the Wet List?

Laffoley: The Wet List is the next generation of A Global Representative System of Marine Protected Areas, the 1995 four-volume set on MPAs published by IUCN. It is planned to be online, interactive, update-able annually, and widely disseminated in various formats. It will enable us to track progress toward meeting the 2012 goal of the World Summit on Sustainable Development – i.e., that representative networks of MPAs be established worldwide by the year 2012 [MPA News 4:3]. This global synthesis will be the MPA community’s annual report card, our end-of-year report. It will serve to focus and maintain attention on marine conservation and provide opportunities for MPAs and networks to be recognized as successes. The Wet List will also serve to identify priority sites and biomes that require more attention, and direct donor resources to those areas. A key element of this new approach will be to ensure that data on MPAs is up-to-date, widely available, and freely accessible.

MPA News: The purpose of the WCPA is to complement and support ongoing work by key players on protected areas, not to dictate policy. Can you provide examples of that complementary role?

Laffoley: Our goal is to ensure that the whole MPA picture and delivery is greater than the sum of its parts. A good example is the summary guidebook on best practice for building MPA networks, which we will launch at the summit. This publication draws from existing experience on establishing MPAs around the world, and stems from discussions held at earlier global conferences, including the 5th IUCN World Parks Congress in 2003. A full technical report on MPA networks is also being developed for launch later this year to provide more best practice advice, illustrative case studies, and information on funding options. Alongside this guidance, we are also developing a self-assessment checklist to assist national and regional authorities in determining progress in establishing MPA networks. Thus by drawing from existing experience and compiling this into best practice, we are complementing current actions on MPAs and helping those less advanced to learn from others.

For more information:
Dan Laffoley, Natural England, Northmister House, Peterborough, PE1 1UA, UK. Tel: +44 1733 455234; E-mail: dan.laffoley@naturalengland.org.uk

Box: New listserv and website on MPA management to be launched in April

WCPA – Marine is launching a listserv in April to enable MPA practitioners worldwide to communicate directly with each other on MPA management. This new discussion forum is intended to build on enthusiasm stemming from the first International Marine Protected Area Congress held in Geelong, Australia, in 2005. To join the WCPA – Marine listserv, e-mail your full contact details to wcpa.impac@btinternet.com. (As WCPA – Marine is a volunteer network, offers of support for the development and maintenance of this listserv are welcome, and may be mentioned in your e-mail.)

The listserv will be the first one available in several years that is dedicated to global MPA management. A listserv is an automatic mailing list server: when e-mail is addressed to the mailing list, it is broadcast to everyone on the list. (MPA News is a electronic newsletter rather than a listserv.)

WCPA – Marine has also launched an interactive website through which MPA practitioners can give feedback on priorities discussed at the summit meeting, review the agenda, and see a list of participants. The website is http://groups.google.com/group/wcpamarine-summit/web.

Box: Do you know your WCPA – Marine regional coordinator?

Your WCPA – Marine regional coordinator is responsible for overseeing implementation of WCPA – Marine priorities in your geographic region and communicating those priorities to MPA practitioners. Contact information for regional coordinators is available at http://www.iucn.org/themes/wcpa/biome/marine/contacts.html.