Fuel spill kills birds in Alaskan MPA

The grounding of a bulk freighter on 8 December 2004 off the coast of Alaska (US) has resulted in the spill of an estimated 225,000 gallons (850,000 liters) of fuel oil into nearshore waters of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, or AMNWR. At least 35 miles (56 km) of shoreline have suffered some form of oiling, with more than 10 miles (16 km) coated with a thick, brown layer of oil and tar balls, now undergoing cleanup. Field crews have collected more than 1500 dead seabirds and documented extensive scavenging of oiled carcasses by eagles and foxes.

The Singaporean-owned M/V Selendang Ayu, which split into two pieces following the grounding, also spilled most of its 66,000-ton cargo of soybeans, which the ship had been transporting from the US to China. Anne Morkill, deputy refuge manager for AMNWR, says the soybeans appear to be smothering intertidal life. “Field crews have discovered a substantial kill of marine invertebrates washing up in the soybean surf line,” she says.

The 20,000-km2 AMNWR, which includes many islands of the Aleutian archipelago and surrounding waters, is home to 40 million seabirds, representing more than 30 species. Federal and state agencies involved in responding to the spill are collecting data on a range of factors – such as distribution of species at risk, scavenging rates, spill-drift patterns, and sediment samples – to determine the spill’s impacts. Morkill says additional studies may be initiated later this year to determine effects of residual oil during seabird-breeding and salmon-spawning seasons. The official spill-response website, with photos, daily situation reports, and incident action plans, is at http://www.state.ak.us/dec/spar/perp/response/sum_fy05/041207201/041207201_index.htm.

For more information:
Anne Morkill, AMNWR, Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, 95 Sterling Highway, Suite 1, Homer, AK 99603, USA. Tel: +1 907 235 6546; E-mail: anne_morkill@fws.gov; Web: alaskamaritime.fws.gov/index.htm

Great Barrier Reef, Florida Keys to partner on reef resilience program

MPA officials from Australia and the US have launched a partnership to maintain and improve the resilience of coral reefs to environmental stressors, such as climate change and pollution. Announced 2 December 2004, the partnership will focus on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in Australia and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) in the US, and will involve coordination of scientific research and joint development of management techniques.

Paul Marshall, manager of the Climate Change Response Program for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), says the program will address the challenges involved in converting the concept of reef resilience to management. “Coral reef resilience is emerging as an important framework for adaptive reef management in the face of global and local pressures,” says Marshall. “But the science of resilience is relatively new, and its role in guiding coral reef management is still poorly understood.”

He says GBRMPA and FKNMS, with their combined expertise in science-based management of reefs, will work first to identify resilience factors that play a role in the long-term health of reefs, then use this knowledge to develop management strategies. “Both of these MPAs have experienced the far-reaching effects of coral bleaching, and share concerns about the cumulative impacts of climate change, degraded water quality, and other stressors,” says Marshall. “Both agencies also recognize the value of sharing and comparing experiences in attempting to address the management challenges facing their reefs.” GBRMPA and FKNMS have collaborated before, most recently to produce A Reef Manager’s Guide to Coral Bleaching, to be published later this year. The accumulated knowledge gained from the reef-resilience partnership will be shared among other MPAs and practitioners in the global coral reef community, says Marshall.

For more information:
Paul Marshall, Climate Change Response Program, GBRMPA, PO Box 1379, Townsville QLD 4810, Australia. Tel: +61 7 4750 0771; E-mail: p.marshall@gbrmpa.gov.au

Billy Causey, Superintendent, FKNMS, P.O. Box 500368, Marathon, FL 33050, USA. Tel: +1 305 743 2437 x26; E-mail: billy.causey@noaa.gov

IUCN releases guide to governing Mediterranean Sea, including MPAs

The IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation has released a CD-ROM and associated website with information on legal aspects of governing the Mediterranean Sea outside of national waters, including the designation of MPAs on the Mediterranean high seas. Much of the information on MPAs – including background papers, presentations, and contact information for experts – is from a workshop on high-seas MPAs held in Malaga, Spain, in January 2003. The CD-ROM and website contain information in English and French, as well as some documents in Spanish. The website is http://iucn.org/places/medoffice/CDGovernance/index.html.

Symposium on MPA financing to be held this month

A symposium on the financing and benefits of MPAs will occur 28 February – 4 March in Loreto, Mexico. Hosted by the North American Marine Protected Areas Network (NAMPAN), the symposium will examine creative financing methods and successful models for long-term economic sustainability, as well as consider the socioeconomic and ecological benefits provided by MPAs.

NAMPAN is coordinated by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), in partnership with the Comision Nacional de Areas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP) in Mexico; Parks Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada; and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the US.

For more information on the symposium, e-mail Hans Herrmann, CEC biodiversity program head, at hherrmann@cec.org. More information on NAMPAN is online at http://www.cec.org/programs_projects/conserv_biodiv/project/index.cfm?projectID=19&varlan=english.

MPA congress to feature speakers from around world

More than 600 abstracts for presentations have been submitted to the first International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC1), to be held 23-27 October 2005 in Geelong, Victoria, Australia. The review of these abstracts is nearly complete, and the final congress program will be chosen from several hundred second-stage abstracts to be invited soon.

IMPAC1 program coordinator Jon Day says organizers have received expressions of interest from 65 countries. “It is expected the congress program will reflect this international interest with presentations from around the globe – a truly international conference,” he says. Day is director of conservation for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, which is co-hosting the congress with the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas and Parks Victoria. IMPAC1 is intended to be the first of a series of international conferences on improving MPA planning and management.

Congress organizers are seeking to raise funds to assist delegates who would otherwise be unable to attend, particularly those from developing nations. Institutions interested in providing funding assistance should contact Simon Monk of ASN Events at sm@asnevents.net.au. More information on the congress is available on the IMPAC1 website at http://www.impacongress.org.