UNESCO World Heritage adds four marine sites

Four sites with major marine components are among the newest additions to the World Heritage List, overseen by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Added to the list on 14 July 2005, these new World Heritage sites are:

  • Coiba National Park (Panama) – possessing extraordinary biodiversity, with 760 species of fishes and 20 cetacean species;
  • Geirangerfjord and Noeroyfjord (Norway) – two of the world’s longest and deepest fjords;
  • Gulf of California (Mexico) – featuring 244 islands, 90 endemic fish species, and a third of the world’s total number of cetacean species; and
  • Shiretoko Peninsula (Japan) – providing important habitat for several marine mammal species, salmonids, migratory birds, and the highest recorded density of brown bears in the world.

The World Heritage Convention (http://whc.unesco.org) seeks to protect the world’s most important cultural and natural heritage. In designating more than 800 locales as World Heritage sites – from the Taj Mahal to the Great Barrier Reef – the 180 state parties to the convention have indicated their desire that these places be preserved.

It was also announced in July that the World Heritage Marine Program, which has sought to enhance UNESCO’s marine conservation capacity and expand the application of World Heritage across a range of ocean ecosystems (MPA News 5:6), has received official status as a thematic program under the convention. It was formerly an ad hoc initiative operated through extrabudgetary funding. Marjaana Kokkonen, a marine heritage specialist with the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, says she hopes that within 10-20 years, all marine sites with “outstanding universal value” and the political feasibility of listing will be inscribed on the list. “We first need to identify the potential sites that meet the World Heritage criteria and make sure these sites also meet the integrity requirements,” she says. “If they do not – that is, if management is unsatisfactory – we will work with the concerned governments and partner organizations to help improve management and legal protection to the level required.”

For more information

Marjaana Kokkonen, UNESCO World Heritage Centre, 7 place de Fontenoy, 75352 Paris 07 SP, France. Tel: +33 1 4568 1887; E-mail: m.kokkonen@unesco.org

Directory available on Mediterranean MPAs

A directory of MPAs in the Mediterranean Sea is available containing information on more than 70 MPAs throughout the region. Published in June 2005 by WWF-France, the directory provides contact information for each site and general site features, including area, principal marine species present, and IUCN management category.

“The main purpose of the publication is to help Mediterranean MPA managers communicate with each other at the regional scale,” says consultant Sebastien Mabile. Mabile produced the directory with Catherine Piante, project manager of MedPAN, an EU-funded initiative to network MPA managers in the Mediterranean. Piante adds, “With this directory, we would like to facilitate relations and exchange of information among MPA managers of different Mediterranean countries, as most of them face similar management issues. We also hope the directory will help develop awareness among Mediterreanan MPA managers that they are a community with common objectives.”

MedPAN, active from 1900 to 1996 before running out of funding, resumed activity in January 2005 with the infusion of European Commission support. The project has plans to organize several thematic workshops on MPA management issues over the next two years, including one in October 2005 in Andalusia (Spain) on MPA management plans. A MedPAN newsletter and website are in the planning stage. The Global Directory of Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean is available in PDF format at http://www.wwf.fr/pdf/RepertoireAMP.pdf.

For more information

Catherine Piante, WWF France, Mission Oceans et Cotes, 6 rue des Fabres, 13001 Marseille, France. E-mail: cpiante@wwf.fr

Sebastien Mabile, 7, rue Villeneuve, 13001 Marseille, France. E-mail: sebastien.mabile@wanadoo.fr

Framework under development for MPA networks

An international guide is being developed to help practitioners and policymakers establish MPA networks at national and regional levels, with a first draft expected to be released for public comment in October 2005. The document – being drafted by a partnership of intergovernmental organizations, national government agencies, and NGOs – will provide a framework for progressing from general networking principles to practical actions, and from single-site MPAs to ecosystem-based network development. The intent is to help establish representative networks of MPAs worldwide by 2012, a goal set by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in 2004 (MPA News 5:9).

Discussions on the framework were the focus of an international workshop held 15-17 July in New Orleans, Louisiana (US). Coordinated by the (US) NOAA International Programs Office in conjunction with multiple partners, the workshop convened experts from 21 countries to share experiences on challenges and best practices associated with MPA networking at ecosystem-relevant scales. For more information on the workshop or the framework document, e-mail Annie Hillary at Annie.Hillary@noaa.gov or Lynne Mersfelder-Lewis at Lynne.Mersfelder@noaa.gov.

Report: costs, benefits of MPAs for islands

A new report published by WWF-The Netherlands explores costs and benefits of MPAs as they apply to islands, and provides several examples of island nations’ experiences with MPAs. The 64-page report Marine Protected Areas: Benefits and Costs for Islands recommends that in light of the acute environment-related challenges faced by small island developing states (including climate variability and extreme weather events), such nations should examine the tool of MPAs as a conservative investment that could bear long-term ecological and socioeconomic benefits. The report was co-sponsored by the International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN), The Nature Conservancy, and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, and is available in PDF format at http://panda.org/about_wwf/what_we_do/marine/publications/index.cfm.