UK proposes network of MPAs

The UK government has released a draft Marine Bill that sets out plans for a new network of marine conservation zones around Britain’s coast. The country aims to meet the goal of having an ecologically coherent network of well-managed MPAs by 2012. Currently just 2.2% of UK waters are in MPAs, according to government figures. Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said, “Our proposals will raise protection and management of our seas to a new level, halting the decline in biodiversity to create clean, healthy, safe, productive, and biologically diverse ocean and seas.”

Release of the draft Marine Bill, which also includes a proposed marine planning system and other measures, is the latest in a series of steps taken by the government to revise its approach to ocean management. In 2007, the government released a white paper that introduced several of the proposals now included in the draft Marine Bill (MPA News 8:9). The draft Marine Bill is open for public comment until 26 June 2008, and is available at

Australia gains jurisdiction over large seabed area

A United Nations commission has approved Australia’s request for jurisdiction over an additional 2.5 million km2 of its continental shelf, extending beyond the previous 200-nautical mile limit of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The added area is equal to five times the size of France. In an April 2008 decision, the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf confirmed the new outer limits of Australia’s jurisdiction, providing the country with exclusive rights to what exists on the seabed there, including oil, gas, and biological resources.

Government officials expressed hope the extension would yield oil and gas reserves, but also noted that it offered opportunities for designating new MPAs. Last year, MPA News reported on the conservation implications of extended seabed jurisdictions in the context of the Arctic Ocean, where multiple nations have petitioned the UN for extended jurisdiction (“Before All the Ice Melts…”, MPA News 9:2 and 9:3). More information on Australia’s newly extended jurisdiction is available on the Geoscience Australia website at

MPA Spotlight: Bowie Seamount MPA, Canada

The Bowie Seamount Marine Protected Area in Canada provides an example of how negotiations among NGOs and resource users can help secure benefits for conservation and industry.

Designated in April 2008 by the Canadian government, the 6131-km2 MPA off the country’s west coast features what may be some of the most productive seamount habitat in the northeast Pacific: one of the MPA’s three seamounts rises to within 25 meters of the surface. The site’s high productivity has drawn the interest of conservationists in the past decade and, for even longer, the attention of the commercial fishing industry. The Bowie Seamount has been fished commercially since 1982.

Government efforts to designate an MPA around the site began in the late 1990s but stalled around 2002. Two years ago, interested in completing the planning process, conservation group WWF-Canada approached the main resource user – the Canadian Sablefish Association (CSA) – to explore opportunities to deliver a set of shared recommendations to the government. The bilateral discussions, held over two years, found agreement around a proposal for a multi-use site, with one zone remaining open to commercial fishing but the remaining two zones closed. The two organizations’ recommendations to the government unblocked the stalled process and formed an important part of the site’s eventual regulations, available at (In planning the MPA, the federal government also negotiated a joint management arrangement for the site with the government of the indigenous Haida Nation.)

CSA viewed its negotiation with WWF-Canada as a way to avoid a worst-case scenario. That is, a planning process without industry involvement might have resulted in a completely no-take MPA. “It is better to negotiate than to be evicted from the site completely,” says Eric Wickham, who led the talks for CSA. “We got WWF to agree that responsible fishing was acceptable in the marine protected area. And we agreed to leave some areas unfished.”

Michele Patterson of WWF-Canada says NGOs should look more often at “creative, risky, intuitive, out-of-the-box” conservation strategies. “Industry partnerships are one example of this,” she says. “NGOs and resource users have the capacity to be good partners as long as relationships are built first, and if both feel that seeking solutions to a shared problem – even if for different reasons – is common ground to build on.”

For more information

Eric Wickham, Canadian Sablefish Association. E-mail:

Michele Patterson, WWF-Canada, Pacific Region, #1588-409 Granville St, Vancouver, BC V6C 1T2, Canada. E-mail:

The Canadian government press release on designation of the Bowie Seamount MPA is at