Enormous no-take areas in Western Pacific set to take effect January 2010

In May, government ministers of Western Pacific island nations agreed to add two more areas to a system of high seas fishing closures already set to take effect in January 2010. The entire system of closures will cover 1.2 million km2, and will include waters from French Polynesia to Palau. Initiated to protect tuna stocks, the closures will represent collectively the largest no-take area in the world.

Last year the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, which regulates international fisheries in the region, agreed to close two large areas beyond the EEZs of its member nations. The recent decision by government ministers, which occurred outside the Commission process, adds two smaller pockets that have been fished intensively. The ministers’ proposed addition of the smaller pockets will be submitted for approval by the Commission at its next meeting this December.The government ministers also agreed to apply stricter regulations to tuna fisheries within their EEZs, such as reducing the number of fishing days by the 225-ship international fleet of purse seiners, and requiring the ships to carry independent observers, among other measures. More information on the closures and accompanying regulatory measures is at http://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/science_magazine_may2009.pdf.

Indonesia designates MPA to protect whales, provide sustainable fisheries

The Indonesian government in May designated a 35,000-km2 marine protected area to serve as both a whale sanctuary and a mechanism for sustainable management of fisheries for local populations. The Savu Sea Marine National Park features a combination of strong currents and steep underwater cliffs, with upwelling zones that support large marine life such as sperm whales and blue whales. The productivity of the area also supports pelagic fisheries, including a pole-and-line fishery for tuna and billfish.

A management plan for the MPA is under development by the government. By itself, the new MPA comprises more than one-third of Indonesia’s commitment to designate 100,000 km2 of MPAs by 2010.

“Pelagic fisheries sustain the livelihoods of around 4.5 million people living in the region,” says Ben Kahn of APEX Environmental, an NGO. “If properly protected, the Savu Sea could become a refuge for marine life and ensure productive fisheries amid global climate change. To achieve such an outcome, a long-term management plan with a strong emphasis on large marine life and sustainable fisheries is needed.” Kahn says that by discouraging damaging fishing gear such as gillnets and long lines and encouraging gear used locally such as poles and lines (which feature minimal bycatch and no net entanglement risks), overfishing and bycatch of marine life would be reduced.

For more information: Benjamin Kahn, APEX Environmental, Bali, Indonesia. E-mail: bkahn@apex-environmental.com

Mexico designates its first deep sea MPA, plus two other MPAs

In June, Mexico designated its first deep sea marine protected area around two hydrothermal vent systems in the Gulf of California and the Eastern Pacific Rise. The newly designated Guaymas Basin and Eastern Pacific Rise Hydrothermal Vents Sanctuary covers 1456 km2 of benthic habitat, as well as the portion of the water column deeper than 500 meters below the surface. Above that, the waters remain open to fishing.

“This new deep sea MPA model represents a proof of concept to be further expanded to protect other benthic habitats where fisheries interests prevent the protection of the entire water column,” says Juan Bezaury Creel of The Nature Conservancy – Mexico Program.

The two vent systems that comprise the MPA present a distinct ecosystem. At least 41 species of invertebrates and 2 species of vertebrates are present at both sites. Of these, at least 8 species are endemic to Mexican hydrothermal vents.

On the same day, the Mexican government designated two more MPAs:

  • The 306-km2 Lobos-Tuxpan Reef System Flora and Fauna Protection Area in the state of Veracruz, containing the country’s northernmost Gulf of Mexico coral reefs; and
  • The 1460-km2 Whale Shark Biosphere Reserve, on the Yucatan Shelf, that protects one of the world’s largest concentrations of whale sharks.

For more information: Juan E. Bezaury Creel, The Nature Conservancy – Mexico Program, Mexico City. E-mail: jbezaury@tnc.org

Brazil designates two marine “extractive reserves”

The Brazilian government in June designated two marine “extractive reserves”, a form of protected area with defined user rights for local communities. Brazil has experimented with such extractive reserves on land and in water since 1989, when rubber-tapper union leaders argued that Brazilian forests were worth more standing up than cut down. The new MPAs are:

  • The 1007-km2 Cassurubá Marine Extractive Reserve, located on Abrolhos Bank, the south Atlantic’s largest and richest coral reef system. Home to 95% of the Abrolhos Bank’s mangroves, the Cassurubá estuary was threatened by plans for what would have been Brazil’s largest shrimp farm.
  • The 252-km2 Prainha do Canto Verde Marine Extractive Reserve. The fishing community (lobster and reef fish) of Prainha do Canto is a center for Brazil’s fisher advocacy movement. In 2006, the community won a 17-year legal battle with a real estate company over ownership of a beach where fishers had settled around 1870. The MPA also includes 660 hectares (6.6 km2) of coastal land where community-based tourism generates complementary income.
  • The Brazilian government designates extractive reserves in response to demands from traditional and indigenous communities. The objective is to use public land or water to extract natural resources in a sustainable way, thereby preserving both the natural environment and the local culture and traditions. Brazil concedes user rights on the land/water for 30 years with the option of extending the concession permanently after that. The federal government then assists the community in the task of developing a sustainable management plan. Ultimately the community determines how it will use the resources, with financial support and government assistance to enforce the local laws.

For more information:

René Schärer, Instituto Terramar (an NGO), Prainha do Canto Verde, Brazil. E-mail: fishnet@uol.com.brGuilherme Fraga Dutra, Conservation International-Brasil, Brazil. E-mail: g.dutra@conservation.org.br

Wadden Sea added to World Heritage List; Belize Barrier Reef added to Heritage in Danger list

At its annual meeting in June, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee added the Wadden Sea on the coast of Germany and The Netherlands to the World Heritage List. The largest unbroken system of inter-tidal sand and mud flats in the world, the Wadden Sea provides critical habitat for migratory birds, with 10-12 million birds passing through every year. The committee also extended the boundaries of the Tubbataha Reef World Heritage Site in the Philippines to encompass an area of 970 km2 (previously 330 km2).

Meanwhile the committee added the Belize Barrier Reef System, a World Heritage site, to the “World Heritage in Danger” list, due to threats from extensive mangrove cutting and the sale of mangrove islands. The purpose of the danger list is to focus attention on enhancing the conservation and management of endangered sites. Tim Badman, head of the IUCN delegation at the World Heritage Committee meeting, said, “By adding the Belize Barrier Reef to the [danger list], the World Heritage Committee is acting to ensure that one of the world’s most outstanding natural places is being protected and that the international community is doing its utmost to support Belize in its conservation efforts.” The committee also voted to keep Galápagos National Park and Marine Reserve on the danger list.

For more information: Pedro Rosabal, Senior Programme Officer, Programme on Protected Areas, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. E-mail: pedro.rosabal@iucn.org

Journal theme issue: tropical marine EBM

The May 2009 issue of the journal Coastal Management is a special theme issue devoted to the feasibility of tropical marine ecosystem-based management (EBM), including the use of MPAs and MPA networks in such management. Based on the findings of a working group at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, the issue draws on hundreds of interviews and a review of field experiences from around the world. The authors describe several design principles for successful EBM programs, including that the programs:

  • Be tailored to each location;
  • Utilize a wide variety of tools, such as creating MPAs and managing fishing effort;
  • Balance ecological concerns with social and governance concerns; and
  • Have the sustained commitment of formal institutions, governments, resource users, scientists, and donors.

The case studies present research from the Philippines, the Caribbean, the Benguela Current (Southern Atlantic Ocean), and Hawai`i. Most of the theme issue (Vol. 37, Issue 3&4) is available for purchase only, although an overview article is available for free at www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a910537346~db=all~order=page.

Expanded toolkit available on marine conservation agreements

A revised version of the toolkit on marine conservation agreements (MCAs) is now available at www.mcatoolkit.org. Such agreements were described in our October 2008 issue (“A Role for Marine Conservation Agreements”, MPA News 10:4). MCAs include any formal or informal understanding between parties in which the parties agree to take certain actions to achieve agreed-upon conservation goals. The parties exchange benefits through formal and informal agreements, such as leases, contracts, or concessions.

The new edition of the toolkit has expanded its substantive and geographic scope to include an overview, which answers basic questions and defines terms; a field guide that walks practitioners through a four-phase process from analyzing MCA feasibility to implementation; new country and U.S. state analyses; in-depth case studies; sample agreements; and more.

For more information: Jay Udelhoven, Senior Policy Advisor, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. E-mail: judelhoven@tnc.org

Scientific guidelines produced for Australian MPA planning

Researchers at the University of Queensland have produced a set of scientific principles to guide the design and implementation of Australia’s National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas (NRSMPA). Based on consensus opinion of more than 40 scientists involved in Australian MPAs, the guidance statement describes an array of criteria that should be used to minimize risks involved in planning amid uncertainty.

“While the NRSMPA is underpinned by the principles of comprehensiveness, adequacy and representativeness (CAR), these principles are expressed [in legislation] in a largely aspirational form that is too broad for implementation,” says Romola Stewart, who led the development of the guidelines. The statement, she says, seeks to present clear advice on what the NRSMPA system is expected to achieve, and to frame the CAR principles as measurable objectives. “Our view is that a scientifically rigorous application of the CAR principles that is based on scientific evidence and current understanding will promote consistent application of the CAR principles nationally,” says Stewart.

Many of the scientists involved in developing the guidance statement are active in the planning and management of MPAs outside of Australia as well. For that and other reasons, Stewart expects that much of the broad consensus of scientific opinion will be applicable to MPAs outside Australia, too. Scientists from inside and outside Australia are invited to endorse the guidance statement, which is available at www.uq.edu.au/spatialecology/mpaguidelines.

For more information: Romola Stewart, The Ecology Centre, University of Queensland, Australia. E-mail: r.stewart@uq.edu.au

Report: Lessons learned from skills-building events at World Conservation Congress

A new IUCN report analyzes the outcomes of nearly 50 workshops and classes on building conservation-oriented skills at last year’s World Conservation Congress in Barcelona. The publication What Can You Learn from 5048 People Hours of Learning in Skills-Building Workshops?identifies best practices from the sessions and provides tips to inform future professional development efforts. The workshops and classes featured topics ranging from conflict resolution, to innovative financing strategies, to using satellite images, and more. The report, which offers advice for professional development rather than advice on each of the workshop topics, is available at http://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/learning_opp_final_report_en.pdf.