Pacific Island leaders to close 4.5 million km2 of high seas to tuna vessels

In February, Parties to the Nauru Agreement – under which management of Central and Western Pacific fisheries is coordinated, including on the high seas – released a joint declaration on the future direction of the region’s tuna fishery. Among other measures, the declaration calls for the closure of 4.56 million km2 of high seas to purse seine vessels. In size, the closures will total more than eight times the land area of France.

The reasons for the closures and other measures are conservation and economic profit, says Transform Aqorau, director of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement. “Closing these areas will give tuna stocks a chance to recover from fishing and will also limit fishing effort so that it stays within sustainable limits,” says Aqorau. “It also means the Parties to the Nauru Agreement can charge more for access to their Exclusive Economic Zones through the Vessel Day Scheme, in which fishing days are traded and sold to the highest bidder.” Roughly 25% of the global tuna catch is caught in waters under the Nauru Agreement.

The closures are expected to take effect in 2011. They will add to 1.2 million km2 of closed areas that took effect under the Nauru Agreement in January 2010 (MPA News 11:1). Parties to the Nauru Agreement are the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu.

For more information: Anouk Ride, Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, Solomon Islands. E-mail:; Web:

Peru designates marine reserve

In late December, the Peruvian Government designated the country’s second marine reserve – Guano Islands and Capes National Reserve (Reserva Nacional Sistema de Islas, Islotes y Puntas Guaneras). The goal of the reserve is to protect a representative sample of marine and coastal ecosystems associated with the Humboldt marine current, including mating and breeding grounds for birds and fur seals, and spawning areas for fish and invertebrates. The export of guano from seabirds in the region was historically one of Peru’s largest industries.

The new protected area covers 1408 km2 and includes 22 islands and islets, 11 capes, and adjacent marine waters. For more information (in Spanish) on the reserve as a whole and each one of the islands and capes, go to

Baltic Sea meets CBD 10% target for MPAs

The Helsinki Commission (HELCOM), the international body that coordinates protection of the Baltic Sea environment, has announced that over 12% of the Baltic is now in MPAs. HELCOM officials said this means the goal set by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity of protecting 10% of each marine ecological region in the world by 2012 has been met for the Baltic Sea. MPAs covered in the assessment include Baltic Sea Protected Areas designated under the Helsinki Convention and marine areas protected by the EU Natura2000 network.

HELCOM notes, however, that the quality of the network is still inadequate due to various pressures including eutrophication, ship traffic, and pollution. And although the overall goal of 10% has been reached for the sea as a whole, the goal has not been met for all sub-basins of the Baltic nor for all countries.

There are 10 contracting parties to the Helsinki Convention: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, and Sweden, as well as the European Community. The HELCOM announcement on passing the 10% target is at

Bermuda to push for designating Sargasso Sea as MPA

The government of Bermuda is initiating an international effort to protect the Sargasso Sea. According to Deputy Premier Paula Cox, the government is conducting a feasibility study on how it could partner with other governments and scientific agencies to designate an MPA, most of which would be on the high seas, outside any nation’s jurisdiction. Protections would therefore require multi-lateral agreements, either within or independent of the United Nations.

The Sargasso Sea is a dynamic gyre in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean and is noted for its globally unique concentration of floating sargassum seaweed, which serves as a nursery area for many species. The Sargasso is roughly 1,100 km wide and 3,200 km long. Bermuda is on its western edge and is the sea’s only land mass.

“The health of Bermuda’s marine ecosystem is entirely dependent on the health of the wider ocean that surrounds us,” said Cox. One of the main challenges facing the Sargasso is a high concentration of non-biodegradable plastic waste and other pollution that accumulates due to the sea’s circulation pattern, according to researchers.

High seas closures now viewable in animated Google Earth map

Researchers at the Institute for Marine Resources & Ecosystem Studies (IMARES) in The Netherlands have created an animated map in Google Earth to illustrate high seas areas that are now closed to bottom fishing. The areas, closed by Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), are intended to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems such as cold water corals and sponges. The animated map allows viewers to zoom in on closures and access information on each one. To download the map, go to (To view the map, you will need to have Google Earth installed on your computer. It is downloadable for free at

US, France sign agreement on Pacific MPAs

In November 2009, the US Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and France’s MPA agency (Agence des Aires Marine Protégées) launched a program to share experience and expertise among their respective MPAs in the Pacific. The US MPAs to be involved in the exchange will include Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and Hawaiian Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Staff from these sites will learn about traditional culture and management methods in French Polynesia, and staff from Polynesian MPAs will visit the US sites in return. The US and French agencies expect to expand the partnership eventually to MPAs in the Caribbean region. For more information, go to

Ticket sales from Disney movie will go toward MPA-related program

A portion of each ticket sold for Disney’s movie OCEANS in its opening week will go to support marine conservation in The Bahamas. The nature film, which uses new underwater filmmaking technologies to explore the world’s seas, will debut on 22 April 2010 in the US and Canada.Disney will donate US $0.20 per ticket to the Adopt a Coral Reef program operated by The Nature Conservancy, with a minimum of US $100,000 pledged to the program. The Adopt a Coral Reef program conducts research to identify biologically significant areas in Bahamian waters, in support of the establishment of a national network of MPAs. The Bahamian government has embraced the goals of the Caribbean Challenge (, which calls on Caribbean nations to protect 20% of their marine and coastal habitats by the year 2020. More information on the OCEANS film is at

Publication available on protected areas in Latin America

A new report examines the status of protected areas in Latin America and their role in the region’s sustainable development. It includes a chapter on MPAs as well as sections on World Heritage Sites and relationships between indigenous territories and protected areas. Much of the publication analyzes outcomes of the Second Latin American Congress on National Parks and Other Protected Areas, held in Bariloche, Argentina, in 2007. Based on that analysis, it also presents perspectives for the upcoming decade.

The report was co-produced by the IUCN Colombian Committee, National Parks Colombia, and Fundación Natura Colombia. Protected Areas and Development in Latin America: From Santa Marta 1997 to Bariloche 2007 and Perspectives for a New Decade is available at

IUCN report: Protected areas help people cope with climate change

A new report from IUCN documents the role of protected areas in mitigating and adapting to climate change. It features a section on coastal and marine protected areas in particular, including their use in sequestering carbon dioxide. It also describes how climate change considerations can be factored into protected area design, management, and governance.

“[Protected areas] are helping society cope with climate change impacts by maintaining essential services upon which people depend,” states the report. “Without them, the challenges would be even greater, and their strengthening will yield one of the most powerful natural solutions to the climate crisis.” The report Natural Solutions: Protected Areas Helping People Cope with Climate Change is available at

Report available on economics of MPAs

A study commissioned by the Conservation Council of Western Australia (an NGO) concludes that marine reserves in Australia’s southwest region could generate AU $55 million (US $50 million) per year in tourism and could also boost commercial fish stocks. The study is reportedly the first of its kind in Australia, comparing the economic benefits of establishing marine reserves to potential losses by commercial fishers who are denied access to the areas. The government of Australia is currently in the planning and early implementation stages of developing a representative system of MPAs in Commonwealth waters by 2012. As part of the strategy, the government is developing bioregional plans for each of Australia’s five marine regions, including the southwest. The report The Economics of Marine Protected Areas is available at

Online training program available on reef resilience

A virtual training program is available on how to build resilience to climate change into coral reef MPAs. Created by The Nature Conservancy in partnership with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the free online course includes an introduction to coral bleaching, a description of the main principles of resilience, and recommendations on how to design and manage resilient coral reef MPAs. To enroll, go to and click on “Reef Resilience (Self-paced)”.

Survey: How should IUCN’s protected area categories best be applied to MPAs?

An online survey seeks the views of MPA practitioners on how IUCN’s protected area categories can best be applied to the marine environment. The six categories, which were designed for application in marine and terrestrial protected areas, range from “Strict Nature Reserve” to “Protected Area with Sustainable Use of Natural Resources”. The survey is open through 12 April 2010, and can be accessed at

In 2008, IUCN developed new guidelines on applying the categories across all protected areas – terrestrial and marine (available at Findings from the current online survey will inform the drafting of an IUCN supplementary guidance document providing more detail on applying the categories specifically to MPAs.

Article reveals lessons from scientific program to rezone the Great Barrier Reef

An article in the journal Ocean & Coastal Management describes the science-based process used earlier this decade to guide the rezoning of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Central to the process was the development of a set of biophysical operating principles that provided the basis for designing a network of no-take areas within the park. The 10 principles – which included protecting uniqueness, avoiding fragmentation, and protecting fewer, larger areas rather than more, smaller areas – are recommended by the paper’s authors for application to MPA-planning processes elsewhere.

The article “A process to design a network of marine no-take areas: Lessons from the Great Barrier Reef” is available by subscription at However, the set of biophysical operating principles is available for free at

Underwater sculptor looking for people to cast

Sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor, who creates sculptures of human figures for underwater display in MPAs and was profiled in our September-October 2009 issue (“Applying the Arts to MPA Planning and Management”, MPA News 11:2), is seeking people to cast as part of his latest installation. The installation will be submerged in the National Marine Park of Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Punta Nizuc in Mexico, and ultimately will involve 400 figures. If you are interested in being immortalized in the installation, apply by sending a photo of yourself to Applicants must be available to travel to Cancun. For more information, go to