OSPAR designates large MPA on high seas

In June the OSPAR Commission – the intergovernmental body responsible for protecting and conserving the Northeast Atlantic and its resources – designated an MPA encompassing the water column of an area of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The Charlie-Gibbs North High Seas MPA covers an area of nearly 180,000 km2.

It is the seventh MPA that OSPAR has designated on the high seas, beyond any nation’s jurisdiction. The prior six were designated in 2010 (“Large New MPAs Designated in North Atlantic”, MPA News 12:3)

The Charlie-Gibbs North High Seas MPA contains a meandering sub-polar front that separates warm waters to the south from cold waters of the north. It is a highly productive zone and includes several species that OSPAR considers to be threatened or declining, including deep water sharks, blue whales, leatherback turtles, and orange roughy. A brief OSPAR press release on the new MPA is at www.ospar.org/html_documents/ospar/news/ospar_pr_12_ospar12_en.pdf .

National governments make MPA commitments at Rio+20 meeting

At the June 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (the “Rio+20 Summit”), several national governments made commitments with regard to their MPA systems, including:

  • Antigua and Barbuda committed to protecting 20% of its nearshore marine area in MPAs by 2020 as part of the country’s joining the Caribbean Challenge Initiative. The country also committed to protect 15% of its terrestrial area. More information on the Caribbean Challenge is at http://campam.gcfi.org/campam.php .
  • Grenada announced it will co-host a Caribbean Political and Business Leaders Summit in 2013 with the British Virgin Islands to discuss expansion of the Caribbean Challenge Initiative and to develop sustainable financing programs for protected areas.
  • The Seychelles announced its willingness to designate 30% of its nearshore waters as protected areas in return for forgiveness of national debt. The swap – proposed as debt for adaptation to climate change – could create a funding stream for the Seychelles of US $2.5 million per year.

Maldives intends for entire EEZ to be MPA within five years

Also at the Rio+20 Summit in June, President Mohamed Waheed of the Maldives announced his intent to designate a marine protected area over the entirety of his country’s waters within five years. Although sustainable forms of fishing will be allowed to continue in the MPA, he said, the MPA will likely ban fishing with certain gears, including purse seining and bottom trawling. The size of the Maldives’ Exclusive Economic Zone is 923,000 km2.

California approves final open-coast segment of state MPA network

In June, the California Fish and Game Commission approved a plan for a systematic network of MPAs along the north coast of the US state of California. The approved system includes 19 MPAs as well as additional management areas; all together, 13% of the state’s north coast marine region is now under protection. The new sites are expected to go into effect by early 2013.

The approval marked the completion of the open-coast portion of the state’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) initiative – a multi-year, region-by-region process to re-examine and redesign California’s MPA system. The north coast is one of four open-coast study regions in the MLPA planning process, along with the north central coast, central coast, and south coast. The study region of San Francisco Bay, not considered part of the open coast, remains in planning.

The California MPA network is the first in the US to be designed from the start as a science-based network, rather than a patchwork of independent protected areas. Stretching northward from the Mexico border to the state line of Oregon, the network now includes 119 MPAs, 5 recreational management areas and 15 special closures covering approximately 16% of all state marine waters. Roughly half of California’s new or modified MPAs are multiple-use areas; the rest are no-take. For more information on the MLPA process in general or the north coast MPAs in particular, go to www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa .

Antarctic coalition calls for MPAs across 40% of Southern Ocean

In May 2012, an alliance of global conservation groups proposed the designation of a network of 19 MPAs covering more than 40% of the Southern Ocean. The Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) identified the areas based on previous conservation planning analyses in the region and new research. The network would be designed to protect critical large-scale Southern Ocean ecosystem processes, as well as a wide and representative range of habitats. The report Antarctic Ocean Legacy: A Vision for Circumpolar Protection is at www.antarcticocean.org/pdf/circum/11241-AOA-Circumpolar-Report-FINAL.pdf .

The AOA proposal aims to influence CCAMLR, the intergovernmental body responsible for managing Antarctica’s marine living resources, which is engaged in a year-long process to plan a network of MPAs in the region. CCAMLR (www.ccamlr.org ) has called on its member states to submit detailed proposals. AOA includes Greenpeace, WWF, and other groups, and receives support from Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson as well as other funders (www.antarcticocean.org ).

France releases strategy to guide overseas MPA network

France’s Council of Ministers has released a national strategy for the planning and management of MPAs in the country’s overseas territories. It follows France’s first national MPA strategy, released in 2007, which focused on MPAs in home waters.

The result of two years of consultation, the new strategy aims to help France reach its national objective of covering 20% of its waters in MPAs by 2020. Currently 11% of French waters are in MPAs. Owing in part to its overseas island territories, France has the second-largest EEZ in the world: 11 million km2.

The strategy document is in French and is at www.aires-marines.fr/Documentation/Strategie-nationale-pour-la-creation-et-la-gestion-des-aires-marines-protegees

8% of US waters in MPAs; most sites allow fishing

An analysis of US marine protected areas by the National MPA Center indicates that 8% of the country’s waters are in MPAs focused on conserving natural or cultural resources. In most MPAs in the US, fishing is allowed: nearly nine out of every ten US MPAs are multiple-use. The analysis, based on data from the national MPA Inventory, is at www.mpa.gov/pdf/helpful-resources/mpa_analysis_2012_0320.pdf .

As an indication of the multiple-use nature of many US marine protected areas, the National Marine Sanctuary Program is hosting a recreational fishing contest this year – the Sanctuary Classic – at four national marine sanctuaries: Channel Islands, Monterey Bay, Gray’s Reef, and the Florida Keys. Most (98%) of US national marine sanctuary waters are open to recreational fishing. More information on the fishing contest is at http://sanctuaryclassic.org .

NGO lodges complaint regarding government’s slow progress on MPA management plan

WWF-Canada has lodged a formal complaint with the Canadian government, citing the government’s lack of progress on developing a management plan for an MPA designated four years ago. The site in question is the Bowie Seamount Marine Protected Area, a 6131-km2 MPA located near the western edge of Canada’s Pacific EEZ. The NGO’s petition also asked the government to examine whether it is honoring its commitment to developing a national system of MPAs under the country’s Oceans Act.

Under Canadian law, the government has roughly four months from receipt of the petition to respond. This is believed to be the first time the government has been petitioned with regard to developing a management plan for a particular MPA. A copy of the petition is at http://awsassets.wwf.ca/downloads/cesdbowieseamountpetition_final.pdf . For information on the Marine Protected Areas program of Oceans Canada, go to www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/oceans/marineareas-zonesmarines/mpa-zpm/index-eng.htm .

Another NGO, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), released a report in May 2012 assessing the federal government’s progress in designating new MPAs. The report Is Canada on track to create 12 new marine protected areas by December 2012? is at www.cpaws.org/uploads/pubs/oceans/OceanProgressReport_May142012_Final.pdf .

Reports: FAO case studies on MPAs in developing nations

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has released two reports with case studies from developing nations on the use of marine protected areas:

  • Marine protected areas: country case studies on policy, governance and institutional issues
    Examining opportunities and challenges for MPAs in Brazil, India, Palau and Senegal.
  • Governance of marine protected areas in the least-developed countries: Case studies from West Africa
    Illustrating the challenges of MPA governance in Mauritania, Senegal, and Guinea-Bissau.

iPhone app educates public on marine World Heritage sites

The UNESCO World Heritage Centre has released a free iPhone app to educate the public on marine World Heritage sites worldwide. The Marine World Heritage app provides information on each of 45 sites, as well as links to related videos, websites, and the Facebook page of the Marine World Heritage Programme. To download, go to http://mpapps.net/MarineWH .