Representatives from Canada, Mexico, and the US met in November to discuss plans for a project to improve information exchange and build conservation capacity among marine protected areas in the three countries. Called the North American MPA Network, the project is intended to link these nationsí MPAs electronically via the World-Wide Web (WWW) and develop cross-cutting conservation initiatives among MPA sites.

The North American MPA Network will allow MPAs to benefit from coordinated conservation efforts, sharing of lessons learned, and increased access to information on emerging threats, novel management strategies, and funding or outreach activities.

The project meeting, held November 14-16 in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico, involved fifteen representatives from each of the three nations. Participants included representatives from government agencies, academic and research institutions, NGOs, and the private sector (ecotourism industry). “We developed the bare bones of a plan to further international cooperation around MPAs in North America,” said meeting facilitator Julia Gardner of Dovetail Consulting. “This plan will be elaborated in the near future.”

Action plan

The project was formed under the auspices of the Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC), an organization established by Canada, Mexico, and the US in 1994 to address transboundary environmental concerns in the context of increasing trade under the North American Free Trade Agreement. The CEC is providing the seed funding (US $100,000) to develop cooperative conservation initiatives and establish the WWW-based MPA network in the coming year.

The meeting results, including an action plan, will be posted on the CEC web site in Spring 2000. According to the CEC, the project action plan could include such activities as establishing regional pilot projects and developing common standards for evaluating MPA effectiveness. “The next big step right now is getting the action plan done,” said the CECís Martha Rosas, who headed the meetingís tri-national steering committee.

In coming years, project leaders intend to initiate a gap analysis of North Americaís marine and coastal areas to identify priorities for coastal and marine conservation on the continent.

Additional information on the North American MPA Network project — including a background paper on MPAs in North America, with a review of initiatives and issues — is available on the CEC web site at

For more information:

Hans Herrmann (project coordinator), Commission for Environmental Cooperation, Conservation and Biodiversity Division, 393, St-Jacques Street West, Suite 2000, Montreal, Quebec H2Y 1N9, Canada. Tel: +1 514 350 4340; Fax: +1 514 350 4314; E-mail:

Julia Gardner, Dovetail Consulting, Inc., 105-2590 Granville St., Vancouver, BC V6H 3H1, Canada. Tel: +1 604 878 1148; E-mail:

Conference Calendar

14-17 February 2000 — Pacific Grove, California, US. “International Pelagic Shark Workshop.” Hosted by Ocean Wildlife Campaign, a coalition of six conservation groups. Web site:

6-9 March 2000 — Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. “Coast to Coast 2000: Beyond the Beach.” Organized by Victorian Coastal Council, Environment Australia, and others. Web site:

9-12 July 2000 — Portland, Oregon, US. “The Coastal Society 17th International Conference: Coasts at the Millennium.” Organized by The Coastal Society. Web site:

30 July – 2 August 2000 — Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. “First International Symposium on Deep Sea Corals: Science and Conservation of Deep Sea Corals.” E-mail: