In our November-December 2013 issue, MPA News profiled two programs that aim to recognize (or certify) good management of MPAs worldwide, site-by-site – the IUCN Green List of Well-Managed Protected Areas, and the Global Ocean Refuge System developed by the Marine Conservation Institute (MPA News 15:3).

While those programs remain in development, a regional recognition system for well-managed MPAs is already underway in Southeast Asia and Melanesia. Launched in August 2013, the Coral Triangle Marine Protected Area System Framework and Action Plan (CTMPAS) aims to foster the development of a network of effectively managed MPAs across the region’s six countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste). The recognition system considers a range of factors from biodiversity criteria, to governance, to the fulfillment of fisheries and climate adaptation needs, to connectivity linkages within the region, and more.

Developed over five years within the multilateral Coral Triangle Initiative for Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security, the CTMPAS provides four categories for the region’s MPAs:

  • Category 1, Recognized CTMPAS Sites:
    Sites that meet the minimum data requirements to be included in the Coral Triangle MPA Database.
  • Category 2, Effectively Managed Regional Sites:
    Existing sites that meet agreed minimum criteria for design and management effectiveness as specified in the CTMPAS Framework.
  • Category 3, Priority Development Sites:
    Sites of ecological, governance, or socioeconomic importance that are not yet effectively managed and thus need additional assistance, or new sites added to the system (as recommended by a regional gap analysis) because they make a specific contribution to the regional system as a whole.
  • Category 4, Flagship Sites:
    Large, already effectively managed sites that have ecological, governance, or socioeconomic importance to the region.

The basic level of recognition, Category 1, has already been populated with 931 sites across the region. Below, we talk about the MPA system with Alan White of The Nature Conservancy, who serves as technical adviser to the Coral Triangle Initiative MPA Technical Working Group.

MPA News: Category 1 for the CTMPAS has already been populated. When will sites be approved for the other categories?

Alan White: Category 2 is not yet populated because each country has to develop its internal management effectiveness review system, and only Philippines and Indonesia have done this so far. For Categories 3 and 4, the nominations from each of the countries are being submitted this month and next [February-March 2014] so that by May 2014, each country will have Category 3 and/or 4 sites in the System. These will be launched at the World Coral Reef Conference in Manado, Indonesia, in May.

MPA News: Under the CTMPAS Framework and Action Plan, what factors go into determining whether a site is “effectively managed” (Category 2)?

White: In brief, Category 2 defers to the national systems in place that are the equivalent of the MPA Management Effectiveness and Assessment Tool, or MEAT, adopted in the Philippines ( The MEAT goes beyond just meeting the objectives of a given MPA. It focuses on good governance and has four levels of attainment. Those levels, in turn, are communicated through about 40 questions that are specific to MPA planning, governance, design, and ultimate sustainability. Each country is developing a similar system.

MPA News: In the CTMPAS, Category 1 and 2 sites are decided by in-country entities, while Category 3 and 4 sites are decided by a regional committee. What is the reasoning behind breaking it up this way?

White: The reason Categories 1 and 2 are national-level decisions is so the diversity among the countries can more easily be accommodated. Each country will develop its own system, based on the basic criteria set out in the CTMPAS Framework. This allows the CTMPAS to work through national and local governments and not be a top-down system, which in the end would be almost impossible to implement and police.

In contrast, for Categories 3 and 4, a regional review process will be followed since these levels focus on sites of truly regional value, either existing or potential.

For more information:

Alan White, The Nature Conservancy, Honolulu, Hawaii, US. Email:

The CTMPAS Framework and Action Plan, including detailed descriptions of the four categories, is at

The Coral Triangle MPA Database (part of the Coral Triangle Atlas) is at