In February, delegates from 161 nations met in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for biannual talks on strategies to conserve global biodiversity. The meeting – the Seventh Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP-7) – featured decisions on international protected-area planning and the conservation of marine and coastal ecosystems, among other items. MPA News invited Bud Ehler, Vice-Chair (Marine) for the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, to explain the implications for MPAs:

By Bud Ehler, IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas

The new protected areas objective adopted by the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on 20 February sets governments on the path to translate World Summit on Sustainable Development commitments (MPA News 4:3) into operational programs to conserve biodiversity. The Parties adopted a program of work to significantly reduce the current rate of biodiversity loss. This includes establishing and maintaining comprehensive, effectively managed, and ecologically representative national and regional systems of MPAs by 2012. Emphasis was also placed on strengthening the management of protected areas and ensuring that their costs and benefits are equitably shared.

On the subject of funding, the Parties called on the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to further develop its portfolio on protected areas toward “comprehensive, representative and effectively managed protected area systems addressing system-wide needs.” (The GEF is an independent financial organization that provides grants to developing countries for projects that benefit the global environment and promote sustainable livelihoods.) Donors were encouraged to increase support to address the long-term financial sustainability of protected areas, to “help achieve the target of securing, by 2008, sufficient resources to meet the costs to effectively implement and manage national and regional systems of protected areas.”

The Parties also adopted a strong program of work for marine and coastal biodiversity, updating the 1998 program. Although decisions were deferred on proposed targets and timetables, the Parties agreed to a national-level framework for marine and coastal protected areas (MCPAs) that includes the key contributions of multiple-use MCPAs and “representative MCPAs where extractive uses are excluded”, nested within broader ocean-governance frameworks such as integrated coastal management and sustainable fisheries.

Challenged by concerns raised by NGOs over the impacts of high-seas bottom trawling on fragile deep-sea ecosystems, including seamounts, the Parties to the CBD called on the UN General Assembly to take urgent action to eliminate destructive practices adversely impacting such vulnerable ecosystems beyond national jurisdiction.

For more information: Charles N. (Bud) Ehler, Director, International Program Office, NOAA/National Ocean Service (N/IP), 1315 East-West Highway, room 5637, Silver Spring, MD 20910, USA. Tel: +1 301 713 3080; E-mail: