Multiple new tools, publications, principles, and guidelines to aid MPA practitioners were announced at the IUCN World Conservation Congress (WCC), held 5-14 October in Barcelona, Spain. Convened every four years to discuss solutions to conservation challenges, the WCC produced a consensus statement on speeding up MPA designations, new web-based tools for the field, a revised definition for the term protected area, several guidebooks on planning and management, and a set of principles for governing the high seas. More than 8000 delegates attended from governments, NGOs, businesses, and academia.

In terms of its policy-making aspects, the WCC is unlike any other forum, says Kristina Gjerde, high seas policy advisor to the IUCN. “It is participatory, in that IUCN members from governments and all walks of civil society are entitled to table motions for adoption,” says Gjerde. “It is democratic in that decisions are based on majority rule, not the lowest common denominator that often prevails under consensus-based decision-making processes. And it is proactive: policy planning at the Congress benefits from the eyes, ears, and knowledge base of thousands of participants, each alert to new issues and threats.”

This issue of MPA News reports on some of the main MPA-related developments from the meeting. We will continue to report on other advances and lessons from the WCC in future issues.

Consensus statement on MPAs

IUCN members overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling on governments to accelerate their progress toward meeting global MPA goals. These goals include the establishment of representative national and regional systems of MPAs by 2012, a target set four years ago by parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (MPA News 5:9). Analysis has indicated that at the current rate of MPA designations, global progress will be too slow to meet this goal (MPA News 7:5).

The WCC resolution on MPAs is wide-ranging – a combination of several previously separate motions. “Among the resolution’s noteworthy aspects, I would say three are particularly important,” says Scott Smith, deputy director of The Nature Conservancy’s Global Marine Team. Smith, who was involved in negotiations on the resolution, lists the important aspects as:

  1. A call on countries to accelerate their designation of MPAs and MPA networks, while recognizing the efforts of many governments and their partners in this area;
  2. A call for IUCN and the World Commission on Protected Areas to prepare a regular, transparent process for reporting commitments and progress toward designating MPAs and networks, as well as significant remaining gaps in MPA coverage. Such reports are to be included in the Second International Marine Protected Areas Congress, to be held in May 2009 (, and the Tenth Conferences of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); and
  3. A call for the CBD to expand its technical support, training, and development of tools and resources related to MPAs. “This opens the door to include MPAs more explicitly in ongoing support programs provided by the CBD and its partners under the Program of Work on Protected Areas,” says Smith.

The unofficial final text of the resolution, subject to change, is available here in PDF form. The official text is expected to be posted on the WCC website in the coming weeks (, following translation from English into other languages. Several other motions at the Congress also mentioned MPAs. A partial list includes motions 28 (on the Eastern Tropical Pacific), 29 (Mediterranean Monk Seal), 36 and 37 (whales), 43 (areas beyond national jurisdiction), 45 and 47 (Antarctica), 46 (Arctic), 59 (Latin American Congress on Protected Areas), 68 (fishing in the Mediterranean), and 133 (private protected areas). Text of these motions as well as voting results are at

“Protect Planet Ocean” website, and MPA layer on Google Earth

The Marine Program of the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA – Marine) launched new web tools to provide practitioners and the general public with greater information on MPAs worldwide. One is a new website, Protect Planet Ocean (, and the other is a special MPA layer created for the Google Earth computer application, a virtual globe program with satellite images of the Earth’s surface:

Protect Planet Ocean

The website represents a collaboration between WCPA – Marine and several public and private institutions. It aims to bring “the best information on marine protected areas to a global audience,” including:

  • Basic facts on each of nearly 5000 MPAs worldwide, and the ability for practitioners and the public to upload more information, photos, videos, and other content for each MPA (see box at the end of this article, “How to upload content to the Protect Planet Ocean website…”);
  • A “Commitment Tracker” that allows users to review the various commitments made by individual nations regarding MPA designation;
  • Descriptions of WCPA – Marine regional activities;
  • Discussions of the science of no-take marine reserves;
  • Explanations on why oceans and MPAs are important;
  • General multimedia content on MPAs, including videos and podcasts;
  • Links to useful MPA-related publications; and
  • Tips on how to get involved in MPAs.

“This website is the first multimedia directory not only of where we’re protecting the oceans, but why we’re protecting the oceans,” says Dan Laffoley, marine vice chair of WCPA. “We used to be able to ‘see’ only the MPAs that could afford a nice website. Now we’ve opened the Web to all MPAs. Think of it as nearly 5000 mini-websites with full multimedia capability. It’s a new dynamic, and there’s plenty more to come.”

In addition, Protect Planet Ocean features “Oceans Live”, in which live video from an underwater camera inside a Belizean MPA (Glover’s Reef Atoll World Heritage Area) is streamed directly to the Web. Produced in association with National Geographic, it is the first live-streaming, open ocean video that is available to the public. The website also incorporates The Official MPA Blog (operated by WCPA – Marine) and offers a continuous scan of MPA-related headlines from online newspapers worldwide.

The website was developed and populated in just 11 months. “This shows that the global MPA community, working together, can do big things quickly,” says Laffoley. Opportunities to support the website include sponsorships of individual pages or the entire portal, as well as purchases from the website’s online gift shop.

MPA Layer in Google Earth

Incorporated in the Protect Planet Ocean website is a new MPA layer for Google Earth, showing where each of the world’s MPAs is located. (You will need to install the Google Earth Plug-In software to allow this MPA layer to work on your computer. Directions for the installation are on the Protect Planet Ocean website.) “As marine issues go high-tech, you can now explore and get involved in protecting seas without even getting wet or leaving your home,” says Laffoley. “By using the power and reach of Google Earth Outreach and the global network and expertise of WCPA – Marine, we are now able to provide the world’s first multimedia experience of how we are protecting our seas, and put critical ocean issues in front of hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Once we have people’s attention, we hope by involvement to move them from awareness to action to protect planet ocean.” For more information, contact Laffoley at

Launch of redeveloped World Database on Protected Areas

The newly redeveloped World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) was launched in Barcelona, and is completely redesigned following two years of investment. The new online tool ( includes features to increase access to maps, spatial files, metadata, and other information on the world’s terrestrial and marine protected areas, including viewing in Google Earth or downloading data in various formats. Additional features aid the updating of data and quality control. This marks a continuing effort by the UN Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) to improve the functionality of the interface.

The MPA Global database, created as part of the Sea Around Us Project at the University of British Columbia (MPA News 9:8), has now been incorporated into the WDPA, says Kristian Teleki, head of UNEP-WCMC’s One Ocean Programme. To ease access for practitioners to marine data, says Teleki, the WDPA will soon have a dedicated marine portal, called WDPA-Marine. UNEP-WCMC is working with Protect Planet Ocean on developing an automated transfer of information between the WDPA and, so that any updates to information will appear on both systems. For more information, contact Colleen Corrigan of UNEP-WCMC at

Guidebook: Establishing Resilient Marine Protected Area Networks – Making It Happen

In Barcelona, WCPA – Marine launched a new guidebook on building effective MPA networks: Establishing Resilient Marine Protected Area Networks – Making It Happen. It is the full technical version of what was first released in 2007 as a shorter guide with a similar title (described in MPA News 8:10). This version collects the knowledge and views of experts in MPA planning and management, with advice on scaling up from individual sites to a network approach, and best practices on design and implementation. Case studies of MPA networks in Papua New Guinea, Palau, the Philippines, and the U.S. are featured. “This guide represents a global first in capturing the emerging experience on building MPA networks,” says Laffoley of WCPA – Marine.

He also notes the word “resilient” in the title of the guidebook. “We need to be planning not just how to make your network effective,” he says. “We also need to ensure it has long-term stability in relation to threats such as climate change.” The guidebook provides several tips on planning for resilience and resistance to climate change, based on various physical factors of sites. The publication is available online at

Launch of WCPA – Marine Plan of Action

Also launched at the WCC was the WCPA – Marine Plan of Action, intended to guide the organization’s work in coming years. Towards Networks of Marine Protected Areas: The MPA Plan of Action for IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas sets several goals for the organization and an agenda for meeting them. It is available online at

New principles for high seas governance

IUCN released a set of 10 principles to guide governance of the high seas – areas of the ocean outside of national jurisdiction. The guidelines, drafted earlier this year and refined through discussions among experts, note that while the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea sets out the overall legal framework for ocean activities, it does not provide a comprehensive policy and enforceable management framework to govern the high seas. The patchy laws that do exist are largely based on 17th-century principles of open access, ignoring many of the environmental principles on land or in national waters.

The 10 principles are conditional freedom of activity on the high seas; protection and preservation of the marine environment; international cooperation; a science-based approach to management; public availability of information; transparent and open decision-making processes; the precautionary approach; the ecosystem approach; sustainable and equitable use; and responsibility of states as stewards of the global marine environment. A document with details on these principles is available at .

Says IUCN high seas advisor Kristina Gjerde, “My goals at the WCC with respect to our high seas work were twofold: 1) to further political will and action to develop representative networks of MPAs, and 2) to foster international commitment to wider reforms in high seas management and governance. With IUCN’s status as an intergovernmental organization and a permanent observer seat at the United Nations, the results will directly inform a wide range of international fora such as the United Nations General Assembly, the CBD, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, where critical debates about high seas policy, principles, and tools such as MPAs are underway.” For more information, contact Gjerde at

Developments for Mediterranean MPAs

The Mediterranean region received particular focus at the WCC, due in part to the meeting’s location in Barcelona. Developments for Mediterranean MPA practitioners included:

New report: Status of Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean Sea

Published jointly by IUCN, WWF-France, and the Network of Managers of Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean (MedPAN), this publication provides a baseline survey of MPAs in the region, including their surface area, habitats, management features, and threats faced. The report, the first of its kind in the Mediterranean, concludes that the current regional MPA system is not representative or coherent, and management needs to be more effective. The report is available at

MedPAN becomes permanent organization

Coordinated until now by WWF-France, MedPAN announced it would become a permanent, independent organization. Members will be management bodies of Mediterranean MPAs, and the first founding members (from Egypt, France, and Italy) joined during the Congress. Other organizations involved with MPA designation, management, or networking may join as partners. The MedPAN Charter is available

Launch of AdriaPAN, the network of marine and coastal protected areas in the Adriatic

An offspring of MedPAN, AdriaPAN aims to network Adriatic MPA managers, aid in transfer of knowledge, and promote research on MPAs. A charter to form AdriaPAN was signed in late September, and the new network was announced at the Barcelona meeting. The charter is at A presentation from the WCC on AdriaPAN, as well as other presentations on Mediterranean MPAs, are at

Egypt joins MedPAN and ACCOBAMS

In Barcelona, the Egyptian government committed to joining MedPAN and ACCOBAMS – the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area.

Report: Guidelines for Applying Protected Area Management Categories

Launched in Barcelona, this report offers guidance on how to assign IUCN’s six newly revised categories of management to marine and terrestrial protected areas – ranging from “Strict Nature Reserve” to “Protected Area with Sustainable Use of Natural Resources”. The report represents the culmination of a multi-year effort to refine the IUCN categories system (MPA News 8:10). Among its developments is a new official IUCN definition for protected area:

“A clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.”

Notably, the report states this definition now supersedes the official IUCN definition for “marine protected area” used since 1999 (“Any area of intertidal or subtidal terrain, together with its overlying water and associated flora, fauna, historical and cultural features, which has been reserved by law or other effective means to protect part or all of the enclosed environment”). The report acknowledges that switching to the new generic protected area definition will lose the old MPA definition’s specific reference to the marine environment. However, says IUCN, the switch ensures “a clearer demarcation between conservation-focused sites and those where the primary purpose is extractive uses – i.e., fisheries management areas. It does not preclude the inclusion of relevant fishery protection zones but they need to be consistent with the new definition to be included as an MPA by IUCN.”

Next month’s MPA News will examine how this change in definition could impact MPA planners and managers, as well as how the report attempts to address some of the peculiar challenges of categorizing MPAs. The report on applying the management categories is available at

Report: Sacred Natural Sites – Guidelines for Protected Area Managers

Debuted at the WCC, this new guidebook from IUCN offers advice for managers on how to improve protection of sacred natural sites within and near protected areas. Offering six general principles and 16 case studies from around the world, the publication summarizes experience to date in recognizing, planning, and managing sacred natural sites. The guidelines are intended to apply to the sacred natural sites of all faiths, both indigenous and “mainstream”. Although the case studies pertain to terrestrial protected areas, there are many instances of sacred natural areas in marine and coastal environments (MPA News 7:6) and the publication’s guidance applies to them as well. A working version of the guidebook was published online in 2006. The new report is online at

BOX: How to upload content to the Protect Planet Ocean website and the Google Earth MPA layer

The new Protect Planet Ocean website and the MPA layer on Google Earth allow practitioners and the general public to upload data, photos, videos, and other content corresponding to individual MPAs. Below are directions on how to do this:

  1. Go to and click on “iMPAs” at the top of the page.
  2. In the search box, type the name of the MPA in which you’re interested.
  3. Scan the search results to find the MPA you want and click its link.
  4. On your MPA’s page, click the “edit” button at upper right.
  5. On the following page, add data, videos, photos, or other content as indicated.