We have had a challenging 12 months in the Ocean Governance for MPA Managers Project, especially in light of the previously unforeseen restrictions the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on us. However, we are pleased to say that the project has been making good progress using highly adaptive approaches, focusing on virtual meetings and extensive cooperation with local partner and stakeholder networks.
Nevertheless we have been delayed, and in light of the situation we are in discussion with the European Commission on the possibility of extending the project for a further year. This will give us the opportunity to fully develop the restoration plans and activities in South-East Asia. Even though our meetings in 2021 will continue to be online, we hope that the extension will give us the chance to meet in person and further develop our engagement for a more sustainable and comprehensive approach to MPA management.
In the meantime, we are working on three desk studies linked to the Twinning Projects – on MPA management effectiveness, on coastal and marine conservation around the Atlantic, and on important marine mammal areas – and will provide further information about these in subsequent newsletters.
A final change to communicate to you is the introduction of myself, James Walsh, as the new Project Director of the Ocean Governance project, with Puri Canals as Technical Coordinator. We are supported by our fantastic team of technical experts, composed, as you know, of Jean-Jacques Goussard, Francis Staub, Veda Santiadji, Klaas J. Teule and Charles Besançon at its core.
I would like to thank you for your continuous support, and invite you to take a look at the news of our latest activities. The rest of 2021 will be busy and we will be counting on you, so do not hesitate to reach out to our team with any suggestions, questions or comments.
One of the main features of the Ocean Governance project is its enabling of continued and new networking opportunities for marine protected area (MPA) managers and other institutions. In each phase of the project to date, the motivation and commitment of partners has been (and continues to be) outstanding, whether for the 3 established twinning projects (focused on MPA networks, resilience, and marine mammals) or for the upcoming collaboration on marine turtles, whose first steps the project is enabling. Virtual meetings have been maintained for each of the twinnings, with partners eager to work through the pandemic as best they can until circumstances change.
“Despite the difficulties faced in 2020 and 2021, partners are really committed to the project,” observed Technical Coordinator of the Ocean Governance project Ms. Puri Canals.
This positive engagement with the project runs through most of the networking activities and is related not only to the twinning projects but to other areas too.
“[Partners] are sharing with us and, therefore, with each other, their own experiences and interests in how to overcome the pandemic situation,” she added.
The number of partners has increased for this new phase of the project, to include new regions of the Atlantic Ocean and also South-East Asia, where some of the project’s main activities will take place.
The aim is that all partners meet for a joint workshop and conference in late 2021 or 2022, depending on the pandemic situation. The experts team, the contractor and the European Commission are all keen to enable this face-to-face meeting as soon as is feasible: ocean governance, after all, is about people and their shared experiences. We will keep you posted.
The Tun Mustapha Park (Malaysia) and Derawan Islands Marine Protected Area (Indonesia) in the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion have been approved by the EU Steering Committee as critical areas for coral restoration, selected for their high biodiversity conservation value and significant economic contribution to local communities as well as regional and global markets. Despite challenges posed by movement restrictions and park closures due to the global pandemic, restoration plans are being drafted and are being reviewed for implementation after several rounds of close (often virtual) consultations with national and local stakeholders.
Together with Malaysia’s Sabah Parks and Indonesia’s Marine and Fisheries Agency of East Kalimantan, restoration approaches that are new to these sites will be deployed, including using rockpile and metal frames. Other planned activities include awareness raising, stakeholder engagement through public and private partnerships, and behaviour change to reduce threats. The later will be achieved by strengthening the inclusion and involvement of local communities and local businesses (e.g. tour operators, dive shops, hotels, etc.) to enhance long-term protection of their natural resources.
As we kickstart the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration and the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development in 2021, the EU Ocean Governance Project is supporting a science-based approach in ecosystem restoration based on twin pillars of socio-economic and ecological criteria and goals. Together with scientists and expert practitioners, the park managers and communities from TMP and Derawan Islands will learn various methods for coral restoration, share lessons learned and provide case studies that can help replication and scaling of restoration success.
Managers of marine protected areas and other stakeholders involved in marine mammals conservation can now access an online toolkit to support their work protecting marine mammals, developed within the framework of the Ocean Governance project.
The toolkit is comprised of factsheets, examples of good practice and a self-assessment tool, and is designed to support the integration of marine mammals into MPA management plans. It has been developed by participants in the marine mammals twinning project, a partnership of MPA managers in countries around the Atlantic basin and established in a first phase of the current project (starting in 2016), which aims to boost the capacity of MPA managers to enhance marine mammals conservation.
For now, there are 23 factsheets on topics relevant for marine mammal conservation. For instance, one is on whale and dolphin-watching tourism covering potential impacts and threats to the mammals due to these activities, recommending measures to address the threats and linking to useful resources and examples of good practice. Another factsheet describes factors that affect the number of vessel strikes in a given area, strategies to reduce strikes and useful links such as to an Australian government national strategy for reducing vessel strikes on cetaceans and other marine megafauna.
The toolkit factsheets cover topics on research and monitoring, outreach and engagement, management framework and management effectiveness as well as activities and threats such as those described above.
The self-assessment tool comprises questions related to the factsheet topics. Answers are given a numerical score, enabling MPA managers to effectively self-assess the extent to which marine mammals are included in their management plans.
The toolkit including the 23 factsheets can be found on the new marine mammals platform (link below), an evolving online resource that will be continuously updated over the course of the project. Comments and suggestions are welcome. Please do not hesitate to contact us.
Marine mammals online platform: https://marine-mammals.info/home
The resilience twinning web platform, in its initial version, is now operational online. The platform was presented to twinning partners during an online meeting on 9 March 2021 and a presentation to networks twinning partners is planned later in March under the aegis of the West African MPAs network.
The platform aims to bring together MPA managers around resilience issues, whether pertaining to the resilience of MPAs themselves or to the contribution of MPAs to the resilience of nearby coastal territories. The platform includes sections on news, information about events and capacity-building opportunities, recent scientific and technical publications addressing resilience and restoration topics, relevant websites and good practices.
It also provides full access to the R-SAT (Resilience Self-Assessment Tool). Resilience capacity assessment sessions using the tool are already underway in West Africa. Twinning partners will now contribute to the dissemination of the web platform and the toolkit.
This platform is intended to evolve, and has been designed with a focus on interactivity, allowing users to post and share different content. A video presentation is being prepared, and webinars to introduce the platform and learn about the R-SAT tool will be scheduled soon.
Resilience online platform: https://coastal-resilience.online
Image: Resilience Platform. Credit: Ocean Governance
Extract of R-SAT results. Credit: Ocean Governance