More than 20 marine protected area (MPA) professionals joined a ‘training of trainers’ event organised by the Ocean Governance project’s Resilience twinning in Cancun, Mexico, from 5 to 7 October 2023. It followed similar capacity-building workshops in the USA, Brazil and Colombia in the past six months.
The training workshop was organised back-to-back with Mexico’s first national meeting of MPA managers, on 2-4 October, and hosted by the national protected areas commission (Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas, CONANP). The commission lent the resilience workshop considerable institutional support, buoyed by a prevailing political context that is favourable to scaling up conservation of marine ecosystems and strengthening MPA management in Mexico. The reasons for this dynamic became clear during the field trip.
The participants included 22 MPA managers, responsible for 31 MPAs on Mexico’s Atlantic and Pacific coasts. All were trained in using the resilience self-assessment tool (R-SAT).
For the Resilience partnership, Jean-Jacques Goussard and Lilian Wetzel led the training. They shared good practices employed in Brazil, Gabon, Mexico, Portugal, Senegal and the USA to deal with rapid changes linked to climate change and tourism. They presented the tool, along with feedback about it from other users. The participants were supported in a practical exercise to assess an MPA they managed, then to enter the data into the platform and finally to reflect and interpret the results graph produced.
The workshop accomplished its goals of training MPA managers to coach other managers and MPAs to conduct assessments in their regions. It contributed to consolidate the methodology applied in the R-SAT trainings, adjusting it to local needs. The feedback on the event was very positive, with broad appreciation for the tool’s value as well as suggestions for how it – and related training sessions – might be enhanced in the future.
The group also took part in a highly instructive field trip to a protected coral restoration site in Costa Occidental National Park of Isla Mujeres. Organised for the national meeting and supported in part by the OG project, the field trip saw participants take boats to dive to view a coral nursery offshore near Cancun. Coral species Acropora Palmata, Acropora Cervicornis and Acropora Prolifera are nursed at 8 metre depths in artificial structures formed of concrete bases and PVC tubes to hold the coral fragments. The nursery was set up to address the loss of coral colonies due to climate-induced bleaching and stony coral tissue loss disease (SCLTD), which is having downstream effects on coastal ecosystems and the tourism-based economy.
On 7 November, the Ocean Governance project presented the Global Network of MPAs initiative at the European Parliament in Brussels. The event was co-hosted by two Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) that are part of the European Parliament Intergroup on Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development: Stéphane Bijoux, Co-Chair of the Islands and Overseas Entities Working Group, and Catherine Chabaud, Co-Chair of the Ocean Governance Working Group.
The hybrid event was entitled ‘Global network of MPAs to support ocean governance’, and gave the Ocean Governance project the opportunity to present its insights and achievements, as well as its hopes to continue the work after December in a new format, supported by the relevant European institutions.
During his opening speech, MEP Stéphane Bijoux stated: “While the ocean produces half of the oxygen on our planet and hosts over 2 million species, it is also deeply affected by climate change. Against this challenge, the only one way to success lies in one word: cooperation. It is the key to achieve sustainable ocean governance.” Ambassador Olivier Poivre d’Arvor, Special Envoy of the President of the French Republic for the UN Ocean Conference France 2025, delivered a keynote speech. He noted that “by sharing experiences and best practices, by pooling knowledge and scientific information, MPA managers will improve the effectiveness and the sustainability of MPAs”, and thereby contribute to international agreements such as the Kunming-Montreal Protocol, the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) treaty, Sustainable Development Goal 14, and the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. A second keynote was delivered by Luis Molledo, Deputy Head of Unit for regional fisheries at the European Commission (DG MARE). He also mentioned the Kunming-Montreal and BBNJ agreements as major milestones in international ocean governance. “In this international context, networks of MPAs are key. They are key to help reach our objectives, because we need increased cooperation,” he emphasised.
The achievements and insights of the Ocean Governance project were presented by Eva Raute, Managing Director of GOPA Worldwide Consultants, Team Leader and President of MedPAN Puri Canals, MedPAN Policy Manager Carole Martinez and Regional Coordinator of the Patagonian Forum, Andrea Michelson. They all stressed the need for a global ‘Blue Belt’ connecting MPA manager networks worldwide. The event was also honoured by the attendance of Jihyun Lee from the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, who underlined the importance of sustaining the ‘Blue Belt’ initiative and its value for the implementation of the international agreements.
After an engaging Q&A session, the event concluded with MEP Catherine Chabaud’s closing remarks, emphasising the significance of continued collaboration for effective ocean governance. The Ocean Governance project extends its thanks to the European Parliament, especially MEPs Catherine Chabaud and Stéphane Bijoux for their initiative and support.
From October 16 – 18, the Marine Mammal Twinning hosted its final partners workshop, in collaboration with Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in Scituate (MA), United States of America.
In total, over 15 MPA managers, marine mammal experts, and researchers, representing 6 countries (USA, France, Mexico, Iceland, UK and Bermuda), convened for a packed 3 days of rich discussion. The workshop focused on the achievements and outputs of the Twinning and the Marine Mammals Management Toolkit as well as the Toolkit’s sustainability and legacy. The partners also sailed to Stellwagen Bank where they were joined by at least 5 humpback whales and calves, and had the opportunity to directly engage with Whale Watching outreach and engagement staff.
Continuing the discussions around legacy the Partners and Twinning team drafted a clear roadmap of activities until the end of 2023 and 2024 to ensure the Toolkit maximises its impact for the benefit of partners, managers, and marine mammals.
The Twinning partners were also joined by 7 local high school students to exchange and discuss the conservation of marine mammals, as well as for a screening of the newly released movie “Collision” by Ocean Soul Films, directed by Philip Hamilton.
The workshop concluded with a marine mammal knowledge exchange between the Partners, Stellwagen Staff, and online participants to discuss some of the key threats facing marine mammals and the solutions implemented by Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and other Marine Protected Areas around the world: Ship Strikes, Noise Pollution, Entanglement, Whale Watching. The exchange welcomed over 75 online participants, 9 Stellwagen staff, and the Twinning partners.
Marking the final workshop, the Twinning and Ocean Governance team would like to express our sincere gratitude for the commitment of all the partners and collaborators throughout the Twinning’s timeline, as well as their continued commitment for the conservation, management, and protection of marine mammals.
Each of the project’s twinnings – resilience, marine mammals and MPA manager networks – holds an annual workshop, an important event at which partners in each twinning get together to reflect on their collaborative efforts, achievements and plans. This year’s meetings are placing an emphasis on legacy and future plans in light of the project’s conclusion in December. Despite the constraint, there is widespread determination among all twinning members to sustain and nurture ongoing collaboration and partnerships.
The networks twinning, led by Dr. Puri Canals, chose a distinctive location for its annual meeting, from 18 to 20 October: Puerto Madryn in Patagonia, Argentina. This region holds special significance as the home to Alexa Sapoznikow and Manolo Aljandro Arias, long-standing partners of the twinning and active members of the Patagonian Forum, a global network of civil society organisations dedicated to preserving the seas of the Southern Cone (the southeastern Pacific, southwestern Atlantic and Southern Ocean). Puerto Madryn is well-known for its diverse wildlife on both land and sea, notably southern right whales, penguins and elephant seals.
Before exploring the sights of this beautiful location, the 10 on-site and 4 online participants devoted two days to intensive discussions and brainstorming sessions.
The first day of the annual workshop was dedicated to partner presentations and updates on various activities within the networks twinning. Nadia Bavo, representing the Ministry of Tourism and Protected Areas of Chubut province, southern Argentina, spoke at the opening of the meeting, declaring it an honour to host the event and showcase the region. She emphasised the importance of collaborative initiatives like the networks twinning, given the limitations of relying on state action for marine conservation, and she stressed the need for continuity to ensure ongoing success and expressed hope that new projects would be born out of the joint efforts.
Partner presentations focused on the twinning’s achievements in 2023. This included setting up a Global Alliance for Marine Protection with Conservation Trust Funds, to bolster and sustain effective management strategies through sustainable financing for MPAs. A planned event at the European Parliament (more information here) was highlighted as a significant opportunity to raise awareness of the networks twinning’s impact within European institutions.
An exciting development emerged as the twinning welcomed the creation of the Caribbean SPAW-RAC network. Lucie Labbouz represented the new network, which recently convened its inaugural meeting in La Romana, Dominican Republic, just days before the annual workshop.
The focus of the annual workshop’s second day was detailed discussions on the creation of a global network of MPA manager networks. Building on the gains and of IMPAC5 and the Global Conference, the twinning partners reiterated their desire to expand and sustain cooperation between networks at a global scale. The discussions progressed from conceptual ideas to practical considerations, explored the design of the network’s vision, mission, goals and objectives, and culminated in a draft document. They addressed the challenges of raising funding and streamlining coordination, both of which are essential to ensure the network’s sustainability. The way forward involves holding consultations with all partners to gather inputs for the project. Looking ahead, twinning coordinator Puri Canals and meeting facilitator Charles Besançon plan to develop a strategy based on a summary of the meeting and gather feedback from partners, ensuring a collaborative and inclusive approach as they move the initiative forward.
After two days of formal meetings, discussions continued during a field trip to Peninsula Valdes. The trip included whale watching, penguin and elephant seal sightings. The beauty of Patagonia was much appreciated, and all the networks twinning members were very grateful to their hosts, Alexa Sapoznikow and Manolo Aljandro Arias, for the invitation. As the last in-person meeting of the Ocean Governance project’s networks twinning , the gathering carried a sense of both closure and anticipation. Partners are looking ahead to focus on upcoming events, and acknowledging the work still to do before the year’s end.
One of the main objectives of the Ocean Governance project’s Networks Twinning is to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experiences among marine protected area (MPA) manager networks in different regions of the world. Learning exchanges have the effect of increasing the capacity of people working in and with the networks and thus promote more effective management.
To this end, the Ocean Governance project held a learning exchange for two MPA manager networks that deal with MPAs in Africa: the Mediterranean Protected Areas Network (MedPAN) and the Regional Network of Marine Protected Areas in West Africa (RAMPAO). MedPAN comprises member organisations and partners from 21 countries in the Mediterranean, while RAMPAO brings together MPA managers from 9 member countries in West Africa. The secretariat staff and board members of both networks are also predominantly French-speaking, which facilitated the exchange.
Following the project’s Global Conference, the two networks convened in Tarragona, Spain, on 23-24 September 2023 for a comprehensive two-day exchange. The discussions centered on how the networks are structured, operated, tackle challenges, manage communications and acquire funding. The networks also explored avenues for potential future collaboration.
Participants discussed the role of the networks, prioritising technical exchanges to support MPA management over political strategising. Participants from both networks mentioned the need to engage local communities in successful MPA management. They also explored their differences, including the duration of governance mandates and the composure of decision-making bodies. And they highlighted the importance of regular and effective communication between the Secretariat and the Board of Directors. Both MedPAN and RAMPAO agreed on the importance of having a strategic plan, validated by a general assembly, along with yearly action plans, for coherent and efficient operation.
In discussing communication methods – and context and budget constraints – participants highlighted the dynamic nature of social media for effective communication. The two networks agreed to work together in the future on certain communication elements, such as webinars and manager toolkits.
The networks shared and compared their capacity-building approaches, including thematic task forces, training guides, exchange visits, webinars and annual workshops. They expressed a commitment to collaborate further through joint webinars and capacity-building initiatives. And MedPAN and RAMPAO discovered that they face similar challenges related to sustainable financing and equitable distribution of funds among MPAs within the networks. This led to discussions on collaborative approaches, exploring trust funds and engaging the private sector as strategies to secure sustainable financing.
The learning exchange set the stage for strengthened collaboration and mutual learning between the MedPAN and RAMPAO networks. Their dialogue not only enhances their individual capacities but also sets a precedent for collective action in their network activities. In order to formalise their commitment to continue working together, the participants plan to develop a joint statement or declaration to this effect.