Over the last four years, the Networks Twinning initiative has made substantial strides in cultivating an extensive network of MPA manager networks worldwide. This progress has been marked by the inclusion of new partners eager to contribute to this inclusive community. Among the recent additions are RedGolfo in the Gulf of Mexico, NEAMPAN in North-East Asia and the Ministry of Environment of Uruguay.
Effective learning exchanges
A standout achievement of the Networks Twinning has been the successful implementation of learning exchanges. These brought together diverse networks and individuals, facilitating structured discussions on various topics. Two impactful exchanges took place this year, before and after the project’s Global Conference in Tarragona, Spain. The first centred around a network effectiveness evaluation framework, which was developed under the twinning and featuring self-evaluation questions. The second comprised an in-depth dialogue between RAMPAO and MedPAN, addressing network structures, operational strategies, challenges, communication management, fundraising and fostering potential collaborations.
Bringing the voice of managers to the international stage
The Networks Twinning initiative played a pivotal role in empowering MPA managers to collectively amplify their voice on the global stage during prominent international conferences and events. This platform significantly enhanced their visibility and recognition of their role implementing key aspects within international policy frameworks. By convening together, managers participated in significant gatherings such as IMPAC5 and COP28 of UNFCCC, strategically organising and participating in an array of side events. These activities not only drew attention but also underscored the value of MPAs and MPA networks working together.
Advancing global collaboration
The final annual workshop of the Twinning convened in Puerto Madryn, Argentina, hosted by long-time partner the Patagonian Forum and focused on establishing the groundwork for a global network of MPA manager networks. Leveraging the momentum of IMPAC5 and the Global Conference, the workshop moved from concepts to practical considerations. It shaped the network’s vision, mission, goals and objectives, and culminated in a preliminary draft document. It also addressed challenges, such as the need for fundraising and streamlined coordination to ensure sustainability. The roadmap ahead will be to consult all partners to gather vital inputs for the project’s progression.
Recent initiatives and future outlook
In December, the Networks Twinning organised a well-received webinar about the Marine Turtle Management Guidelines. Produced by MedPAN, the guidelines have been translated into Spanish and Portuguese by the Ocean Governance project under the Networks Twinning, and provide for the inclusion of marine turtles in MPA management plans.
Beyond specific initiatives, the success of this Twinning lies in the vast network of partnerships established globally, including South-East Asian regional partners the Coral Triangle Initiative and the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity. These connections are poised not just to endure but to thrive, fostering hopes of further expansion and fortified collaborations in the foreseeable future.
A core aim of the Marine Mammal Twinning was to “provide MPA managers with a toolbox (a self-assessment tool to ‘track’ the integration of marine mammals into MPA management plans and a checklist)” whilst “building the technical capacities of MPA managers by sharing knowledge, expertise and good practice”. By creating a peer network to aid other MPA managers, the Twinning has continually supported and engaged with Twinning Partners, key collaborators, and managers, to support the application of the Toolkit, and namely the Self-Assessment Tool. Since the Twinning’s inception, the Marine Mammals Management Toolkit has been disseminated to a wide range of managers, practitioners, and stakeholders through technical workshops, international events and online webinars. Through these efforts, the Toolkit was showcased across 50 dedicated sessions to over 2,500 attendees, leading to the uptake of the Self-Assessment Tool in over 25 MPAs across 19 different countries. And this uptake continues to increase, which in turn requires support and resources to aid managers in the use of the Toolkit, and the Self-Assessment Tool.
Online tutorial videos as permanent supporting resources
Much of this support to date has been provided directly by the Twinning. However, with a recognition of the need for legacy and permanent supporting resources, the Twinning has developed a series of online tutorial videos that aim contains several individual modules (videos) that function as a guide to the use of the Toolkit, with a specific focus on the application and interpretation of the SAT and SAT-LITE:
Introduction to the Marine Mammals Management Toolkit
Module 1 introduces the Marine Mammals Management Toolkit, its four core components (Factsheets, Self-Assessment Tool, Community of Practice and Good Practices) and why it is important – highlighting the benefits of its use to MPA and marine mammal practitioners.
The Self-Assessment Tool (SAT)
This instructional video guides users through the use and implementation of the self-assessment tool, otherwise known as the SAT. The SAT has been designed and created for the use of MPA managers and stakeholders, to understand the extent to which marine mammals are included in marine management plans.
Understanding and Interpreting Your Results
This video guides users through the results from the self-assessment and provides guidance and support on how to understand and interpret such results, including the use of factsheets and other resources from the Marine Mammals Management Toolkit.
The SAT-LITE has been created for MPA managers, stakeholder and any other relevant parties to preliminary assess the extent to which marine mammals are included in their management plans. The SAT-LITE can be used as a pre-assessment before undertaking the full-version of the Self-Assessment Tool, or as an intermediary step throughout the Monitoring and Evaluation process of an MPA’s management plan. The module demonstrates the usability of the SAT-LITE, defining its linkages with the SAT and other components in the Toolkit.
In October 2023, the Marine Mammal Twinning hosted its final Partner’s Workshop in collaboration with Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (MA, USA).
Future of the Marine Mammals Toolkit
Beyond these online resources, and with the continued legacy of the Marine Mammals Management Toolkit, the Toolkit will continue to be supported, updated and disseminated due to its vital role for not only managers and practitioners, but as a mechanism for countries to implement their international commitments including the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. The Toolkit will be hosted via its central platform at www.marine-mammals.info and those interested in learning more, utilising the components of the toolkit, or require support to apply the Self-Assessment Tool, can use the “Contact Us” page to contact the Toolkit developers.
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, NoisePollution, 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.