PRESS RELEASE: International conference to connect marine protected area managers across oceans

19 September. For immediate release

Tarragona, Spain – From 20-22 September 2023, the city of Tarragona will host a global conference bringing together marine protected area (MPA) managers and partners from around the world. Organised by the EU Ocean Governance project, the conference aims to strengthen cooperation between MPA managers and networks across different regions and support effective marine conservation globally.

For three days, over 70 participants from more than 30 countries in the Atlantic Ocean, Southeast Asia and beyond will share experiences and tools developed through the EU Ocean Governance project’s activities: restoring coral reefs and mangroves; building resilience to climate change impacts; protecting marine mammals; and promoting transboundary collaboration. The event will also be streamed online, allowing many more people to take part.

The conference will facilitate open discussions on how to sustain and expand project activities that connect local, national, regional and international ocean governance. Participants will also explore contributions to new international agreements like the UN treaty on biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Global Biodiversity Framework.

A key objective is to launch a permanent global network connecting regional networks of MPA managers. By joining forces across oceans, MPA practitioners can more effectively implement international policies, improve management skills, and reach the CBD target to conserve 30% of the global ocean by 2030.

“The EU Ocean Governance project shows the power of cross-regional cooperation to tackle threats like habitat loss and climate change,” said Dr. Puri Canals, Ocean Governance project Technical Coordinator and Team Leader. “This conference is a unique chance for MPA managers worldwide to unite behind a shared vision for healthy, resilient oceans.”

The city of Tarragona is an ideal location, with its own protected area reflecting the EU’s Natura 2000 network. A field trip to close the conference to Punta de la Móra, an EU Natura 2000 Coastal Area, will showcase local conservation efforts and coastal erosion challenges.

The EU Ocean Governance project is implemented by a consortium led by GOPA Worldwide Consultants, with B&S Europe and WWF Indonesia, and funded by the European Union’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments.

To learn more, visit https://oceangovernance4mpas.eu/ or contact:
Katharine Mill, katharine@wisefrog.co.uk (International), tel: +44 7762 121 495.
Bárbara Casado, barbara.casado@gopa.de (Spanish media), tel: +34 661 116 544

Resilience twinning partnership holds capacity-building workshops for MPA managers in Colombia and Brazil to boost skills in preparing for rapid changes

Resilience twinning partnership holds capacity-building workshops for MPA managers in Colombia and Brazil to boost skills in preparing for rapid changes

 In late spring 2023, the Ocean Governance project’s resilience twinning partnership organised two ‘training of trainers’ (ToT) workshops to enable professionals working in MPA management to understand risk and resilience issues and practise using the Resilience Self-Assessment Tool (R-SAT) developed by the twinning.

The workshops were held in Brazil and Colombia, after the US in April, and comprised a presentation of the Resilience Self -Assessment  tool, practice in carrying out collective and individual MPA resilience assessments, group discussions of results and recommendations, and gave participants the skills to train others in how to apply the R-SAT tool.

22 MPAs represented

Thirteen people attended the training event in Brazil, which took place in Vitória, the capital of Espírito Santo state on 23-25 May 2023, including the managers of 10 federal MPAs, 1 state MPA, and officials from the Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade

The Colombia workshop, which took place in Cartagena de Indias on 13-15 June 2023, was attended by 15 professionals, including 11 MPA managers from sites governed by the national parks agency, Parques Nacionales Naturales Colombia, plus 4 agency officials. For the twinning, Lilian Wetzel and Jean-Jacques Goussard facilitated the training.

Brazil, the country with the largest national Atlantic façade, is a historical partner of the resilience twinning, having joined during the earlier EU Transatlantic Partnership Project on MPAs. Colombia was the first opportunity for the twinning to present the R-SAT tool in a country with both Caribbean and Pacific coastlines on the invitation of a national authority.

Learning from good practice elsewhere

The resilience partnership facilitators presented the EU Ocean Governance project and the resilience twinning itself, sharing examples of “good practices” developed by the project’s partners in the USA (New Jersey), Senegal, Brazil, Gabon, Mexico and Portugal to deal with rapid changes, such as climate change and tourism impacts, within and around MPAs.

They then presented the R-SAT platform and kit, showing resources, number of assessments and countries and feedback from managers. They introduced the criteria and explained how to insert data into the platform, produce results from the web platform, and provided comments on patterns of results and future developments.

Following a ‘live’ assessment

In each workshop, one MPA manager then conducted an open assessment of their MPA, coached by a facilitator, allowing others to observe the evaluation process. In the Brazil workshop, this was carried out by the manager of a protected area affected by the 2015 Samarco dam disaster in Minas Gerais. In the workshop in Mexico, the manager of Gorgona Island National Park MPA in the Pacific conducted the live assessment.

Then the participants did their own self-assessments offline, discussing common issues with each other and the trainers, before uploading their data onto the platform.

In the Brazil workshop, the group spent time on the following day looking at their results and discussing patterns in the analysis graphs – noticing for example differences in results of longer-established and newer MPAs. In both trainings , participants learned how to retrieve assessment data, analyse graphs, and make recommendations, using 3 MPAs as the basis for this analysis.

The twinning team collected feedback from the participants in both workshops about the tool and the training itself, discussing how both could be developed and applied more widely in each country. Both events were highly successful and instructive for participants and the twinning partnership alike.

Next training: Mexico

A final training is scheduled with Mexico’s national protected areas agency, the Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP), at the beginning of October, for 22 MPA managers from Mexico’s Pacific and Caribbean coasts.

New Jersey hosts resilience ‘training of trainers’ event for MPAs in US mid-Atlantic states

New Jersey hosts resilience ‘training of trainers’ event for MPAs in US mid-Atlantic states

MPA managers from the US states of New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, and Maryland took part in our Resilience partnership workshop in April, the second ‘training of trainers’ events on the Resilience Self-Assessment tool (R-SAT). The tool is designed to help managers of marine protected areas boost their preparedness and capacity to face rapid changes, such as sea level rise, growth of tourism and urban development.

The MPA managers, all from the Mid-Atlantic Group of the USA’s National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERR) network, attended the event on 18-20 April in Galloway, New Jersey. They learned about the project and how to conduct collective and individual assessments of their own MPA’s resilience, discussed results and gave feedback. The Jacques Cousteau NERR in New Jersey is a founding member of the Resilience twinning partnership and has provided key input during the tool’s development stages, drawn from its experience of the damage caused by Hurricane (‘Superstorm’) Sandy in 2012.

Jean-Jacques Goussard and Lilian Wetzel introduced the R-SAT platform, which was developed by the twinning, and described its further applications that are currently under development or consideration, such as for MPAs in the process of being considered or designated, OECMs (Other Effective Conservation area-based Measures) and areas undergoing an integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) process.

Understanding resilience and how to assess it

The workshop covered the meaning and impact of ‘rapid changes’, resulting from climate change or tourism, and examples of good practice responses by MPAs that are partners of the twinning, in Brazil, Gabon, Mexico, Portugal, Senegal and the USA. It also addressed theoretical issues such as risk, hazard, assets, vulnerability and risk management.

Participants then followed a demo of the self-assessment tool, with an explanation of the five families of criteria: 1) Anticipation, awareness, responsiveness; 2) Territorial integration of MPA; 3) Social/cultural integration; 4) Political/institutional resilience; and 5) Knowledge management and restoration know-how.

Using the self-assessment tool

The participants heard about the training of trainers experience in Senegal, looked at examples of R-SAT results graphs and worked in small groups to answer the tool’s questions relative to their MPA. Their answers were used as input to the tool to produce graphs, which were then compared and discussed by the group.

Participants looked at a selection of results graphs from different MPAs, heard about planned developments of the platform and how the tool has been recognised and integrated in a tool developed by the USA’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with IUCN, the Climate Change Resilience and Adaptation Planning Tool (CC RAPT).

The group then looked at assessment questions with their colleagues, then the coaches, and compared their findings as a group to gain insights and observe similarities and differences.

Incorporating results into MPA roadmap

The next day, participants heard from Mathieu Ducrocq in Senegal about how to use the graph results in an MPA’s roadmap. He underlined the need for mapping and for informing and engaging stakeholders in workshops to increase trust and communication.

The group learned about the twinning partnership’s ‘community of practice’ which has been set up for R-SAT users to share and exchange their experiences.

The feedback from the workshop was broadly very positive. Most participating managers were able to identify other managers or areas that they could coach in using R-SAT. The workshop had broadened their view of MPAs in the wider picture, was inspirational regarding ocean governance, and showed managers where they could improve. It was found to be useful for structuring conversation with partners; illustrating international MPA management models; allowed to identify where efforts should be concentrated; and to gain an understanding of wider Coastal and Marine Protected Areas.

BBNJ treaty – reflections on the historic agreement

BBNJ treaty – reflections on the historic agreement

To manage new MPAs in international waters, we will need to apply all the existing knowledge acquired from MPA management in jurisdictional waters

The landmark ‘high seas treaty’ agreed on 5 March represents a major advance in global ocean governance as it creates the framework needed to improve ocean biodiversity protection worldwide. The Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) treaty creates a legal framework for the high seas, which until now have been largely lawless, and paves the way for the creation of vast marine protected areas (MPAs) outside national waters.

It is often observed that the biggest challenge with MPAs is not in creating them but in ensuring they are effectively managed. Our project is based on the knowledge that networks of MPA managers are ideally placed to share knowledge, tools and experience and thus improve effective management.

Another wise observation holds that the best way that humans can support ecological connectivity is to work between ourselves to this end. Ecological networks would be just fine if only humans could work together to protect and restore ecosystems. MPAs and MPA managers networks are also key in this regard.

Learn from our experience

Our experience – and that of our partners – has shown the benefits of human networking for the benefit of ocean biodiversity conservation. By supporting capacity-building of regional and national MPA manager networks, the EU Ocean Governance project has enabled our partners to boost management effectiveness. This will be instructive for the future implementation of high seas MPAs.

Our project was also designed in part to overcome barriers that exist between countries, whether these are political, economic or cultural. By creating a platform for states and territories in the Atlantic, in South-East Asia and beyond to meet at a technical level to address MPA management, the project builds learning and understanding at a level where it can have immediate impact on the ground. This experience may also be useful for countries as they work together to implement the BBNJ treaty.

A significant achievement

The treaty is a fine cause to celebrate, the result of over 10 years’ international diplomacy and 2 weeks of intense negotiations leading to the agreement at the UN headquarters in New York last Sunday. As the high seas cover 60% of the ocean by surface (and nearly half the planet), the treaty will make it much easier to achieve the commitment to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030, agreed in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Agreement (2022). It will enter into force once it has been ratified by 60 states.

The contribution of the EU to the achievement should not be underestimated. The EU supported the adoption of the treaty through leading the ‘High Ambition Coalition’, and has pledged to support rapid ratification and help developing countries prepare for its implementation, pledging EUR 40 million as part of a Global Ocean Programme, and calling on other members of the High Ambition Coalition to do the same.