Between 6 and 11 March 2023, the Marine Mammal Twinning of the Ocean Governance project’s component 2 attended the 3rd Humpback Whale World Congress, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The congress brought together stakeholders involved in humpback whale conservation and the theme of this year’s edition was “The Blue Economy for Sustainable Development”, reflecting on the importance of humpback whales in their migratory areas.
On the first day of the congress, the twinning presented the Marine Mammals Management Toolkit, an online resource designed to help marine protected area (MPA) managers and practitioners to better understand and effectively manage marine mammals through MPA management plans and policy frameworks. Made up of 4 components (factsheets, self-assessment tool (SAT), good practices and community of practice), the toolkit provides tools and resources to support networks of managers, marine mammal management and conservation. The presentation was attended by 80 scientists, conservationists and managers and served as an introduction to the series of training workshops that the twinning delivered during the congress.
The workshops, entitled “Towards the effective management of marine mammals and MPAs: the Marine Mammals Management Toolkit”, aimed to enhance understanding of the toolkit, with a specific focus on the use of the self-assessment tool and how it can be used in localised settings to support MPA management. The workshops were attended by MPA practitioners, stakeholders and users from Haiti, Colombia, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, representing different stages of the MPA process, from initial scoping and MPA development, to monitoring and evaluation of MPAs and reporting on MPA progress and effectiveness.
The twinning also sponsored the participation of a master’s student, Dalma Sonez from the University of the Republic of Uruguay. Dalma supported the twinning in delivering the workshops and presented the results of her thesis, for which the toolkit was utilised to understand the level of protection afforded to marine mammals across 11 MPAs throughout the Americas.
The congress provided the opportunity to emphasise the toolkit’s adaptability and multi-faceted application for monitoring, evaluating, capacity building and communication. The twinning explored new avenues of collaboration, focused on welcoming new MPAs into its community of users and strengthening its resources, and will be looking to continue to provide valuable support to managers and users for the successful conservation of marine mammals.
The Ocean Governance project took a major part in the Fifth International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC5), a global forum for ocean conservation professionals and officials, which was held in Vancouver, Canada, from 3-9 February 2023.
By enabling a large contingent of partners – MPA managers, network managers and experts – to participate in the congress, the EU Ocean Governance project was able to bring a wealth of experience to our official 5 hosted sessions, 1 side event and 4 speedtalks plus 6 additional sessions at the project’s stand.
Building on our strengths: sharing knowledge and building capacity
The congress demonstrated and built on the project’s strength in bringing together MPA managers to share their knowledge, experience and to build capacity, in countries around the Atlantic basin and in the Coral Triangle in South-East Asia, where it is supporting ecosystem restoration works.
The congress, in Vancouver’s stunning Convention Centre, provided the opportunity for the Ocean Governance project’s resilience and marine mammals twinning partnerships to present their self-assessment toolkits developed for MPA managers, with valuable testimonies provided by partners who use these tools. The MPA manager networks twinning held 3 knowledge-sharing sessions: on network effectiveness, long-term sustainability and resilience. Restoration projects in South-East Asia and efforts to promote transboundary cooperation in the same region were presented at separate speedtalks, while partners from Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines shared their roadmaps and strategies towards delivery of the 30×30 target of the new global biodiversity framework. Building on the dynamic of the project and the commitment and engagement of its many partners around the world, the project used the occasion of its side event to launch a call for joint action by networks of MPA managers to build a global network of MPA managers. Please join us in the call by adding your name and organisation to the list of signatories!
The role of networks of MPA managers in supporting implementation of the global biodiversity framework appears to be gaining traction. In a separate initiative, a project to create the Great Bear Sea MPA Network was announced during IMPAC5 on 6 February. This exciting new collaboration brings together 15 Canadian First Nations that co-manage MPAs on the Pacific Rim with Canada’s federal and provincial governments.
The congress provided the opportunity for the resilience and networks twinnings to hold coordination meetings thanks to several partners being present in Vancouver. The Networks partners also took part in talks with conservation trust funds, a valuable source of sustainable funding for MPA manager networks, and the collaboration of the MEDFUND and MedPAN was presented in a well-attended session at the stand.
The project stand in the exhibition area, shared with our partner MedPAN, served as a focal point throughout the event, providing a space for partners to meet, network and host presentations, as well as visibility for the project, with videos and slideshows of the project’s toolkits and ongoing restoration works in the Coral Triangle.
Celebrating our partners’ achievements
The project was also delighted to share and celebrate the success of three of our project partners during IMPAC5.
Dr María del Carmen García Rivas of Mexico was awarded the Kenton R. Miller Award for Innovation in National Parks and Protected Area Sustainability, by IUCN and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), which recognised her leadership of the Hurricane Insurance Project in Puerto Morelos National Park and for being a role model for women rangers and conservation professionals in Mexico. Maria Carmen is a partner involved in both our MPA Networks and Resilience twinnings.
Mamadou Sidibé, president of the West Africa MPA network (RAMPAO) and director of Senegal’s department of community-managed MPAs (DAMCP), was presented with the IMPAC baton – a wooden paddle crafted by the First Nation hosts of the Vancouver congress – as Senegal was announced as host of the next IMPAC, IMPAC6. As director of RAMPAO, Colonel Sidibé is a partner in our networks twinning project, and in his role as director of Senegal’s community-managed MPAs is a partner in our resilience twinning partnership, whose self-assessment tool has been rolled out in the community-managed MPAs in Senegal. (Watch him deliver his speech back at the team hotel on our YouTube channel)
Kelen Luciana Leite of Brazil’s Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), and a partner in our Resilience twinning, was presented with a Marine Conservation Institute Blue Park Award for exceptional marine wildlife conservation at the Tupinambás Ecological Station and Alcatrazes Archipelago Wildlife Refuge, which she heads.
Taking the learning back home
IMPAC5 closed on a high for the Ocean Governance project as our partners who attended and those that we met were able to experience first-hand the benefits and contribution of strong human connectivity for improved MPA performance, ecological connectivity and the delivery of international biodiversity targets.
Our OG project team leader Puri Canals, who had been invited to take part in the Leadership Forum at the close of IMPAC5, used the opportunity to present the work and impact of the EU Ocean Governance project and highlight the call for joint action to create worldwide connections between networks of MPA managers.
It provided a further boost to connections developed thus far in the project by bringing together groups of partners that had previously met only in separate twinning meetings, thus opening new channels of communication and cooperation.
IMPAC5 was an enriching experience and credit for the valuable opportunity must go to the organisers and hosts – the government partners of the Host First Nations (Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh), Province of British Columbia and Government of Canada, and organisations the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS).
On 11th January, a new consultancy for the Global Alliance for Marine Protection was launched by the Ocean Governance Project, MedPAN, REDLAC, and THE MED FUND. In light of the newly agreed upon post-2020 biodiversity targets (read more here), it is more important than ever to ensure effective management of existing and new MPAs and to secure adequate and sustainable financing for them. Even though a range of policies, legal and technical measures and financial investments are currently being undertaken by key partners and institutions to support the sustainable and effective management of MPAs, there still exist many gaps in management effectiveness and financing.
At this point in time where we still have some chances to turn around the continued deterioration of ocean ecosystems, we need to prove that MPAs can be an effective conservation and sustainable development tool. The Global Alliance for Marine Protection is an alliance between national and regional networks of Conservation Trust Funds (CTFs) and networks of MPA managers that aims to support effectively managed and sustainable financed MPAs in order to realise the implementation of the post-2020 targets (read more here).
The new consultant will help to develop this alliance by elaborating on its self-conception, mission and vision for the future with the aim of preparing the development of a first action plan for the next two years. The upcoming IMPAC5 in Vancouver (read more here) will be used as an opportunity for the consultant to conduct individual interviews with the key actors involved in the initiative and to brainstorm collectively. Based on the results of an extensive literature review, working meetings and/or interviews, the consultant will then prepare the following products/deliverables:
- Gap analysis
- Added value proposal
- Objectives/vision/mission proposal
- Criteria and identification of additional members
- Functioning/governance of the alliance proposal
- Action plan proposal 2 years; detailed outcomes until the end of 2024
- Main communication messages and power-point
The final approval of the deliverables by the Steering Group is envisaged for June 2023.
Last December, a landmark deal was reached at the UN biodiversity summit in Montréal after two weeks of intense negotiations. Puri Canals attended the event in her double role as our Technical Director and the President of MedPAN, the network of Marine Protected Areas managers in the Mediterranean.
The COP15 was held in two parts, the first part of which already took place in October 2021 as a hybrid event. The second part, which was now held in Montréal from 7th to 19th December 2022, was originally scheduled for April and May in China but had to be postponed due to continuing Covid-19 restrictions. Despite the location change, China still held the presidency of COP15 represented by environment minister Huang Runqiu.
The main goal of this event was to agree on global targets for biodiversity conservation for the target years 2030 and 2050. In the early hours of Monday, 19th December, the final deal was reached as almost 200 countries agreed on four overarching goals and 23 specific targets in form of the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). Relevant for the Ocean Governance Project is especially the “30×30” goal which made it into the final version resulting from the member countries agreeing to conserve 30% of the world’s land and 30% of the ocean by 2030. The primary tool to ensure the conservation of 30% of the ocean is Marine Protected Areas, the effectiveness and management of which the Ocean Governance Project strives to improve. For example, our team recently held a workshop for our partners from ASEAN countries to share knowledge and expertise with each other regarding the progress on plans and strategies to achieve new protection targets. Puri Canals, who closely followed the negotiations, states: “The newly agreed biodiversity targets, and especially the 30×30 goal for our ocean, are not legally binding, but they still carry a lot of significance for our project work. For many countries, it will be a huge challenge to make sure 30% of their waters are well protected. The networks and tools we built can certainly be supporting forces.”
Apart from the official GBF negotiations, the event offered numerous opportunities for exchange and networking. During the previous days, 1 & 2 December, Puri Canals participated in the Sustainable Ocean Initiative (SOI) Post-2020 Global Partnership Meeting in which there were discussed the capacity-building activities needed to support the implementation of the new GBF. The experience provided by the Ocean Governance Project was of interest to the future Action Plan of SOI. At the beginning of the conference, partners of the Networks twinning came together in an unofficial coordination meeting to align activities during the event and to exchange about the future activity of the twinning linked to the GBF. It was also an opportunity to work together, with Charles Besançon, on the update of the network’s Common Strategy. On 13th December Puri Canals participated as a speaker at the side event Sustainable Ocean Initiative: Learning from the past to better build capacity to achieve global ocean goals in the future. On 14th December, the Ocean Governance Project hosted its official side event on the topic “Networks of MPA managers making the difference” together with speakers from our partner networks: José Julio Casas from CMAR, Cyrille Barnerias from the French Biodiversity Agency, Elena Pita from Fundación Biodiversidad, Marie Romani and Carole Martínez from MedPAN, Mamadou Sidibe from the Community MPAs of Senegal and RAMPAO, and Lauren Wenzel from NOAA and NAMPAN. Guided by the moderation of Puri Canals, the panellists discussed why networks are so important in the implementation of the past Aichi targets and the new Global Biodiversity Framework. Between sessions, side events and negotiations, our team met in the booth we shared together with MedPAN, which counted on the permanent presence of Barbara Casado.