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 or contact:
Katharine Mill, (International), tel: +44 7762 121 495.
Bárbara Casado, (Spanish media), tel: +34 661 116 544

Derawan Islands MPA and Tun Mustapha Park: First MPA exchange visit for ecosystem restoration and collaborative learning in Sulu-Sulawesi seascape

Derawan Islands MPA and Tun Mustapha Park: First MPA exchange visit for ecosystem restoration and collaborative learning in Sulu-Sulawesi seascape

The Sulu-Sulawesi seascape, shared by Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, harbours some of the most diverse and productive marine biodiversity in the world. However, due to rapid population increase, unsustainable development and growing risks from climate change, coastal ecosystems and the livelihoods they support are under tremendous pressure. Against this backdrop, the EU Ocean Governance project is implementing ecosystem restoration initiatives in the region: these include coral restoration in Tun Mustapha Park (TMP), Sabah, Malaysia, and Derawan Islands marine protected area (MPA), Indonesia, and mangrove restoration in Balabac Island, the Phillippines. These sites are important for marine biodiversity and the coastal communities that depend on this, hence the restoration methods are tailored to each particular environment.

In order to continue improving the management of the MPAs involved, the project has established a number of dialogue platforms and networking opportunities. One of these networking opportunities was an MPA exchange visit between Derawan Islands MPA, Indonesia, and Tun Mustapha Park, Sabah, Malaysia, that took place from 14 to 18 August 2023. The visit consisted of a learning exchange, coral monitoring workshop and field visit, to exchange ideas and knowledge about coral rehabilitation using rock piles in Derawan Islands MPA. Each session involved the relevant stakeholders, including MPA managers, NGOs, public and private sector representatives, and community members from Derawan Islands MPA and Tun Mustapha Park.

Learning Exchange and Coral Restoration Workshop

The learning exchange is designed to foster dialogue about coral restoration and rehabilitation methods, MPA management, community involvement, sustainable fisheries and tourism practices, surveillance, and effective marine protection policies. A dialogue platform created by the learning exchange aims to build and strengthen continued networking between the MPAs. On the second day of the exchange visit, a coral restoration monitoring workshop was held to update on the progress of coral restoration in Tun Mustapha Park and in Derawan Islands MPA. The workshop was attended by the Coastal and Resource Management Authority of Pontianak, the Marine and Fisheries Authority of East Kalimantan Province, the Fisheries Authority of Berau, the Cultural and Tourism Authority of Berau, the Derawan Village government, the Surveillance and Control Marine and Fisheries Agency, the women’s groups of Derawan Village and the representative community group involved in the coral rehabilitation project in the Derawan Islands MPA.

Progress of coral reef restoration in Derawan Islands MPA

Joni Ramadani, representative of the community group of Derawan Islands MPA, stated, “Based on the reef health monitoring in the Derawan Islands MPA in 2021, generally, the percentage of hard corals’ live cover was 32.80 per cent. This number shows the relatively moderate coral reef health condition category, which is 35 to 40.9 per cent”. “However, damage to the coral reefs, presumably due to bombings, and to the anchors of the tourist and fishing boats, has been found in some places. Thus, in order to improve the coral reef ecosystem, a suitable rehabilitation method is needed for Derawan Island,” he added.

In Derawan Islands MPA, WWF-Indonesia, working with the authorities and the community, used the rock-pile method for coral reef rehabilitation in selected areas such as the North Gusung Senggalau, the East Gusung Senggalau and the Karang Tebba Binga. Monitoring showed that the rock pile structure has provided a natural substrate to attach coral planula in three rehabilitation sites. The average density of hard coral recruitment corals in rock pile structures was 2.4 colonies per square metre in May 2023, or 10 months after the rock pile installation. Furthermore, it also showed an increasing rate of coral recruitment and new coral colony establishment, as well as fish abundance and biomass.

Progress of coral restoration in Tun Mustapha Park

In Malaysia, the coral restoration project is continuously expanding. Similar to the restoration method used in Derawan Island, the MARRS Reef Star (RS) method is implemented in Tun Mustapha Park as well. Currently, 980 units of reef star frames with 14 700 coral fragments have been installed at three different sites with varying site characteristics and water conditions, covering about 800 square metres of the park. 

Four hundred units of RS frames were deployed at Maliangin Kechil (Site A) and, later, 300 units of RS in Pitas Floating Coral Bar (Site B), the result of cooperation with a local tour operator known as Archangel Borneo Holidays Sdn Bhd. The most recent deployment of 280 units of RS was effected from 27 to 29 June 2023 at Site C, also at Maliangin Kechil. Twenty RS units were handed to the team in Semporna to test MARRS Reef Star, and today the restoration with RS is culminating as a result of the deployment activities carried out. In many cases, the engaging process of preparing and deploying the RS empowers local communities who then serve as catalysts for the empowerment of neighbouring communities, creating a ripple effect.

Many local actors were involved in the process of MARRS coral restoration, from fabrication to coating to deployment of the RS. They included participants from Sabah Parks, WWF-Malaysia, nearby local communities of Tun Mustapha Park, who participated voluntarily, and several academic representatives as well as students from Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS).

All restoration sites are being monitored regularly by community divers from Banggi Coral Conservation Society (BCCS) and Kudat Turtle Conservation Society (KTCS), research teams from Sabah Parks, as well as officers from WWF-Malaysia. Representatives from UMS are also often involved in consultations and provide input to the restoration efforts. The restoration work at Tun Mustapha Park will also potentially grow in number and area as Sabah Parks is soon to launch a Coral Adoption Program with a web platform designed for coral conservationists and enthusiasts alike.

Fostering Collaboration and Inspiring Change

Topics such as MPA management, fisheries, tourism and MPA community empowerment were discussed extensively by representatives from each respective discipline attending the MPA exchange visit. Through these exchanges, the Derawan and Tun Mustapha teams were able to build lasting networking relationships.

The Malaysian participants were genuinely impressed by the impeccable cleanliness and efficient management observed at Derawan Islands MPA. Equally noteworthy was the warm hospitality extended by the island’s community. Notably, the participants had an invaluable opportunity to engage in discussions with the village chief of Derawan Island, gaining unique insights. This encounter served as a powerful source of motivation for all attendees throughout the rest of the event. The Malaysian participants, in particular, expressed a strong enthusiasm to incorporate some of the practices they learned about at Derawan Islands MPA into their efforts at Tun Mustapha Park.

In sum, the six-day event proved to be exceptionally engaging and fruitful for all involved.


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.

Presenting the Ocean Governance project at Sustainable Ocean Initiative workshop for East, South and South-East Asia

Presenting the Ocean Governance project at Sustainable Ocean Initiative workshop for East, South and South-East Asia

The EU Ocean Governance project was delighted to take part in the capacity-building workshop of the Sustainable Ocean Initiative (SOI) for East, South and South-East Asia, held on 5-8 September 2023 in Seoul, Republic of Korea.

The SOI is a global platform created in 2010 on the margins of the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), in Nagoya, Japan. It responds to the need for training and capacity-building of developing country parties to the CBD, with regard to marine conservation and management. Implemented by the CBD secretariat with partners, the SOI aims to build partnerships and enhance capacity to achieve the global goals and targets on marine and coastal biodiversity.

The regional workshop was attended by representatives of parties to the Convention from Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, as well as several international organisations and stakeholder groups.

The workshop began by scene-setting the regional and national context, hearing from partners about environment, biodiversity and fisheries issues in the region, and sharing national priorities, challenges and experiences.

It continued with an overview of Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) and its relevance for marine and coastal biodiversity, including approaches to implementing targets 1-4, on spatial planning, restoration, protection and conservation, in alignment with regional goals and strategies.

It was during this session that Puri Canals, OG project Technical Coordinator and Team Leader, present the project’s work in South-East Asia, in ecosystem restoration, knowledge exchange, networking and transboundary cooperation, describing how the four components of the Ocean Governance project contribute to targets 1-4 [see info box below].

The workshop then covered sustainable fisheries and the GBF, before continuing with a presentation and discussion on targets 6, 7 and 8: related to invasive alien species, pollution and climate change.

Participants took part in a discussion on developing strategies and/or action plans to accelerate the implementation of the GBF in their region or countries, and presented their respective strategies, opportunities, next steps, and action items, developing these further before the workshop closed.

Puri Canals said: “We hope that the EU Ocean Governance project’s activities to support ecosystem restoration, knowledge exchange, networking  and transboundary cooperation in South-East Asia over the past three years can provide a useful example for countries and regions as they plan strategies and actions to contribute to Global Biodiversity Framework targets.”

GBF Targets 1-4

Target 1: All areas are planned or managed to bring loss of areas of high biodiversity importance close to zero.

Target 2: 30% of degraded areas are under effective restoration.

Target 3: 30% of areas are effectively conserved.

Target 4: Threatened species are recovering, genetic diversity is being maintained and human-wildlife conflict is being managed.

Marine Mammals Management Toolkit expands towards the Pacific Ocean

Marine Mammals Management Toolkit expands towards the Pacific Ocean

In a recent webinar organised collaboratively by the Ocean Governance Project’s Marine Mammals Twinning (MMT) and the Pacific Islands Marine Protected Area Community (PIMPAC), experts and Marine Protected Area (MPA) managers from the Pacific convened to discuss the conservation of marine mammals in the Pacific region and learn how the marine mammals management toolkit can be used to better integrate marine mammals into MPA, and other Area-based Management tools (ABMT), management plans. 

An innovative tool to integrate Marine Mammals in the work of PIMPAC

Kristine Bucchianeri, Co-Coordinator of PIMPAC, shared insights into the organisation’s history and mission. PIMPAC, a capacity-building network founded in 2005, emerged in response to the shared challenges faced by marine resource managers across the Pacific while establishing MPAs. Initially, the group was an informal connection of managers but has significantly grown since its inception and is now co-coordinated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Micronesia Conservation Trust; both committed to conserving the rich marine ecosystems of the Pacific. Bucchianeri expressed her enthusiasm to bring the MMT toolkit to the PIMPAC community: “While we have been working in Marine Protected Areas for over 20 years here at PIMPAC, we have not really looked much at Marine Mammals, so this is a great tool that we’re really excited to share with our community.”

Protecting Marine Mammals in the Pacific in the face of research gaps

Rochelle Constance, Co-Chair of the Pacific Region Important Marine Mammal Areas and Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force, highlighted the critical role of marine mammals in the Pacific. This vast region boasts diverse habitats and is home to 34 reported marine mammal species, including spinner dolphins, humpback whales, dugongs, rough-toothed dolphins, and bottlenose dolphins. Unfortunately, limited focused research exists due to logistical challenges, leaving many aspects of marine mammal conservation uncertain. Constance discussed the various threats facing marine mammals in the Pacific, such as fisheries interactions (bycatch and entanglement), tourism, direct takes, and climate change. As an example for an initiative addressing these challenges, she introduced the Global IUCN SSC-WCPA Initiative, where the Marine Mammal Task Force identifies key areas for protection. This shift in focus, from safeguarding individual species to preserving entire areas, underscores the interconnectedness of marine mammal conservation with broader ocean health. Constance also underscored the importance of data collection, suggesting that even tour operators, ferry crews, and fishing teams could contribute valuable information, highlighting the power of collective data efforts.

The Marine Mammals Toolkit: An openly accessible resource for MPA managers

Fiona Dyrhauge, Project Officer of the MMT, provided an introduction of the toolkit. Developed under the Ocean Governance Project, it comprises four essential components aimed at enhancing the technical capabilities of MPA managers and improving marine mammal management: factsheets, the Self-Assessment Tool (SAT), the Community of Practice, and good practices. Fiona emphasised that this is the only toolkit fully dedicated to marine mammals. The SAT, one of the Toolkit’s core components, is available in English, French and Spanish and in both online and offline formats, with the entire online toolkit available in over 25 languages.

Putting the Self-Assessment Tool into practice  

Tom Dallison, MPA expert and co-developer of the SAT, complemented this introduction with a more in-depth guide of the practical use of the SAT and SAT-LITE (a more concise version of the SAT). These two tools empower MPA managers to comprehensively assess the inclusion of marine mammals within their management plans. Tom underscored that these tools are specifically designed for marine mammals, featuring guided multiple-choice questions that produce a valuable dashboard of results that identify gaps in the management plan, enabling managers to make informed decisions and enhance conservation efforts. Importantly, these tools can be applied at all stages of MPA development and an unlimited number of times, supporting a continuous improvement in marine mammal conservation.

A testimonial from the Atlantic

To conclude the webinar, Ben Haskell, Deputy Superintendent of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, shared a recorded video testimonial on his experience using the SAT. The sanctuary, part of the NOAA system, was designated by the US Congress due to its high biodiversity and importance as a fishing ground. Having completed the SAT for the third time already, he said that he “find[s] the self-assessment tool very comprehensive and thought-provoking”. He also recommended the participants to read through the toolkit factsheets first to get some context to go through the self-assessment tool. Haskell emphasised that the SAT should not be seen as a test but rather as a helpful means to evaluate what should be included in a management plan and where limited resources should be focused.

In summary, the webinar not only highlighted the critical role of marine mammals in the Pacific, but also shared the value of the toolkit and insights on how to use it effectively. This webinar was part of a series of webinars currently being conducted by the Marine Mammal Twinning. To date, webinars have been held in the Western Indian Ocean, the Pacific, and throughout the Commonwealth. Following the completion of the webinar with PIMPAC, the Twinning also hosted a webinar in collaboration with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). Further webinars are planned for the Caribbean, North America, and the Red Sea region. For information on these webinars, and how to register, visit:


Bali workshop: Coral Triangle countries exchange experiences in coral reef restoration, and consider creating MPA manager network

Bali workshop: Coral Triangle countries exchange experiences in coral reef restoration, and consider creating MPA manager network

Following the success of two prior Learning Exchanges organised by the Ocean Governance project, our partners in the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security (CTI-CFF) in Southeast Asia proposed to co-organise a third such event, designed for the six Coral Triangle countries (CT6): Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, and Solomon Islands. The event was held from 3rd to 6th July 2023 at the Coral Triangle Centre (CTC) in Bali, Indonesia, and focused on a common priority: how to preserve and restore ecologically crucial and economically significant coral reefs. Over 40 participants, including government officials, marine protected area (MPA) managers, scientists, NGOs  and international organisations, attended the Learning Exchange.


Focus on coral reef restoration

The first day featured presentations on different aspects of coral reef restoration. Government representatives outlined national policy guidelines on the topic, while MPA managers discussed the practical implementation of the guidelines. Academics and scientists offered views on the guidelines and opportunities for improvement, and speakers involved in coral reef restoration projects shared best practices. Participants demonstrated their interest by engaging in thoughtful discussions and posing relevant questions, indicating the significance of the topic. Coral restoration proved to be a novel subject for discussion, as confusion regarding methods, financing, and local community involvement were raised. At the end of the day, participants gathered in country-specific groups to reflect on how the learning could apply in their national context, and presented the results of these discussions to the plenary.


Field trip to observe restoration in action

On the second day, a field trip to the marine protected area of Nusa Penida, located off the southeast coast of Bali, provided valuable hands-on experience. Participants observed a demonstration of the MARRS Reef Star restoration method, in which coral fragments are attached to metal structures, and had the opportunity to practise the technique themselves. Snorkelling activities allowed them to observe divers attaching the structures to the seafloor, and to see corals growing on older structures. The field trip also included a locally guided mangrove tour, provided by a community involvement project organised by the Coral Triangle Centre in Nusa Penida MPA. The day ended with a discussion about potential options to improve the MPA, from the perspective of different stakeholders (MPA managers, private tourism operators, media and communications, government, and the local community), guided by Veda Santiaji of WWF Indonesia and Southeast Asia expert for the EU Ocean Governance (OG) project. The discussion was also joined by Andrew C.F. Taylor, founder of a diving school and private restoration project in Nusa Penida.


Exploring the potential for an MPA network in the Coral Triangle region

On the third day, the focus shifted to the second objective of the Learning Exchange: initiating the creation of a network of MPA managers in the Coral Triangle region. The OG Project emphasised the importance of human networks to support ecological networks, and the need for ongoing collaboration beyond the project’s conclusion in December. OG Project Technical Team Lead Puri Canals presented the example of MedPAN, the network of MPA managers in the Mediterranean, to illustrate how a network works and can benefit its members. The day was devoted to interactive brainstorming, exploring the formation of a network, its potential members, relationship to CTI-CFF, priority topics, and more, laying the foundation for future regional discussions. The results were presented to the plenary and will be taken to the MPA Working Group of the CTI-CFF, which has shown great commitment to promoting  the creation of the network.


As the 3rd Learning Exchange concluded, participants left with enhanced knowledge, strengthened connections and a shared commitment to the conservation of coral reefs. The event underscored the importance of collaboration and knowledge exchange, fostering optimism for sustainable future cooperation and the formation of a strong network. A huge thanks goes out to the Coral Triangle Centre for hosting us at their beautiful premises and for sharing their expertise with the participants; to the Coral Triangle Initiative for their excellent collaboration; and to all the participants for their motivation and valuable contribution throughout the event.