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.