MONACO BLUE INITIATIVE
Opening remarks of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco (Photo credit: Thierry Chopin)
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs): Beyond the target numbers, we have to ensure their effectiveness
A by Thierry Chopin
t the end of March, I had the pleasure of participating in the Monaco Blue Initiative (MBI) for the fourth time. This conference, initiated in 2010 by HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, is a platform for dialogue and networking coorganised by the Oceanographic Institute, Prince Albert I of Monaco Foundation and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation. Its members meet annually to discuss the current, and anticipate future, global challenges of ocean management and conservation. This year, the tenth edition of the MBI, 145 participants discussed topics related to marine protected areas (MPAs), including the ambition and actions needed to set the scene for the post-2020 period (when the current target to conserve at least 10% of coastal and marine areas is to be achieved), the importance of ecological and social networks for ensuring the effectiveness of MPAs, and the links between MPAs and the economy of the ocean. The meeting, convened under the presidency of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, took place in Monaco, after being held in Edinburgh last year. In his opening remarks, HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco stressed the role of MPAs as an effective tool against the threats facing the ocean, as well as their economic benefits.
The need to go beyond the target number game
The overall MPA progress to date is that 14,882 MPAs have been reported, covering 7.59 percent of the Oceans. However, only 4.8 percent of the MPAs are implemented and actively managed; approximately 2.2 percent are in strongly protected no-take marine reserves. The overall distribution is extremely skewed, with just 20 of the largest MPAs contributing about 70 percent of the total reported coverage. Thierry Chopin raising the topic that certain types of aquaculture and fisheries could be compatible with MPAs (Photo credit: CĂŠdric Fruneau)
In the Mediterranean Sea, 7.14 percent of the sea surface is covered by MPAs, with only 0.04 percent being no-go or nofishing zones. Only 12 percent of the funding is in place to allow MPAs to be effectively managed. During the conference, it became clear that the global community may meet the 10 percent quantitative target by 2020, but will clearly miss meeting the qualitative elements to have all these MPAs actively, efficiently and equitably managed and well connected (development of corridors, as is already done on land for biodiversity protection). In Canada, as of April 25, 2019, 8.27 percent of marine and coastal areas are contributing to marine conservation targets. On that date, the Government of Canada adopted a new approach to marine conservation by distinguishing two forms of protection: MPAs and marine refuges. Four key industrial activities will be prohibited in MPAs: oil and gas activities, mining, dumping and bottom trawling. Marine refuges will offer more targeted protection to species and their habitat from the impacts of fishing (note: the announcement is silent on aquaculture). Activities will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, and will be allowed if they are consistent with the conservation objectives of a specific area. This is presented, by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, as a balanced approach providing high levels of environmental protection, while also recognizing and allowing for economic activities, not harmful to sensitive areas, to continue to take place.
Asking the right questions and bringing clarity to be able to progress
Jane Lubchenco (Oregon State University) chaired the first session of the conference, which was well-organised and very instrumental in clearly positioning the issues: how to collectively continue developing MPAs whilst ensuring their efficiency? When do we start to count a MA as really protected? When it is announced/proposed; when it is legally designated; when it is implemented; or when it is actively managed? That will seriously affect the percentages of the reported truly operational MPAs. Reflecting the goals and priorities of communities and governments, MPAs vary hugely in the uses/activities allowed or disallowed, and in their conservation outcomes. For example, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recognises seven types of reserves, with types V and VI allowing some sustainable activities. Jane Lubchenco indicated that a MPA Guide will soon be released to harmonise and clarify the language used to describe the MPA stages of establishment and levels of protection. As underlined by HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, during his welcome address, clarity and transparency will be needed to
30 | May 2019 - International Aquafeed