Tuesday, 25 August 2009

France announces significant scale-up plans for marine protected areas

France has significantly boosted progress towards improved protection of the marine environment. President Sarkozy speaking recently in Le Havre announced the creation of MPAs covering 20% of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

Dan Laffoley, Marine Vice Chair of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas, in welcoming the announcement said ‘The President has set an ambitious target that half of the new MPAs should be no-take and is committing France to becoming a new world leader in marine conservation.’ ‘This is particularly impressive as France has the second largest maritime territory in the world behind the United States – some 11 million square kilometers’ he added.

The heart of this process is the‘blue book’ (“Grenelle de la Mer”) which will define the French maritime strategy and which will be in place by the end of 2009.
In making the announcement President Sarkozy stated ‘Today France protects less than 1% of its maritime space. By 2012 marine protected areas will cover 10% of the territory. By 2020, these marine protected areas will reach 20% of the 11 million square kilometres of sea under the sovereignty of France. And I expect that half of that scope should be established as reserves and no-take zones to be defined with fishermen, scientists and local stakeholders. It is in these places that marine biodiversity will be preserved, and that marine resources will be able to recover, allowing to sustain fishing in our country in the future.’

‘This network of protection, covering some 2 million square kilometres, will extend both along its coast metropolis especially in the Mediterranean, and throughout the French overseas territories: the Antilles, New Caledonia, Polynesia and the Indian Ocean.’ The President added.
Full text of President Sarkozy’s speech can be accessed at:

English version at:

Good news for Arctic fish

IUCN’s Global Marine Programme and the World Commission on Protected Areas are delighted by the Obama administration’s recent approval of a management plan that prevents the expansion of commercial fishing in the Arctic, a decision that marks a huge step in the conservation of marine resources.

The new Arctic Fishery Management Plan, announced by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, will protect a 200,000-square-mile area in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas from all new commercial fishing. Before such activities are allowed in the future, scientific studies must be undertaken to determine the nature and extent of indigenous fish stocks and how they interact in their unique and fragile Arctic ecosystem, which is already under stress from warming temperatures, melting sea ice and acidifying ocean waters. Once research has been carried out, conservation and management decisions are to be put in place which will include restrictions on catch levels, fishing gear, discarded fish and areas permitted for fishing with appropriate monitoring.

Although there is currently no significant commercial fishing in this area, rapidly retreating sea ice threatens to open the Arctic to fishers following species that are moving northward as sea temperatures rise. Pacific and jack mackerel, which usually prefer the waters off California, have been sighted off the southeastern coast of Alaska, alongside Arctic cod, pollock and salmon.
“This action serves as a great example to other states of a precautionary fisheries management step that can be used until appropriate scientific work allows for suitable conservation and management strategies which include the necessary considerations for the successful conservation of dependent and related species and ecosystems,” explains Dr. Harlan Cohen, IUCN’s Senior Ocean Governance Advisor.

The order, recommended by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council in February, restricts any future commercial fishing for finfish and shellfish but does not apply to Pacific salmon and Pacific halibut which are managed under other existing arrangements. It also permits Native Alaskans to continue subsistence fishing in the region.

The announcement by the U.S. Commerce Secretary was welcomed by both environmental and fisheries leaders. According to the New York Times, Alaska fishers are hopeful that the announcement will encourage other Arctic countries to close areas subject to their jurisdiction and prevent a rush to new fishing grounds that could cause fish populations to crash.

“This is a very positive move,” states Dan Laffoley, Vice Chair of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) - Marine. “This presents an unprecedented opportunity to consider further long-term conservation measures and prevent further exploitation in what will be the first ocean basin to progressively acidify and the last unexploited ocean on Earth. We stand to learn from this what will happen to other oceans around the world in due course.” The closure will also allow for consideration of modern ocean management principles on an ecosystem basis, including marine spatial planning to avoid or mitigate conflicts among users. Arctic countries should take the lead to ensure that a regional fisheries management arrangement is in place to conserve and manage any fisheries in areas beyond national jurisdiction that may take place in the future.

Photo credit: Commercial Fisheries Closures (Los Angeles Times)

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

IUCN Seamounts Project successfully kicked off

IUCN's Global Marine Programme recently launched its Seamounts Project – the first GEF-funded project looking at the management of ocean areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction (i.e. areas beyond 200 nautical miles from the coast).

Seamounts, underwater mountains rising from the ocean floor, are found in all oceans of the world and are abundant features of the seafloor. They are known to be hotspots of biological diversity and production, and are important for marine biodiversity and the status of marine food webs. Migratory fish and cetaceans rely on seamounts as well for their food supply. Limited knowledge of seamount-associated fauna to date indicates that many species grow and reproduce slowly, thus are highly vulnerable to overexploitation.

Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs) are relatively large areas of ocean space of approximately 200,000 km² or greater, adjacent to the continents in coastal waters where primary productivity is generally higher than in open ocean areas. The boundaries are shown in the map below.

LMEs have traditionally been used to help coordinate management efforts in coastal waters, but interest in their application to the governance of ocean areas within LME boundaries but beyond national jurisdiction is growing. The Agulhas and Somali Current Large Marine Ecosystems Project (ASCLME), located in the Western Indian Ocean and a partner of the Seamounts Project, is pioneering a project to use the LME approach to managing the high seas. This project will complement efforts in improving the management and conservation of high seas resources in the southern Indian Ocean.

For more information see the official Seamounts Project blog or project website

Friday, 7 August 2009

IUCN, WCPA – Marine and UNEP WCMC combine forces on new web system

We are delighted to announce a new combined web development programme between IUCN WCPA – Marine and UNEP WCMC.

Over the past two years IUCN WCPA – Marine and UNEP WCMC have been investing considerable resources in developing online websites and tools to take forward marine conservation. This has been an important part of the development process to test out new systems and approaches, and has involved the creation of Protect planet Ocean, linked to Google Earth, and the development of online mapping and data presentation systems via WDPA – Marine.

Over the next 6 months these innovations will be brought together to create a ‘super site’ and enhance our joint web presence under the banner of Protect Planet Ocean. Work is already underway on this exciting development. In addition we are planning to jointly create new pages and functionality to serve the global community in their efforts to protect and manage our oceans and seas. This will include new ways to see, check and verify your own MPA data as well as information on MPAs and World Heritage, climate change, High Seas, Socio-economic assessment and livelihoods, and human health & diseases. There will also be some surprises too to enhance your browsing experience.

We welcome further partners to join this ambitious process which is poised to significantly evolve how we all view, access and engage with information on Marine Protected Area and broader related themes of ocean protection and management. If you wish to join please contact us via protect planet ocean.

Further information on the development process will be posted periodically on the Official MPA Blog