Wednesday, 2 June 2010

WCPA – Marine Progress report 2009 - 2010

This has been another busy period for WCPA – Marine. We continue to work and strengthen our partnership as an IUCN ‘one program’, especially with the Global Marine Team and with the USA Office in Washington DC. This partnership is a tremendous endeavour that significantly advances marine conservation.

The main ‘global’ WCPA – Marine staff are Dan Laffoley (Vice Chair Marine 50% time), Louisa Wood (100%), Caitlyn Toropova (100%) and Greg Brost (100% limited period appointment). During the year the underlying funding partnership for Caitlyn’s post evolved from Conservation International, World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, and IUCN, to one consisting of The Nature Conservancy and IUCN. We both sincerely thank and remain grateful to all our partners for their support for our work.

Considerable interactions occurred on a daily basis with many key members of the Global Marine Program team to take forward joint work and new initiatives. Our ability to deliver is also significantly supported through a large and growing network of WCPA – Marine volunteers in the regions – covering all ocean areas of the world. The regional coordinator framework achieved complete coverage of all ocean regions, and regional coordinators in some regions (e.g Colombia and Chile) strengthening the network through country coordinator appointments and development of key contact regional networks in other areas. At the end of 2009 Louisa Wood who achieved so much left WCPA – Marine/Global Marine Program to take up a role at UNEP WCMC. We thank her for her tireless efforts and wish her well in her new role.

Getting our message out and enhancing interactions within and across communication networks continues to be one of our key challenges underlying increasing our reach and effectiveness. Significant progress is now being made on this issue. In early 2010 after much planning a global email list-serve system went live connecting key marine contact points throughout the world with WCPA – Marine activities. This web-based, semi-automated system enables monthly information on key activities, seeking views and engaging our membership in our work, to be made available in up to 35 different languages, with the ability at regional and local scales to add to the distribution list of individuals who automatically then receive our news.

Later in 2010 we plan to increase functionality further as we roll out a new Geo RSS widget which will enable RSS feed news (you can now embed our news into iGoogle and other desktop systems) to be linked to a point on Google maps. Such new opportunities will be much more visible in the future via links throughout the re-launched Protect Planet Ocean pages on Protected Planet (see below for details) and a dedicated page of “News and Views” which will focus on news and social networking. We are also planning to have a Google MPA events calendar that integrates with the new Geo-RSS widget to keep everyone up-to-date with key events.

Overall our successes are set against a considerable amount of work behind the scenes to raise money – in just one short period over $5 million in proposals were generated that have been moderately successful. Funding our work as a voluntary commission continues to be challenging and includes taking on challenging assignments to help raise money for the work.

WCPA – Marine achievements in detail

There have been many highlights from the last year and below are just a few selected highlights to demonstrate the breadth and reach of our work with partners to deliver the Global Plan of Action for MPAs. This is not meant to be and in no way is an exhaustive list of major achievements for MPAs and ocean protection.

IMPAC 2 and 3. 2009 saw IMPAC 2 take place in Washington DC. This was a major undertaking that was spearheaded by the USA MPA Centre and NOAAs Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. It was a major success advancing the MPA agenda and bringing together many hundreds of MPA practitioners together with the Society of Conservation Biology’s meeting. Immediately after IMPAC 2 we hosted a WCPA-Marine Day at NOAA for Regional coordinators, partners, and others to discuss how to best advance a cohesive MPA Agenda. This was a great success and we will repeat on future occasions. We are grateful to NOAA for their ongoing support at this and other events.

Planning is already underway for IMPAC 3 that will be held in Marseille France in 2013, from October 21 - 27. This planning has included meetings of a core group that will pave the way for the establishment of a formal Steering Group to manage the Congress processes. IMPAC 3 is set to one of the largest global gatherings ever on MPA and we are already looking at new ways to bring such a conference to more people across all regions and actively engage them in proceedings. It will happen at a pivotal time for MPAs. IMPAC3 will be the continuity of the two first congresses, and will be following 2012, a rich year for marine biodiversity with COP 11 of the CBD. 2012 will also be the year of the World IUCN Congress and therefore an opportunity to prepare IMPAC3 by helping organise thematic workshops and working sessions. It will also precede the World Congress of Parks and Protected Areas in 2014 which will allow decisions on MPAs from IMPAC 3 to feature at the congress and in its recommendations.

Google Ocean, Protect Planet Ocean and Protected Planet. In February 2009 we launched the highly anticipated ‘Google Ocean’ – this was the result of a three-year process working closely with Google and other members of their Council of Advisors appointed to redevelop Google Earth. The new version of Google Earth (5.0) now includes a 3D ocean with a shimmering digital surface that users can zoom through to investigate the many aspects of marine issues that have been placed on this new desktop application. Included here are the c4500 MPAs with an interactive multimedia pop-up for each one – in effect a mini website that enables users to upload pictures, films and videos and stories to help illustrate why such areas are so important for ocean health and well bring. Alongside this, each MPA on Google Earth links to a custom-designed web platform called Protect Planet Ocean that we constructed with leaders in ocean conservation. This high traffic site (1 million plus users) provides visitors with MPA information that it is not possible to hold on individual pop-ups, as well as key resources, our regional coordinator framework, and how to add and edit MPA data. During the latter part of 2009 we then additionally upgraded the Protect Planet Ocean site based on user statistics to give an enhanced surfing and interactive experience.

Early in 2010 we engaged further with Google and UNEP WCMC on Protected Planet, which will build on Protect Planet Ocean and take user experience for all protected areas world-wide to a new dynamic and accessible level. We are also currently in discussions with Google over future changes to the Google Earth platform and accessibility to the Ocean layers including the MPA layer. For Protect planet Ocean we completed final deliverables for the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) that we have been supporting. This included a CTI introduction page and Google Earth tour of the Coral Triangle. The tour exists as a movie embedded in the CTI introductory page via the Protect Planet Ocean YouTube page. Early in 2010 we appointed Greg Brost to support further development of the Google Earth and Protect Plant Ocean initiative so it becomes integrated with Protected Planet with UNEP WCMC. Much work is being undertaken by Greg Brost behind the scenes to make this happen. This includes:

1. integrating Protect Planet Ocean with – aesthetically, providing the marine content, making use of the Protected Planet services for browsing and editing (M)PA’s
increased visibility of news, blog and social networking (twitter, facebook, YouTube)
consolidation and reorganization of content, content is being tagged (region/thematic) so that it relates to the appropriate section of the site
2. filling in missing content: experts bios, working with regional coordinators to fill in missing regional characteristics
3. increased use of RSS for dynamic content generation – news, jobs
4. other: ability to request WCPA marine membership: replaces contact database, commitment tracker: making some tech changes so that it’s easier to administer

The Spanish-based IT company Vizzuality has been contracted by UNEP WCMC for the aesthetic design of Protected Planet and has delivered HTML and CSS templates while our own contractor Solertium has been contracted to implement the new page designs, with Greg providing considerable day-to-day support. Alongside such work we have been updating actions to help implement WCPA – Marine move forward in a digital world - Greg has worked, for example, to finalize a definitive, high resolution shapefile of the MCPA Marine Region boundaries for use on the web, in publications and for user downloads.

TED prize, Mission Blue, Hope Spots, world leaders and The Mission Blue Voyage: In February 2009 Sylvia Earle was awarded the prestigious TED prize. In addition to the prize is the opportunity to make a ‘wish to change the world’. Sylvia’s wish focuses on ‘hope spots’ for the ocean in support of our global Plan of Action for MPAs:

I wish you would use all means at your disposal — films! expeditions! the web! more! — to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas, hope spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet.”

We acted throughout as lead technical advisors to the wish. This included developing the concept of hope spots as well as the creation of the Mission Blue brand and the Sylvia Earle Foundation. We led a process with Sylvia to directly reach out via the United Nations to over 100 world leaders which paid dividends with a number of significant responses received back. Sylvia’s TED speech inspired hundreds of offers of support, including a $1m pledge from investor/philanthropist Addison Fischer.

Celebration of the wish started in early April 2010 and took the form of an unprecedented ‘TED-at-sea’ mission to the Galapagos to create new opportunities and ways to secure more hope spots in the ocean. The sea-voyage consisted of 100 people (including Sylvia Earle, Leonardo DiCaprio, Edward Norton, Glenn Close, Elizabeth Banks, Steve Case, Ted Waitt, Bill Joy, Jackson Browne, Damien Rice, Chevy Chase, Jean-Michel Cousteau and 30 of the world's leading marine scientists) and turned into an epic event that may have significant impact on global efforts to save our oceans. IUCN was well represented by Carl Lundin, Dan Laffoley, Kristina Gjerde, Jeremy Jackson, and Laura Cassinani. It happened because the individuals and organizations on board chose to abandon the obstacles that often engulf non-profit work, and engage in a process of emergent collaboration.

Eight separate initiatives were kick-started, aided by $15m in commitments from the individuals on board. These included:

$1m to complete a package to protect the waters around Galapagos themselves
$1.1m to launch a plan to protect the 1m-square-mile Sargasso Sea and commitments to raise a further $2.5m to see the plan through to success
$350k to boost ocean exposure in schools
$3.25m to commence a campaign to end fishing subsidies
$10m to kickstart a new partnership to fund longer-term ocean projects

Not bad for 4 days' work, especially as these commitments were not pre-planned. They emerged organically from the discussions on board in an untried process that worked better than anyone dared hope for. In addition, TED recorded more than 20 fabulous talks on ocean issues that are to be shared with the world on in the coming months, and which will end up being seen by literally millions of people.

We are now working with various key players to follow-up on the voyage and sustain the momentum created for ocean protection. We are also strengthening links between the Mission Blue website including cross links between the region pages and introductory content. News feed and social networking linking and subscriptions are also being established. We continue to work closely with Sylvia on the next stages of her wish.

Nagoya and regional reviews: As we near 2012 the time has arrived to take stock of where we are on MPAs globally, what we have achieved for MPAs so far, and the next steps. This is to prepare for 2012 and the phases that we will enter into as we celebrate and move beyond this significant year. We are already working with TNC, UNEP WCMC, UNEP, UNU, the French MPA Agency and the wider IUCN community to produce a high profile report for COP-10 called ‘Nagoya 2010: Moving the Needle on Global Ocean Protection. Recommendation for the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the International Conservation Community on improving and accelerating actions on Marine Protected Areas.’

The focus of this report will be on consolidating our knowledge on progress to date and next steps. There is talk of an Oceans Day at Nagoya so we hope that this will form an important part of that event should it go ahead. The plan is to produce and launch this report at Nagoya, and, if possible, to provide some advance highlighting of the report and key messages at the CBD SBSTTA meeting in Nairobi and Global Oceans Conference in Paris this May. An application for a side event has been submitted to CBD but funding is not confirmed at this time.

High Seas Marine Protected Areas: The High Seas continues to be a key priority for us led by Kristina Gjerde. With direct support from the German government and as ‘one program’ we supported the launch and implementation of the Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative ( This is a multidisciplinary partnership of 12 internationally recognized institutions, including the Census of Marine Life and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Institution, to help identify ecologically and biological significant areas based on scientific criteria adopted by the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2008.

GOBI provided the key background report for CBD expert workshop (October, 2009) to develop guidance for applying the CBD criteria in the open ocean and deep sea. In addition we obtained the support of the Bermuda government to develop plans for promoting the Sargasso Sea as a pilot High Seas MPA (see below). In the Southern Ocean the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) designated first fully high seas MPA and committed to take more actions in order to establishing representative MPA network by 2012 (November, 2009), following five year push from us and other key partners.

Marine World Heritage. Alongside the High Seas considerable activity has been directed at building a stronger approach for marine World Heritage. In addition to many ongoing discussions with the Secretariat and WCPA World Heritage Programs, the global Plan of Action for IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas provides the mandate for renewed and enhanced action on marine World Heritage as one of the essential measures now needed alongside protection of wildlife and habitats on the High Seas.

The Kingdom of Bahrain in partnership with UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre and IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas hosted a workshop from 24 to 26 February 2009. The focus was to build on previous analyses of inadequacies and imperatives of the Convention with regard to the marine environment and to develop a clear road map of actions. The road map, when implemented, will significantly move the world community closer to more effective application of the Convention in the marine environment. The roadmap is called the Bahrain Plan of Action for marine World Heritage. The plan outlines five actions on: (1) capacity building, (2) delivery of new marine protected areas with potential World Heritage values, (3) improving networking, (4) improving marine protected area data and visibility, and (5) developing an IUCN Thematic study on Marine World Heritage.

We are now finalising and publishing the plan following final discussions with State Parties. Planning is also well in hand for an expert meeting to be held on Vilm Island, Germany, from June 30th - July 4th 2010, to help develop the marine Thematic Study referred to above. This important meeting forms part of a longer-term process to produce the Thematic Study and will clarify conceptual questions and develop a concrete roadmap to take this work forward.

Alongside these activities we have been delighted to welcome Fanny Douvere as the new marine office for UNESCO World Heritage in Paris. This has considerably strengthened marine World Heritage activities and we look forward to sustaining and developing our joint activities in the coming years.

Development of large scale MPAs. During the year significant activity has been connected with moving forward large-scale protection of the ocean. The consultation by the UK Government on the protection of the British Indian Ocean Territory (Chagos) generated considerable discussion and debate and resulted in the announcement of the creation of the world’s largest MPA on 1 April 2010. This will be no take and discussions continue with key partners such as Pew on securing effective management and enforcement following the announcement.

Considerable activity focussed on discussions around securing better recognition, management and protection for the Sargasso Sea. Stemming from a letter from Marine Vice Chair to the Premier of Bermuda this sustained discussions through IMPAC 2 to a key workshop hosted by the Government in Bermuda in February 2010 and generously supported by the Kaplin Foundation, and with the support of key regional governments, including the US, the UK, Trinidad and Tobago, and South Africa, in collaboration with WCPA, Mission Blue and the Center for Ocean Solutions Discussions relating to the Sargasso Sea also occurred during the Mission Blue Voyage and resulted in the commitment from donors to support this initiative with over $1 million in initial support. Further development of the approach focussing on the Sargasso Sea is ongoing with key meetings occurring in late May and early June 2011.

Management effectiveness: Doing all we can to develop renewed approaches to ensure effective management of existing MPAs remains a key part of our work. We have undertaken a number of initiatives on this during the year on this issue. One initiative is to provide an accurate picture of what MPAs exist at regional scales. Then, hopefully, we can assess effectiveness. Working with UNEP-WCMC, we are updating the World Database on Protected Areas and working to serve this to internet users through a revolutionary new web site - Protected Planet. Once this is rolled out, UNEP-WCMC plans to spend significant resources on assessing effectiveness.

Members of our Regional Coordinator Network, Kohei Hibino and Moi Kim Tam, have worked tirelessly on an assessment of effectiveness within MPAs of SE Asia. Their work will be published soon, and used as a case study in the Nagoya Report. We have also worked with NOAA and other partners to draft a follow up to ‘How is Your MPA Doing’ called ‘How is Your MPA Network Doing?’ that aims to measure management effectiveness of existing MPA Networks. This effort is being led by NOAA and we continue to consult as needed.

Finally we are working with a small team of enthusiasts to develop additional guidance on application of the IUCN Management Categories to the marine environment. This has included an online survey and analysis with the development of fit-for-purpose guidance to assist practitioners in better applying and classifying MPAs. This will help provide a more robust basis from which to assess management effectiveness in the future.

MPAs, climate change and ocean acidification: With the 2009 focus on climate and Copenhagen considerable activity has been directed at this topic. Last autumn we launched the IUCN report on ‘The Management of Natural Coastal Carbon Sinks’ which synthesised current scientific information on carbon sequestration in coastal ecosystems and highlighted their importance in the global carbon cycle. This forms the coastal/marine element of the broader IUCN and partners initiative on ‘Natural Solutions’. Around the same time UNEP launched a report titled 'Blue Carbon' which proposed the idea of establishing a Blue Carbon fund for financing marine ecosystem management. Both these reports generated high levels of interest in these ‘missing’ carbon sinks and the mass emissions of carbon dioxide that are caused by their distruction. Such emissions are currently not included in national greenhouse gas emission calculations and are not well addressed or even feature in existing carbon finance systems.
Given the broad interest in natural coastal carbon sinks IUCN together with WCPA-Marine convened in the aftermath of Copenhagen an initial blue carbon roundtable discussion to provide the interested organizations an opportunity to exchange information on their current and planned activities, identify mutual interest and potential partnerships.

The goals of this meeting were to learn whether these groups are exploring blue carbon programs, the level of development so far, and to start a discussion about the development of an overarching framework for a cohesive way forward in the blue carbon debate. Participating organizations included amongst other UNEP, World Bank, GEF, CI, TNC, WWF, Oceana, Forest Trend, PWA and NRDC. This meeting highlighted that there is a remarkable strength of complementarities within the interests and activities of the participating groups. There was a general view that the various activities need to be pursued in an integrative way and that an overarching framework would be beneficial to avoid large overlaps, coordinate and guide the blue carbon discussions. WE continue to convene the global community in partnership with the Global Marine Program, the latest set of meetings being at the Global Oceans Forum in Paris in May 2010. We are currently working with the World Bank and GEF on further studies and implementation opportunities and pathways.

Alongside these activities IUCN WCPA – Marine is developing a sister publication to the original one that has initiated such high interest in marine carbon. This new publication, due for release in 2011, will focus on oceanic carbon sinks, highlighting the evidence base and identifying actions that we can take over the wider open ocean marine environment that promote rather than impact such systems. We are also working on a complementary publication of ocean warming that is due for publication sometime in 2011.

Complementing our activities on climate change we have also been very active on the other CO2 problem – ocean acidification. This included producing a simple plain English guide on ocean acidification in 5 languages for the Copenhagen COP meeting last in 2009. This has been tremendously successful and generated considerable press coverage around the world. We are now working on a sister publication called ‘Ocean Acidification: Questions Answered’ to update information on this topic and dispel the more popular myths about it. This is due for launch in multiple languages in November 2010.

Finally we continue to work closely with partners such as the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries in the USA to seek practical guidance to help MPA managers’ better plan to cope with climate change impacts widely predicted for the future.

Regional MPA Reviews: Caitlyn Toropova presented work on the MPA Regional Reviews as they were intended to proceed in the Mediterranean and Caribbean. Unfortunately, funding was not secured to finish the reviews for the Wider Caribbean. However, she was able to secure the multiple regional and sub regional MPA datasets for those 2 regions and is currently finishing the reconciliation process for both. Once data is updated from the multiple sources, it will be input into the new WDPA (Protected Planet) and we will have at least for those two regions, the most up to date and accurate MPA data available.

The Mediterranean Regional Review was completed but not broadcast to the community and integrated into policy decisions as was hoped. Many of the gaps and recommendations were created using the great work of MedPan others. Copies are available upon request.

Conferences and meetings: We worked hard as a team in partnership with the Global Marine Program to attend and speak at a considerable number of key meetings around the world, ensuring that MPAs both continue to have a strong and compelling voice in and outside our community, in literature and the press, and that significant movement continues to be taken to advance ocean conservation actions.

Dan Laffoley, Caitlyn Toropova and Greg Brost
IUCN WCPA – Marine

May 2010