Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Is Certification of MPA Professionals Part of the Solution for Latin America and the Caribbean?

Would certifying MPA professionals (not sites) based on their job performance raise the stature of the profession and help with staff retention? Does your staff have the skills but lack the motivation and leadership to get the job done? Do you lose staff once they get training? Through the MPA PRO program, certification (not to be confused with training courses) is helping address these issues in the Western Indian Ocean region. Would it also succeed in the Latin America and Caribbean region as a
complimentary structure to existing capacity building activities? These are some of the questions that Caribbean and Latin American MPA leaders are asking. Most have said YES it is an idea worth exploring.


An innovative capacity building program that assesses and certifies MPA professionals’ on-the-job performance is helping motivate individuals to do their best, earn them recognition for excellent performance, promote their professional growth, build their networking and leadership skills, and promote the use of ethical practices. Most importantly, this program—MPA PRO—promotes competences based on internationally recognized good practices in MPA management.

Developed by the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) and the Coastal Resources Center (CRC), this program was first piloted in the Western Indian Ocean region as WIO-COMPAS (the Western Indian Ocean Certification of MPA Professionals). It assesses professionals across core competence areas of:

Management Operations
Financial Management
Communications and Stakeholder Engagement
Ecological and Social Environments
MPA Compliance and Legislation
Leadership and Ethics.

The program has three certification levels with competences and standards set for each level:

Level 1 - Marine Field Operations
Level 2 - Site Management
Level 3 - Strategy, Policy and Planning

One year after completing the program, the first cadre of MPA PROs—the title used for certified MPA professionals—report increased motivation, leadership and networking skills. For these reasons and more, MPA PRO may help with staff retention, career development and motivation. Adapting the Model to the Caribbean? MPA PRO is designed to be easily adapted region by region.

Latin America, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia are interested in adapting the model—recognizing that certifying MPA professionals can be an important step in improving overall MPA management effectiveness. MPA PRO is endorsed by IUCN WCPA-Marine, the International Rangers Federation, the Game Rangers Association and WWF South Africa. Please contact Glenn Ricci ([log in to unmask]) with your thoughts on the potential value of a certification program for the Caribbean and/or Latin America region. Or visit - or  for materials and to see how MPA PRO works in the WIO region.

Key links:

MPA PRO Network flyer - with general overview of the model -

Website for WIO-COMPAS -

WIO-COMPAS Program Handbook - details of the program with competences -

Brochure for the Western Indian Ocean - WIO-COMPAS -

Evaluation of MPA PRO Impact -