From 5-9 June 2017, the United Nations Headquarters in New York hosted its first-ever Ocean Conference, attracting thousands of government officials and institutions to discuss implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 on the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans. The conference’s main outcome — a Call for Action — included MPAs within a broader call for the “use of effective and appropriate area-based management tools” to better conserve marine biodiversity.
Arguably the more newsworthy outcome of the conference was the hundreds of commitments and announcements made by governments and organizations, several of which pertained to MPAs. For a full list of the 1374 voluntary commitments (MPA and non-MPA), click here. A synopsis of the MPA-related ones, including several to designate or expand protected areas, is here.
The UN announced that commitments made at the conference indicate the world is on track to protect over 10% of the globe’s marine areas by 2020. (This does not mean that all coastal nations will meet the target for their own waters; rather, some individual nations are protecting much more than 10%.) According to the conference’s closing press release, conference commitments will add 4.4% of the world’s marine area to existing MPA coverage when eventually designated.
Some of the announcements and commitments made during the conference included:
- Canada designated a 4364-km2 MPA off its East Coast, the St. Anns Bank Marine Protected Area. Three-quarters of the MPA (its ‘core protection zone’) is off-limits to commercial fishing.
- Chile announced plans to designate two MPAs totaling more than 500,000 km2. Together with the nation’s existing MPAs, more than 1 million km2 of Chile’s waters will be in MPAs.
- Cook Islands announced that a bill to formally designate the nation’s 2 million-km2 Te Marae Moana marine protected area would go to Parliament in mid-June. Prime Minister Henry Puna said Te Marae Moana was the largest commitment by any country to integrate ocean conservation and management from ridge to reef and beyond.
- Costa Rica announced designation of an 800-km2 MPA off its Pacific coast. The percentage of the nation’s waters under protection increased from 12.7% to 15.7%.
- French Polynesia pledged to designate its entire 4.7 million-km2 EEZ as a protected area, called ‘The Great Far Ocean’ MPA.
- Gabon announced plans for a 53,000-km2 network of multiple-use MPAs along its coast. The network will include 20 new MPAs.
- Myanmar formally designated its first three Locally-Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs).
- South Africa reiterated its intent to designate 24 new MPAs as part of its ‘Operation Phakisa’ national ocean planning effort.
In addition, various new MPA-related publications were launched at the conference, including:
- Marine Protected Areas: Economics, Management and Effective Policy Mixes (OECD, 2017)
- Partnering for a Sustainable Ocean: The Role of Regional Ocean Governance in Implementing Sustainable Development Goal 14 (Partnership for Regional Ocean Governance, 2017)