Ocean Action Hub

Marine and Coastal Ecosystems

Welcome to the online discussion on Ensuring Sustainable Marine and Coastal Ecosystems. The discussion is taking place during the preparatory process for The Ocean Conference in order to engage stakeholders in assessing the challenges and opportunities related to delivering on implementation of Targets 14.2 and 14.5 aiming to sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems, including strengthening their resilience, to achieve healthy and productive oceans. The discussion runs from 15 March - 5 April 2017. More....

To participate, please post your response to the discussion questions below.

Marine and Costal Ecosystems - Question 1

What are the challenges faced in your community, country or region in achieving Target 14.2 & 14.5 aiming to sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems, including strengthening their resilience, to achieve healthy and productive oceans?

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Romani's picture

Romani said:

In the Mediterranean, to date (2016 Mediterranean MPA Status Report: Main findings. MedPAN/RACSPA), there are 1,231 MPAs and OECMs (Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures), covering 179,798 km2, which places a surface of 7.14% under a legal designation. For the majority of sites, little is known on whether management measures are implemented, and if they are, whether these measures are effective to reach the site’s conservation targets. Only 0.04% of the Mediterranean Sea (976 km2) is covered by no-go, no-take or no-fishing zones.

The MPAs in the Mediterranean region as a whole do not yet constitute a regional ecological network of Marine Protected Areas. Given the magnitude of the pressures and challenges, achieving the UN SDG 14.5 target, will only be possible in the short and medium term if there is a renewed, stronger, and coherent commitment from all stakeholders (international organisations, conventions, agreements), riparian states, NGOs, the scientific community, national institutions, MPA managers, the private sector, local populations/communities etc.), and on every geographic scale (local, national, Mediterranean, European and international).

Dr Peter JS Jones's picture

Dr Peter JS Jones replied:

I completely agree, Romani, there is no 'quick and easy fix' to achieve these targets and the underlying aim to conserve/restore marine ecosystems. At least in the Mediterranean you are ahead of the UK in terms of no-take MPA coverage - it may only be 0.04% but that is 40 times more than around UK, where we have just 0.001% no-take MPA coverage!

No-take arguments aside, we have previously argued that there is too much focus on the MPA coverage element of the Aichi (and related SDG) target (paper link and related The Conversation link article), hence our research on MPA governance to promote the more effective and equitable governance of MPAs (see www.mpag.info). There are plans to feature some related guidance at the Oceans Conference, including drawing on five MPA case studies in the Mediterranean, building on the Rome Call to Action and related Scientists' Consensus Statement, which includes MPA governance recommendations [link]. These revolve around the argument that we need a diversity of incentives, representing top-down, bottom-up and market approaches to governance - "The key to resilience is diversity, both of species in ecosystems and incentives in governance systems" (p.197 Governing MPAs: resilience through diversity link). One of the most vital ingredients in any governance mix is to have sufficient political will for effective MPAs, as any shortage of this will critically undermine any MPA initiative. I agree on the need for commitment amongst a broader range of actors, but the crucial ingredient is political will, including amongst Mediterranean states, if we are to have MPAs that are effective, equitable, representative and coherent.

The Oceans Conference and related initiatives and commitments will be extremely important in helping to build both (1) a shared understanding of different means of effectively and equitable governing MPAs and (2) the political will amongst different countries to implement appropriate governance approaches

Dr Peter JS Jones's picture

Dr Peter JS Jones said:

The question itself is very interesting, Raphaele, it would seem that the "airport runway extension that will affect mangroves ecosystem quite heavily" is planned to go ahead as a nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP). Whether this represents 'blue growth' or just good old fashioned and quite possibly much needed economic development is debatable, though it is doubtful that it represents an ecosystem-based approach, unless major steps are taken to mitigate against and compensate for mangrove losses, particularly given the very high ecosystem services benefits of these vital habitats. What is clear to me is that there is more to this than a communication gap between 'pro green growth' and 'only economic development' goverment institutions. This represents a basic value tension, if not conflict (see figure below), between those focused more on the protection of ecosystems and those focused more on economic development, and such tensions can rarely if ever be addressed by simply improving communication between the different people that hold them. Given the extremely high ecosystem services values of mangroves as flood defence, coral fish nursery area, food source, carbon sink, wood source, etc, the focus needs to be more on how the impacts can be minimised/mitigated and how any mangrove losses can be compensated for by planting and restoring compensatory mangrove areas. Maybe even the decision that the airport runway should be extended in a way that heavily affects mangroves needs to be revisited?

Your question is a practical illustration of the challenges of ensuring sustainable marine and coastal ecosystems, these being more about trying to address conflicting values (see figure below) than about breakdowns in communication. Recognising that basic conflicts exist between more ecosystem-based perspectives and more economic development-focused perspectives is a vital start for negotiations on how impacts can be avoided, mitigated against and compensated for. Communication is important but it is not necessarily the answer.

Also, beyond government institutions, what do local people, NGOs, fishermen, etc think about this proposed runway extension and heavy mangrove loss? When the questions are broadened, it becomes clearer that this is about more than learning lessons so as to avoid loopholes in communication as there is more to the conflicts than information deficits and communication breakdowns?

I am sure that there are many examples of approaches to help assess such conflicts (including ecosystem services assessments) and help support negotiations, but it is important to recognise that there is more to this than communication.

Fig. 1 Different perspectives on marine spatial planning (pp.34-35 Governing Marine Protected Areas, see Qiu and Jones (2013 Open Access) to further explore related perspectives)

Raphaele Deau's picture

Raphaele Deau said:

Hi everyone. I'm looking for case studies on partnership for big infrastructure projects in coastal areas. The topic I'm currently working on is an airport runway extension that will affect mangroves ecosystem quite heavily. And the main challenge is one of a communication gap between the government institutions we're dealing with (some pro green growth, some focused on economic development only). So, any similar cases with lessons learned would help us avoid the loopholes. Thanks!

Matthew Jeffery's picture

Matthew Jeffery said:

Hi, I have projects that work across several countries that deal with coastal conservation. One of the challenges for my work is that shorebirds and other bird species are not well represented in the MPA and coastal conservation initiatives - there is a tendency to focus under the water... yet birds that occupy the intertidal zones and breed on rocky outcrops are great indicators of a productive system. They are often not considered in many of the conservation schemes I have come across. 

Regardless of the birds some of the issues that I often see are: 1. Coordination on the ground between government agencies within a country are poor and there is often very little connection to the NGO's working on the same issues. 2. The real economics of conserving a site are often missing, are abstract (more of an academic exercise) or the capacity of the decision makers and local communities to understand them is limited. and 3. where there is understanding and engagement there are still issues due to lack of basic enforcement needs and a judiciary system specialized enough to effectively prosecute for the infringement.

The international community can help convene and sometimes coordinate – although there needs to be more thought on the stakeholders being engaged – but the governments agencies need more encouragement and incentive to better coordinate on coastal conservation issues.

Kelvin Passfield's picture

Kelvin Passfield replied:

Re the seabirds, yes, they are often ignored in the planning process.  We are in the process of trying to get exclusion zones around islands in the Cook islands, where foreign fishing and seabed mining will be banned.  Our domestic commercial fishery is small so not such a problem. 

We have several very important seabird islands. One of them is Suwarrow, and we are pushing for a 100 nautical mile (nm) buffer zone around that to protect the foraging area for the seabirds. The reason, as we understand it, is that if too many of the tuna are taken from within that area, that will impact the food fish for the birds, as these are pushed up to the surface by the predators (tuna) where the seabirds can catch them.

Our main obstacle is the Government ministry in charge of fisheries, that does not want to close off waters to the foreign boats for the fear they may lose some licence fees. 

Dr. Balasaheb Kulkarni's picture

Dr. Balasaheb K... said:

Now it is time to take action to protect our marine and coastal ecosystem. Most of us know that marine ecosystems are under stress of aanthropogenic pressure but we only discuss .

Thomas Kirk Sørensen's picture

Thomas Kirk Sørensen said:

Hello to all and thanks to the organizers and moderators for setting this up. My experiences focus on designation and management of protected areas (usually prescribed by EU directives) and general aspects relating to spatial planning of maritime sectors in Denmark.

Regarding 14.2: A major challenge to the achievement of Goal 14.2 is one that is likely shared by many future posts in this forum: the massive political weight placed behind job creation and income generation. In the EU this is referred to as Blue Growth, and the approach has rapidly been endorsed by both the current government and maritime sectors. If we are not very careful, Blue Growth may provide a window of opportunity to legitimately industrialize the oceans. While the oceans really do represent untapped opportunities for growth, we must be very careful that we don't compromise the ability of our seas to deliver ecosystem goods and services. In fact, Blue Growth is driving scientists to (often reluctantly) adopt the natural capital concept in order to provide counterweight in political processes. So a major current challenge for Goal 14.2 is that, more so than ever before, justification for environmentally sustainable development at sea is being challenged by industry  and the concept of "overriding public interest".

Regarding 14.5: In relation to designation of MPAs, the situation is similar. New MPAs have been designated in our waters as a part of the implementation of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Initial proposals were based on science and were appropriate in relation to the focal species. However, even the responsible authorities admitted that the final set of MPAs was designated based on opportunity, i.e. effectively avoiding fishing grounds. The influence of industry can also be felt in relation to regulating fisheries within existing MPAs designated via EU nature legislation. Instead of focusing on sites and site integrity, the default approach in northern Europe is now to focus solely on establishing narrow buffer zones around features (e.g. physical reef structures, sandbanks) within sites, in order to accommodate fisheries. So again, conservation targets (and resulting management) have been heavily influenced by income generation and industry.

Dr Peter JS Jones's picture

Dr Peter JS Jones replied:

Regarding SDG14.5 and your point that MPAs have been displaced and sidelined by economic development priorities related to fishing activities, but also to renewable energy developments, etc., we also found this in our analysis of the MPA network design and implementation process in south-west England (Open Access link), where economic development priorities and top-down processes eventually dominated the process and decisions, as the network design process shifted from a more science-based (using best available evidence) and local stakeholder-based process to a more economic development focused (with requirement for evidence-based approach to justify MPA decisions) process in which MPAs were located on a more opportunistic basis. As in Denmark, eventually designated MPAs tended to have a very narrow focus on only a few specific features (particular habitat types and species) and tended to deprioritise conserving and restoring wider ecosystem integrity, the narrow focus often providing a basis for allowing fishing, aggregate extraction, marine renewables, etc proposal to go ahead within MPAs.

Again, are there any more positive experiences out there that illustrate how MPAs can be designed and implemented on a more ecosystem-based approach that actually does prioritise ecosystem conservation/restoration, rather than MPAs being sidelined by economic development processes and undermined by a very narrow focus on only a few specific features?

Dr Peter JS Jones's picture

Dr Peter JS Jones replied:

Thanks, Thomas excellent points. Regarding SDG14.2 and MSP as a vehicle mainly for blue growth, we found the same through our case study research on MSP initiatives around Europe, as part of the EC funded MESMA project, in which you were of course a participant and provider of a case study. Based on an analysis of 12 MSP case studies, our paper MSP in Reality (Open Access link) argues that the blue growth agenda embedded in the EC Directive Establishing a Framework for Maritime Spatial Planning dominated the decisions taken through MSP'ing processes, and that the ecosystem-based approach agenda embedded in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive was neglected and de-prioritised in MSP'ing processes and decisions. We also relate our findings to parallel arguments and findings from around the world on the realities of MSP'ing. The highlights of the paper are:-

  • The realities of marine spatial planning contrast with related conceptual ideals.
  • National blue growth priorities lead to a focus on ‘strategic sectoral planning’ [thanks to Richard Kenchington for this term!]
  • Top-down approaches dominate from which participative platforms are disconnected by design.
  • Politically expedient focus on integrated-use is undermining environmental priorities.
  • A more critical empirical approach to marine spatial planning research is needed.

It would be interested to see if there are any other experiences of this domination by blue growth in MSP'ing or, more encouragingly, if there are examples out there of how MSP'ing has effectively balanced the need for blue growth and the adoption of an ecosystem-based approach that successfully promotes the conservation and restoration of marine ecosystems. In a related vein, and in order to add the final element of sustainable development, we also found that top-down decision-making processes tended to dominate in MSP'ing, this being related to the focus on nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs) and the role of government bodies ensuring that such NSIPs go ahead for national economic security reasons. Might a more bottom-up approach to MSP'ing decision-making that involves local interests help prioritise small-scale users and a more ecosystem-based approach, or will local economic development interests again prevail?

In essence, we can consider MSP'ing as another representation of the concept of sustainable development, in which the challenge is to combine the achievement of social, economic and environmental goals. Recognising that there is no 'easy fix' to these challenges, what experience have forum participants had (positive and negative) of how MSP'ing has or has not been successful with respect to promoting a more ecosystem-based and participative approach to decision-making that provides for economic development but does not allow blue growth to dominate the agenda?

Abdurazak Hassan's picture

Abdurazak Hassan said:

My concern is the devastating effect  illigal fishing is having in the idian ocean, specifically on the coast of Somalia, some of the species such as the female and pregnant lobster has been overfished and almost depleted. Those illegal trawlers do not only deplete fish stocks but also pollute the environment sometimes large number of fish is washed ashore in places where there has been a lot of illegal fishing activity, no investigation has been carried out yet as why? I mean illigal fishing on the territorial waters Somalia. Most of these vessels are own by iranians, Yemenis, Koreans, Tailand Egypt, and so on. The livelihoods of the fishing villages on Idian Ocean has been endagered, and that is the reason they resort to extreme and inhumane actions such as piracy; gangs pretending to be protecting those communities have had a havoc on the ships passing through the Gulf of Aden and the Idian Ocean. Somali government is weak and Somalia is fragmented, but a lot of pressure can be applied on regional governors such as the president of Puntland region.

Dr Peter JS Jones's picture

Dr Peter JS Jones replied:

I agree, Abdurazak, countries with a relatively weak state capacity need international support in protecting their marine resources from incoming exploitation interests in order to avoid major social and environmental injustices for countries like Somalia. The UN and related international institutions, with the support of wealthier countries with a stronger state capacity, need to support countries like Somalia in preventing the 'grabbing' of fisheries and other resources, be this through illegal or poorly regulated legal fishing activities, as local people will otherwise suffer the social and environmental injustices. The means to do this are developing, such as through the coupling of satellite surveillance technologies with Port State Measures Agreements to prevent illegal fishing vessels from landing and selling their fish. The UN and related international bodies and national governments have a strategic role to play in maturing and applying such surveillance technologies and enforcement approaches, and SDG14 is an ideal vehicle for promoting and enabling this

Oleg Khalidullin's picture

Oleg Khalidullin said:

The ocean affects not only the region and the country, but also the entire planet. Part of the formation of weather and climate.
The main evaporation in the clouds is evaporation from the surface of the oceans. In turn, the oceans are replenished by the rivers that flow from the land. With each passing day, river waters increase the pollution of the oceans not only with chemistry and waste, but also with a changed structure of water.

There are studies that the water passed through the pipes and turbines of hydroelectric plants undergoes destruction of the natural structure. The restoration of the natural structure by the very course of the rivers has not been investigated. Suppose the worst. The water structure does not change. Then the waters with a changed structure cover the surface of the ocean.

It is also unknown the quality of evaporation. Traditionally, we are accustomed to sit, that the molecules of Xb2O leave the atmosphere. However, there are studies that evaporation has different properties. For example, a Japanese researcher, Emoto Masaru, revealed distortions in the structure of water from the simplest effects on it. If this is so on the scale of whole rivers, then in the clouds we get water with a distorted structure. It is possible that the increasing volumes and periodicity of precipitation have become the main cause of the weather and climate change of the planet as a whole.

Ole Vestergaard's picture

Ole Vestergaard said:

Welcome to this online forum to discuss effective ways to ensure sustainable oceans and coast in advance of the UN Oceans Conference to be held 5-9 June this year. We are pleased to be moderating this discussion and look forward to engaging with you in exploring innovative ideas and suggestions to tackle this important topic.

We are interested in hearing your thoughts and big ideas on how best to enable sustainable marine and coastal ecosystems in face of multiple drivers and needs? - from the level of the citizen, all the way to government.  Please feel free to make your inputs on one or all of the questions we have posed here. 

Under Question 1, we are interested to learn from you about key challenges or gaps you see in maintaining healthy and productive marine and coastal ecosystems? What are main limitations of current management practices? After decades of coastal management, why are we not seeing more tangible improvements in the health of the ecosystems? What are key challenges in ensuring effective marine protected areas? What are the main obstacles in sharing their costs and benefits?

Overall, what are the main challenges in practically tackling competing objectives of marine and coastal stakeholders? Is ecosystem-based management an effective approach to ensure healthy oceans and coasts, or is it mostly an academic concept? What are key gaps in applying ecosystem-based management approaches to ensure healthy marine and coastal ecosystems as basis for viable sustainable development?

This E-forum will remain open until 5 April and we will monitor the inputs and provide moderation to ensure the discussion effectively feeds substantive input into the Conference discussions in June. Summaries of the responses will be synthesized at the end of the discussion. We anticipate the discussion will feed directly into conference discussions on challenges and actions. So your voice matters.  Make it count to sustain Life Below Water for our and future generations!

Marine and Coastal Ecosystems - Question 2

What do you see as the priority actions which we can all rally around in global 'Calls for Action' in achieving Target 14.2 & 14.5 to improve ecosystem-based marine and coastal management, including marine protected areas? What actions could support ocean contributions towards wider sustainable development?

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Sarah Poon's picture

Sarah Poon said:

Fishing communities rely on coastal and marine ecosystems for their livelihoods, and they bear the burden of ecosystem degradation. This deep connection to marine resources also positions fishing communities as great stewards of coastal resources and advocates for environmental protection. Fishing communities can lead conservation of marine ecosystems when they have the power to make decisions about how coastal resources are managed. To sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems at scale, it is important to set up management systems that place decisions in the hands of those who rely on marine resources.

Secure fishing rights allocate secure, exclusive rights to communities to fish in a designated area or to harvest a share of the total allowable catch. Spatial fishing rights, known as Territorial Use Rights for Fishing (or TURFs), are particularly compatible with ecosystem-based management. By setting up a system in which fishing communities are responsible stewards of a designated marine space, TURFs promote holistic fisheries management that accounts for not just the target species, but also the habitats and ecosystems they interact with.

Locally-driven participatory management empowers fishing communities and other stakeholders to articulate and achieve a broad set of objectives, including ecological objectives that promote the long-term sustainability of marine resources and social and economic objectives that rely on healthy ecosystems. Fishing communities empowered to manage their fisheries and ecosystems in a TURF have been known to set aside space in no-take marine reserves (a combination sometimes referred to as “TURF-reserves”). This combination allows the fishers within the TURF to benefit from the ecological and fishery benefits that the no-take reserve generates. Thus, secure fishing rights can be set up to allow resource users to directly benefit from conservation behavior, thereby motivating ecosystem protection. Such systems should be considered—where appropriate—to achieve conservation objectives and protect the ecosystems upon which people depend.

Dr Peter JS Jones's picture

Dr Peter JS Jones replied:

TURFs essentially represent collective property rights and can make an important contribution to promoting sustainable fisheries and achieving related conservation objectives for MPAs. They are not, however, without their challenges, e.g. need to ensure equity and justice when allocating and operating such property rights in order to avoid elites grabbing all the access rights and marginalised people being denied such access. There will also often be a need to attach legal conditions to such property rights related to effectiveness in achieving conservation objectives and equity in the allocation and operation of these property rights. Furthermore, the people to whom these property rights have been allocated will rarely have the capacity to enforce the access and related conservation restrictions on incoming users and determined local rule-breakers, especially if these rule-breakers are poor people unfairly denied access in the allocation and operation of these property rights. There will also, therefore, invariably be a need for continued state enforcement of the MPA and/or TURF restrictions, coupled with a need for state assisted monitong and assessment of the status of fish populations, other species, habitats, etc.

When considered as part of the governance mix, TURFs have a lot to offer, but only in appropriate circumstances. They must also always be combined with other governance approaches, such as the conditions, enforcement, etc discussed above. This is a good illustration of why we focus on how different governance approaches are combined in MPA case studies through the MPA Governance analysis approach link, including in the Rome Call to Action link and related Scientists' Consensus Statement link, as a means of identifying combinations of governance approaches (detailed through 36 incentives from five categories - see figure below and the related book on Governing MPAs link). Such combinations can then be transferred to comparable MPAs in similar contexts, as a means of developing capacity for effective and equitable governance. Such an approach can also be integrated with the development of capacity to deliver a range of sustainable development goals, and we plan to launch some related guidance at the Oceans Conference.

Returning to your excellent point about the potential of TURFS, it is important not to think of these as the solution, but to instead consider them as part of the potential solution, i.e. an element of a governance framework, as the effectiveness and equity of the MPA in question can only be achieved through a combination of governance approaches, recognising that “the key to resilience is diversity, both of species in ecosystems and incentives in governance systems” (p.197 Governing MPAs: resilience through diversity link). We look forward to working with UNEP/UNDP and related partners to assist in building capacity for effective and equitable MPAs and related fisheries through this combined governance approach studies.

Tony Charles's picture

Tony Charles replied:

Sarah, thank you for your comment. I could not agree more that their "deep connection to marine resources" ... "positions fishing communities as great stewards of coastal resources and advocates for environmental protection". This is an essential message of the new Guidelines on Small-Scale Fisheries, as well as FAO's Tenure guidelines. As you note, empowering communities is a crucial ingredient, so that they can choose the path best for them, in conserving ecosystems and sustaining livelihoods. Notably community-based fishery management, and community-based conservation, can take many forms. How it appears in practice, and indeed whether it ends up succeeding, will depend on the community being able to choose the approaches and "tools" that best fit local values, traditions, goals and experiences. 

Romani's picture

Romani said:

Key actions for the "Calls for aciton" in achieving Target 14.5 could be:The coverage and implementation of no-entry, no-take and no-fishing zones, within either existing or future MPAs, needs to be increased, especially in key functional areas.All MPA sites currently established should benefit from the necessary support for effective, equitable and efficient management by 2020.Exchange of experience, best practices and knowledge among MPA managers, should be strengthened.Win-win relationships of MPAs with decision-makers, donors and private sector need to be reinforced in order to respond to pressures beyond MPA borders, while considering MPAs as a natural capital and a management instrument to reach sustainability targets.

Dr Peter JS Jones's picture

Dr Peter JS Jones said:

Greetings to forum participants and thanks to Tony for kicking-off the discussions. Allow me to copy some points here in response to an interesting post in relation to Question 1.

Regarding SDG14.2 and MSP as a vehicle mainly for blue growth, we undertook case study research on MSP initiatives around Europe, as part of the EC funded MESMA project. Based on an analysis of 12 MSP case studies, our paper MSP in Reality (Open Access link) argues that the blue growth agenda embedded in the EC Directive Establishing a Framework for Maritime Spatial Planning dominated the decisions taken through MSP'ing processes, and that the ecosystem-based approach agenda embedded in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive was neglected and de-prioritised in MSP'ing processes and decisions. We also relate our findings to parallel arguments and findings from around the world on the realities of MSP'ing. The highlights of the paper are:-

  • The realities of marine spatial planning contrast with related conceptual ideals
  • National blue growth priorities lead to a focus on ‘strategic sectoral planning’ [thanks to Richard Kenchington for this term!]
  • Top-down approaches dominate from which participative platforms are disconnected by design.
  • Politically expedient focus on integrated-use is undermining environmental priorities.
  • A more critical empirical approach to marine spatial planning research is needed.

It would be interested to see if there are any other experiences of this domination by blue growth in MSP'ing or, more encouragingly, if there are examples out there of how MSP'ing has effectively balanced the need for blue growth and the adoption of an ecosystem-based approach that successfully promotes the conservation and restoration of marine ecosystems. In a related vein, and in order to add the final element of sustainable development, we also found that top-down decision-making processes tended to dominate in MSP'ing, this being related to the focus on nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs) and the role of government bodies ensuring that such NSIPs go ahead for national economic security reasons. Might a more bottom-up approach to MSP'ing decision-making that involves local interests help prioritise small-scale users and a more ecosystem-based approach, or will local economic development interests again prevail? In essence, we can consider MSP'ing as another representation of the concept of sustainable development, in which the challenge is to combine the achievement of social, economic and environmental goals. Recognising that there is no 'easy fix' to these challenges, what experience have forum participants had (positive and negative) of how MSP'ing has or has not been successful with respect to promoting a more ecosystem-based and participative approach to decision-making that provides for economic development but does not allow blue growth to dominate the agenda?

Regarding SDG14.5 and the point that MPAs have been displaced and sidelined by economic development priorities related to fishing activities, but also to renewable energy developments, etc., we also found this in our analysis of the MPA network design and implementation process in south-west England (Open Access link), where economic development priorities and top-down processes eventually dominated the process and decisions, as the network design process shifted from a more science-based (using best available evidence) and local stakeholder-based process to a more economic development focused (with requirement for evidence-based approach to justify MPA decisions) process in which MPAs were located on a more opportunistic basis. As in Denmark, eventually designated MPAs tended to have a very narrow focus on only a few specific features (particular habitat types and species) and tended to deprioritise conserving and restoring wider ecosystem integrity, the narrow focus often providing a basis for allowing fishing, aggregate extraction, marine renewables, etc proposals to go ahead within MPAs. Again, are there any more positive experiences out there that illustrate how MPAs can be designed and implemented on a more ecosystem-based approach that actually does prioritise ecosystem conservation/restoration, rather than MPAs being sidelined by economic development processes and undermined by a very narrow focus on only a few specific features?

Tony Charles's picture

Tony Charles said:

Welcome to the online forum on Ensuring Sustainable Marine and Coastal Ecosystems. I am pleased to be one of the moderators of this forum, which aims to contribute to the upcoming Ocean Conference, and help to realize the potential of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and in particular SDG 14 – “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”. In this forum the focus is on SDG14 targets 14.2 and 14.5… dealing with the role of ecosystem-based management and marine protected areas in sustainably using, managing, protecting and restoring marine and coastal ecosystems.

We are looking forward to hearing from you, with your contributions on these essential ingredients of modern ocean, coastal and fishery management. These topics highlight the importance of taking an ‘integrated’ perspective, one that looks at the ocean, as well as individual uses and single species, on an ecosystem basis.  

While these approaches are well-accepted, we have seen that implementing ecosystem-based management and marine protected areas is not a simple task. There are many scientific and technical issues (e.g. how to assess ecosystem changes over time, or how to establish protected areas that are effective for a variety of species), social and economic ones (e.g. what are the social impacts of a new marine protected area, or the economic effects of an ecosystem approach), and governance issues (e.g., who is involved in decision-making, and how exactly should the decisions be made).

So here, under Question #2, we are seeking your contributions about what priority actions are needed to meet those challenges in order to achieve Target 14.2 & 14.5 – improving ecosystem-based marine and coastal management, including marine protected areas. In particular, what actions can we all rally around in global 'Calls for Action'? What actions could support ocean contributions towards wider sustainable development?

It may be helpful to consider what should be the priorities for action at many levels – from the citizen and local communities, all the way to governments and international agencies. For example, what local-level or community strategies could be put in place to support sustainable development of marine and coastal ecosystems, and build sustainable livelihoods? What national or regional measures could strengthen ecosystem resilience and improve the management of coastal and marine ecosystems while ensuring economic, environmental and social needs are met? What international actions are most needed to provide policy guidance in restoring and conserving marine environments globally?



This forum will remain open until April 5th and we will monitor the inputs and provide moderation to ensure the discussion effectively makes a substantive input to be carried to the Conference in June. Summaries of the responses will be compiled at the end of the discussion period and posted on the platform. Please add your voice to the discussion as the global community converges in June 2017 to commit to action on Sustainable Development Goal 14 for our and future generations.

Marine and Coastal Ecosystems - Question 3

Please share any innovative partnerships - existing or proposed - aimed at more effective marine and coastal policy-making, governance and management that you are aware of or involved in that could be featured at the June Ocean Conference and can advance effective actions from local to global levels.

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Tony Charles's picture

Tony Charles said:

Thank you for the comments, Raphaele and Romani.

Raphaele, hopefully there will be some responses to your request for case studies on coastal infrastructure projects. Certainly, the issues of communications, and of the varying perspectives of government (and other) institutions are crucial ones. As I noted in a previous post, the Community Conservation Research Network (CCRN) is soon to launch at our website www.CommunityConservation.net a new participatory “Communities in Action” page, as a learning and sharing vehicle for case studies covering a wide range of experiences.

Romani, thank you for drawing attention to MPA manager networks. These are just the kind of partnerships, and 'learning mechanisms' that this forum is hoping to assemble. As you note, these "build a regional MPA community gathering managers, local and regional management authorities, local stakeholders and scientists towards the same overall goal". This reflects the important recognition that local stakeholders must have a voice in MPA decision-making. (See, for example, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/aqc.2648/epdf). Indeed, some MPAs that, to me, are most impressive around the world are those where local fishers and other stakeholders were prominent in proposing, implementing and managing the MPA. (A case close to home for me is the Eastport MPA in Canada.)  

Romani's picture

Romani said:

Because regional MPA networks are first and foremost networks of people managing MPAs, several initiatives have grown up over the world to formalise these “human” networks, such as MedPAN (Mediterranean), CaMPAM (Caribbean), RAMPAO (West Africa), NAMPAN (North America)….

MPAs managers’ networks are recognised as a cornerstone of the MPA viability and longevity:

- They build a “regional MPA community” gathering managers, local and regional management authorities, local stakeholders and scientists towards the same overall goal;

- They provide a rationale for individual MPAs to coordinate with each other to share experiences, tools, and methods, which enhances each other efforts in managing their respective MPAs;

- They shape a common language, encourage harmonisation and coherency including by offering knowledge development and capitalisation tools;

- They increase the visibility of MPAs and the funding opportunities.

Their successes, including in facilitating learning and in building scientific knowledge and institutional capacities are tangible. They also have a great potential to channel information and to champion the new marine conservation challenges. Working for the same goal, regional MPA managers’ networks have a great potential for teaming up to keep global and regional MPA agenda moving forward.

Raphaele Deau's picture

Raphaele Deau said:

Hi everyone. I'm looking for case studies on partnership for big infrastructure projects in coastal areas. The topic I'm currently working on is an airport runway extension that will affect mangroves ecosystem quite heavily. And the main challenge is one of a communication gap between the government institutions we're dealing with (some pro green growth, some focused on economic development only). So, any similar cases with lessons learned would help us avoid the loopholes. Thanks!

Tony Charles's picture

Tony Charles said:

Thanks to Mary-Elizabeth Miller of FAO for starting off the discussion of Question 3, on “innovative partnerships aimed at more effective marine and coastal policy-making, governance and management”. One element is to document “partnerships that have developed or encourage solutions-based approaches that strengthen ecosystem resilience and improve the management of coastal and marine ecosystems”.

Along those lines, I would like to highlight a specific partnership, the Community Conservation Research Network (CCRN). The CCRN is a global partnership of indigenous, community, academic, government & nongovernmental organizations, which unabashedly focuses on the local community scale, and the role of communities in bringing together marine and coastal conservation with sustainable livelihoods.

This focus recognizes the 2-way connection between the well-being of local communities and the health of local ecosystems. The idea is that sustaining ecosystems is crucial for local communities (and equally for national economies), and sustaining strong, cohesive communities is crucial to enable conservation that maintains healthy ecosystems. This 2-way connection also requires suitable governmental policy, so the CCRN looks for ‘best governance practices’ that effectively support community conservation and sustainable livelihoods.

The CCRN, while engaged in local community-based research and capacity building at sites around the world, also provides a global focal point on interactions of Communities, Conservation and Livelihoods. In particular the website www.CommunityConservation.net describes community conservation research and support initiatives around the world, with a range of Community Stories, a video page, and training tools for community conservation. A new participatory “Communities in Action” page will be available by the end of March, as a learning and sharing vehicle for community conservation experiences.

I hope others will share their (existing or potential) partnerships in this discussion forum, so that a range of innovative approaches can be documented! 

Mary-Elizabeth Miller's picture

Mary-Elizabeth ... said:

Welcome to the online forum on addressing Sustainable Marine and Coastal Ecosystems in advance of the SDG-14 Ocean Conference that will take place in June of this year. We are very pleased to be moderating this discussion and look forward to hearing from you. 

We are interested in receiving your contributions as to how the global community can respond to Ensuring Sustainable Marine and Coastal Ecosystems from the level of the citizen, all the way to government.  Please feel free to make your inputs on one or all of the questions we have posed here.  Under Question 3, we are interested to learn from you about innovative partnerships that can foster solutions to these complex problems involving communities, the public and private sectors.  

For example, how can local fisheries and management strategies work together to ensure the sustainable development of marine and coastal ecosystems in the short and long term; combining sustainable use and conservation to ensure healthy and productive people and environment?

Are there partnerships that have developed or encourage solutions-based approaches that strengthen ecosystem resilience and improve the management of coastal and marine ecosystems while ensuring economic, environmental and social responsibilities?

What kinds of concrete activities can help to strengthen resilience, restore, and conserve threatened habitats at the local level?

How might we come together to improve or put in place measures to pay for efforts to restore, recover or preserve our marine environment, and make our efforts sustainable in the long run?  What might be our Calls for Action at the Conference in June to achieve the targets laid out in the SDGs? 

This forum will remain open until 5 April and we will monitor the inputs and provide moderation to ensure the discussion effectively feeds makes a substantive input to be carried to the Conference in June. Summaries of the responses will be compiled at the end of the discussion period and posted on the platform.

Your voice matters!  Make it count as the global community converges in June 2017 to commit to action to realize Sustainable Development Goal 14 to sustain Life Below Water for our and future generations!