12 Sep 2017 - Culminating in a high-level meeting and the approval of a Call to Action, the fourth International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC4) highlighted the relationship between the ocean and communities worldwide, and the benefits that marine protected areas (MPAs) provide to millions of people. In a series of plenary sessions, symposia, workshops and other events, participants analyzed ways to combine the management of MPAs with progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goal on conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas and marine resources (SDG 14).
Organized by the Government of Chile and the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas, IMPAC4 was held from 5-8 September 2017, in La Serena – Coquimbo, Chile. A high-level meeting took place on 9 September in Valparaiso, Chile. Over 1,000 representatives from governments, international and non-governmental organizations, and local communities, as well as members of civil society and others met to discuss issues around the theme, ‘Marine Protected Areas: Bringing the people and ocean together.’ These included: MPAs and global change, including climate change and ocean acidification; MPAs and coastal communities, including empowerment of women, and development and economic growth; effective, successful management of MPAs, including sustainable development initiatives and finance for MPAs; and MPAs and shared future visions, including marine spatial planning and youth-led collaborative action.
IMPAC4 culminated in a high-level meeting, where participants approved a Call to Action that called for: ensuring appropriate financial mechanisms for MPAs; integrating climate change considerations into MPAs; and engaging with women, youth and local communities to enhance MPA creation and management.
The IMPAC4 Call to Action calls for: ensuring appropriate financial mechanisms for MPAs; integrating climate change considerations into MPAs; and engaging with women, youth and local communities to enhance MPA creation and management.
A plenary session took an in-depth look at the interrelationship between oceans and climate change. Experts emphasized that the phenomenon of global change, in addition to ocean acidification and species over-exploitation, seriously affect the conservation of marine ecosystems. They further highlighted the role of oceans in climate change mitigation, the need for urgent action to conserve oceans, and the importance of introducing a more adaptive management strategy.
Panel discussions on MPAs and coastal communities revolved around development and economic growth, opportunities and consequences of artisanal fisheries, appreciating ecosystem services beyond their economic value and the role of MPAs in social conflicts. Participants drew attention to advances in the administration of MPAs with, and for the people, presented different management models and emphasized the importance of working with youth. Poki Tane Haoa, fisherman and representative of Rapa Nui (Chile), highlighted the recently reached agreement that creates a marine and coastal protected area of multiple use in Rapa Nui, Chile, announced on 4 September 2017 by Heraldo Muñoz, Foreign Affairs Minister of Chile. He referred to this agreement as a big step, but “it is just the beginning, as it requires a commitment to continue pushing work through consensual agreements and not impositions.”
Other discussions highlighted the importance of monitoring, adequate funding, research, the work of park rangers and strong education and awareness-raising strategies for all audiences for effective MPA management.
During the Congress, UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) and IUCN launched the Marine Protected Planet Interactive, a platform for information on ocean protection. Through Marine Protected Planet Interactive, users can access data about the spatial location and size of protected areas. Further efforts are underway to develop standards for measuring the equity and effectiveness of protected areas management. By combining this information with other datasets, UNEP-WCMC aims to advise governments and other stakeholders on whether MPAs are representing habitats of critical importance.
In addition, IMPAC4 saw the release of the third in a series of Special Issues of the journal titled, ‘Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems,’ presenting the outputs and latest thinking from global MPA conferences. This edition reports from the IUCN Congress held in Hawai’i in 2016 and contains 12 papers covering topics from the development of a network of MPAs in the Russian Arctic and the development of thinking around Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures(OECMs) to the implications of MPAs for aquaculture and blue carbon protection and management.
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