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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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Tony Charles's picture

Tony Charles said:

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this e-discussion. In thinking of "priority actions" for achieving SDG targets 14.2 and 14.5, this discussion has generated not only some useful "action" proposals, but also important principles and guidelines that need to be kept in mind for any and all "actions". John highlights that the goal of "ensuring sustainable marine and coastal ecosystems" must be pursued more widely than solely within marine protected areas. This reinforces the point made by Peter that while any single management tool, notably spatial tools like TURFs and MPAs, has a role to play, it is important to recognize the need for combinations of tools - what I have referred to as a "management portfolio". Felicia emphasizes the need for environmental assessment and planning for coastal cities - in thinking of SDG14, although there may often be a focus on managing uses of the oceans, such as fisheries, the reality is that coastal cities have a huge impact on sustainability of marine and coastal ecosystems, so urban issues are very much ocean issues. Finally, as an important principle or guideline, it is clear from the discussion that collectively, proposed 'calls to action' must (1) cover multiple spatial scales (i.e. ensuring sustainability of local-level coastal ecosystems, through to regional seas and large marine ecosystems) and (2) cover all levels of decision-making (by including participation of coastal communities in local decision-making, through to large-scale stakeholder organizations in national and regional decision-making).  

Felicia Chinwe Mogo's picture

Felicia Chinwe Mogo said:

Massive graduated awareness creation on the importance so far the ocean, designation of protected areas and its mapping,
Strict compliance with environmental impact assessment/ environmental plan for coastal cities, adherence to international and national laws in protection of the seas through formulation of regulations and guideline and standards, encouragement of partnership arrangement within and outside regions on protection of the ocean

John Davis's picture

John Davis said:

I propose that the Ocean Conference should clarify that the entirety of the ocean — 100% of it, including the high seas — should be managed sustainably.

Our field regularly applies percentage targets to MPAs but typically doesn’t to the rest of the ocean. I believe this is an oversight. It allows the conception that as long as a certain percentage of the ocean is protected in MPAs then we’re fine — even if much of the rest of the ocean is still being managed unsustainably.

SDG 14.2 calls on governments to “sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems” but doesn’t say all such ecosystems. Depending on the reader’s inclination, the goal could reasonably be taken to mean all ecosystems or just some of them.

Stating at the Ocean Conference that 10% of the ocean should be in MPAs by 2020, and that these MPAs should be nested in an ocean that is 100% sustainably managed, would provide clarity. Without such clarity, we leave open the possibility (probability?) of creating “islands of hope in a sea of despair” as Dan Laffoley has termed them.

This all being said, if the lack of a percentage target for 14.2 is purposeful and assumes that parts of the ocean will need to continue to be managed in an unsustainable manner, then we should discuss how much of the ocean is acceptable to be managed unsustainably, and why.

Tony Charles's picture

Tony Charles said:

With just a few days remaining in this e-discussion, I would like to take this opportunity as a co-moderator to express thanks to all contributors to Question #2, and to encourage further participation. In terms of the key element under this question, namely "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", there have been several important points made already. Here I take the liberty of subjectively picking a few points  but rest assured that all contributions will be looked at fully following the discussion... "MPA sites currently established should benefit from the necessary support for effective, equitable and efficient management by 2020." (Romani) "Locally-driven participatory management empowers fishing communities and other stakeholders to articulate and achieve a broad set of objectives". (Sarah) but it is important to put in place legal and regulatory means to "facilitate a community-led co-management process where the government is working in partnership with local communities to achieve conservation objectives". (Ruth) Finally, the need for a 'portfolio' of management 'tools' is important since any one is only "part of the potential solution... as the effectiveness and equity of the MPA in question can only be achieved through a combination of governance approaches" (Peter).

Ruth Brennan's picture

Ruth Brennan said:

The Regulations implementing the Habitats Directive in the UK do not currently facilitate a community-led co-management process where the government is working in partnership with local communities to achieve conservation objectives. Specifically, the Regulations do not envisage a local community/communities management group co-producing and co-leading the co-management of an SAC as they do not include in the list of key management actors a local community/communities management group set up for the purpose of (co)management of an SAC. In 2013, the Minister for the Environment in Scotland said that he would support an amendment to the Regulations if this was necessary to facilitate decisions reached by the relevant management team. He was referring to a developing community-led co-management process for a mSAC in the Sound of Barra, Outer Hebrides, Scotland where the management team for the SAC would be majority locally controlled. As far as I know, the Regulations have not yet been amended to address this (partly because the management team structure for the Sound of Barra mSAC has not yet been finalised).

Dr Peter JS Jones's picture

Dr Peter JS Jones replied:

There is a potential problem with devolving decision-making authority to a management committee that has a majority of local interests. What if they understandably focus on blue growth opportunities at the costs of undermining the fulfilment of biodiversity conservation obligations under the Habitats Directive? It would arguably be legally unwise for the Scottish government to hand control of the SAC to a locally dominated management committee when this could lead to the Scottish government being in breach of the Habitats Directive? This could be why the regulations that transpose this directive in Scotland have not been revised to provide for this. This is consistent with my argument for combining MPA governance approaches rather prioritising one single governance approach, e.g. community-based management. "the state may deconcentrate, delegate or devolve power, but it should not relinquish it by totally transferring power [to local community representatives], as scale challenges such as those posed by MPAs require some form and degree of state control in order to effectively and equitably address them"? (Jones 2014, p.107 [link])

Ruth Brennan's picture

Ruth Brennan replied:

Hi Peter - in this example, part of the co-management process involves all parties signing up to an Outcome Agreement which obliges parties to achieve the relevant conservation objectives. I think I may have mentioned this in my comment on Question 3. This is what is so interesting about this example. The parties are trying very hard to find a way to achieve a balance between blue growth and conservation - the quid pro quo of community-led management in this case is recognition of the conservation obligations of the Scottish government. As such, this example is already combining governance approaches - and it is trying to do so in away that makes sense to the people who live on the islands.

Dr Peter JS Jones's picture

Dr Peter JS Jones replied:

Thanks, Ruth, that does sound like a very interesting MPA governance initiative, such 'Outcomes Agreements' are an excellent example of attaching conditions to ensure that a devolved partnership approach does not lead to MPA governance drifting off-course. This is another example of the importance of focusing on the interactions between incentives in a governance system, in the same way that a synecologist focuses on the interactions between species in an ecosystem. The figure below (Jones 2014, p.186 [link]) illustrates this synecology way of thinking about MPA governance, recognising that "the key to resilience is diversity, both of species in ecosystems and incentives in governance systems (Jones 2014, p.197 [link]) 
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.

Sarah Poon's picture

Sarah Poon replied:

Thank you Peter for these additional thoughts. I certainly agree that TURFs rely on a broader governance system that promotes equity, transparency and accountability, and that provides support for rights holders to achieve biological, economic and social objectives. Thank you for the additional resources as well! I think the 36 incentives provide a useful framework, which helps shed light on the many interrelated factors we can consider when working to improve governance of marine resources. I look forward to reading more. Are there any case studies in the book that you think provide particularly interesting insights for governance of TURFs?

Dr Peter JS Jones's picture

Dr Peter JS Jones replied:

The two main case studies from the Governing MPAs book that include TURFs are Os Minarzos (Galicea, NW Spain) and Isla Natividad (Baja California, Mexico). Both of these case studies illustrate the need to combine TURFs with other governance approaches, including state monitoring and assistance with enforcement, both being lacking in these respects in these two case studies. Since the book we have undertaken a further 16 case studies and we are in the process of analysing these, along with 18 of the original 20. I think Nusa Penida (Madagascar) includes a form of community fishing rights, but again the challenge was the need for ongoing input from the state to assist in enforcing these. This is a common challenge with Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs), the role of the state in protecing local user rights from incoming users being a recurring challenge, which again highlights the need for caution in focusing on just one governance approach, such as rights-based fisheries management, as 'the answer'.

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. 

Sarah Poon's picture

Sarah Poon replied:

Thank you Tony! We have certainly seen in our work that fisheries management works best when fishing communities play a central role in decision making. I look forward to seeing how the implementation of the SSF and Tenure Guidelines further advances locally-driven, participatory management.

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 replied:

I could not agree more, Romani, seeking 'win-win' approaches to MPA governance and exploring how these can be tranferred to other MPAs as a means of wider capacity-building is a core aim of the MPA governance project [link]. We will be launching some guidance based on this project at the Oceans Conference, building on the Rome Call to Action [link] and related Scientists' Consensus Statement [link] towards equitable and effective MPAs under the Aichi and SDG target

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.

socrates