Today, more than 30% of World Heritage marine sites struggle with unsustainable fisheries. Addressing this challenge has been a core focus of the World Heritage Marine Programme for years, supporting sites around the world in developing capacity like technology-assisted surveillance, and community education and monitoring programs. However, until now, a comprehensive analysis of the impacts of unsustainable and illegal fisheries on the Outstanding Universal Value of World Heritage marine sites has been lacking. With the support of UNESCO's long-time partner, the Government of Flanders, the Programme can undertake a first-of-its-kind study to answer this core question.
The Government of Flanders, via its UNESCO Flanders Funds-in-Trust, has just renewed its long-standing cooperation with the World Heritage Marine Programme, and is investing in a research project to help document fishing impacts, which can range from changes to the natural food web within a World Heritage site to a potential loss in tourism revenue when iconic species are declining. Invasive species have also increasingly threatened the conservation of World Heritage marine sites.
The new intelligence gleaned from this important research will help the World Heritage Marine Programme and site managers around the world focus capacity building efforts as well as compliance and enforcement. It will also help better understand the drivers of illegal and unsustainable fisheries in sites and provide the basics for a roadmap toward a more strategic approach in addressing the threats.
Mr. Filip D’havé, General Representative of the Government of Flanders to UNESCO, stated:
“While science and innovation are crucial to understand the ocean, it is also essential that we use this scientific knowledge to improve ocean conservation. Science is at its most effective when it is actually translated into concrete management decisions. With its support to one of the most powerful international conservation mechanisms, the Government of Flanders contributes to safeguarding some of the ocean’s most unique places so that future generations can continue to enjoy them.”
The study builds on the results of the long-standing partnership with the Government of Flanders and the World Heritage Marine Programme that financed the critical work toward the removal of East Rennell (Solomon Islands) and Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (Belize) off the List of World Heritage in Danger.