Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8Located in the eastern Pacific Ocean, Mexico’s Archipiélago de Revillagigedo is part of a submerged mountain range. The site consists of four remote islands where the peaks of undersea volcanoes rise above sea level. The islands and surrounding waters support seabirds, manta rays, whales, dolphins and sharks. Sanganeb Marine National Park and Dungonab Bay – Mukkawar Island Marine National Park in Sudan consists of two separate areas in the Red Sea. Sanganeb is an isolated, coral reef structure in the central Red Sea, and Dungonab Bay and Mukkawar Island, are located 125 km north of Port Sudan. The site’s coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, beaches and islets are home to fish, turtles, rays, and sharks, as well as a globally-significant population of dugong. The Sundarbans in Bangladesh is part of the world’s largest mangrove forest, home to the famous Royal Bengal Tiger along with dolphins, turtles, and birds. Last year, we visited the Sundarbans to assess the threat posed by the construction of a nearby power plant, and released a report identifying four key threats to the site’s Outstanding Universal Value. The World Heritage Committee will review progress addressing these threats at its 41st session this year. Natural System of Wrangel Island Reserve in the Russian Federation boasts the world’s largest population of Pacific walrus and the highest density of ancestral polar bear dens. It is a major feeding ground for the grey whale migrating from Mexico and the northernmost nesting ground for over 100 migratory bird species, many endangered. The World Heritage Committee expressed concern at its 40th session about ongoing development and an increase in the human presence impacting the site’s sensitive arctic ecosystem. Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California is home to an astonishing array of plant and animal life: 39% of the world’s total number of marine mammals are found there. Among them is the critically endangered vaquita. At its 40th session, the World Heritage Committee issued a warning about the real threat of extinction for the vaquita, as well as the state of conservation for the totoaba, a marine fish targeted for illegal gillnet fishing for its swim bladder. The vaquita is affected as bycatch. The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System was inscribed on the World Heritage List in Danger in 2009 because of concerns about the sale, lease and development of mangrove islands and the absence of a solid regulatory framework. Last year, following extensive consultation and technical support by the World Heritage Centre and our partners at International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Belize approved its first Integrated Coastal Zone management plan following an earlier announcement to ban oil in the World Heritage area—a blueprint for sustainable use of its rich marine resources. East Rennell in the Solomon Islands was inscribed on the World Heritage List in Danger in 2013 due to commercial logging, invasive species and overexploitation of marine resources.We undertook a technical support mission in 2015, and continued work last year with the government and local stakeholders on a plan to improve the state of conservation for removal from the Danger List. STEWARDING THE OCEAN’S CROWN JEWELS Growing the network Reversing the course of threatened sites Supporting sites on the Danger List Climate change poses an existential threat to all of the marine sites on the World Heritage List. Impacts are already being felt around the world, but they vary considerably from site to site. The international reach of our network enables the World Heritage Marine Programme to understand the full scope of this problem, and track changes at the local level. Studies have documented a steady increase in ocean temperatures since the 1950s. This year, the effects of warming waters have been among the most severe in history, compounded by a strong El Niño that brought record-breaking temperatures to much of the Pacific Ocean. The most devastating result of this temperature spike has been the coral bleaching affecting World Heritage sites like the Great Barrier Reef, Phoenix Islands Protected Area, Aldabra Atoll, Lagoons of New Caledonia and Reef Diversity and Associated Ecosystems, and Papahanaumokuakea. The latest scientific data suggests that up to 15 of the universally outstanding coral reef systems on UNESCO’s World Heritage List might be affected by the time the current bleaching event is over. While coral bleaching is the most high profile climate impact, it is not the only one affecting World Heritage marine sites. We are seeing sea ice melt more rapidly than ever at Natural System of Wrangel Island Reserve, cyclones at Socotra Archipelago, and flooding in the West Norwegian Fjords. As University of Kiel’s Martin Visbeck told site managers at our World Heritage Marine Managers conference last year, this global network of sites is uniquely positioned to serve as reference points, helping to enhance scientific understanding of the regional and local dynamics of a changing climate. Helping World Heritage marine sites understand and adapt to a changing climate is a core priority for 2017 and beyond. We started this work at last year’s conference, with a session by Martin Visbeck and a workshop by Paul Marshall from the University of Queensland and Lara Hansen from EcoAdapt on climate vulnerability. Last year’s El Niño effects have caused damage throughout the marine World Heritage network and increasing the capacity for sites to understand and adapt to this unprecedented challenge is our top priority the coming year. ADAPTING TO A CHANGING CLIMATE © Photo Credits (top to bottom): Erick Higuera, Jorge Alfonso Trujillo Falcon, Brandon Rosenblum, Nicky de Battista, Alexander Gruzdev, Michael Calderwood © Ministry of Trade, Sudan Government World Heritage Marine Programme / 2017 Annual Newsletter | 3