Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8The foundation of the World Heritage Marine Programme’s success is our international community of site managers. Distributed across 49 marine sites in 37 countries, these leaders have hundreds of thousands of hours of real world experience managing a range of complex conservation challenges. They have tried every imaginable approach to eradicating invasive pests, or fighting illegal fishing. Exchanging ideas and learning across this global network saves time, and avoids costly mistakes. Every three years, we convene the whole network for a World Heritage Marine Managers conference. Last year’s conference was held in the Galápagos Islands, and featured some of the planet’s foremost experts on fisheries, climate change, and the business of conservation. The conference inspired seven sites in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Region— Galápagos Islands, Coiba National Park and its Special Zone of Marine Protection, Cocos Island National Park, Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary, Area de Conservación Guanacaste, Archipiélago de Revillagigedo, and Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California—to sign an agreement, the Carta de Punta Suarez, signifying their commitment to work together on common challenges. Collaboration and peer learning is something the World Heritage Marine Programme works to facilitate year-round. Some sites that share common challenges and opportunities have formed official partnerships. Banc d’Arguin National Park and Wadden Sea have been working together since 2014 to support more effective conservation of the millions of birds that travel between the two sites. Glacier Bay National Park and the West Norwegian Fjords – Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord—have been cooperating since 2015 to limit the environmental impacts from cruise ship tourism and maximize visibility and revenue. Launched in 2005, the World Heritage Marine Programme is charged with establishing effective conservation of existing and potential marine areas of Outstanding Universal Value to make sure they will be maintained and thrive for generations to come. Today, we oversee a network of 49 sites in 37 countries. It includes some awe inspiring places, from the underground river of Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park, to the plunging cliffs and sea caves of St Kilda, and the pristine reefs that sparkle in Socotra Archipelago’s turquoise waters. But there are places of equal splendor that are not yet covered by the World Heritage Convention. The two largest gaps are the Arctic and High Seas; we made strides to address both of them in 2016. The Arctic Ocean spans roughly 14 million square kilometers at the top of the planet. Its icy waters are home to bowhead whales, narwhals, walruses, and seals, and provide summer feeding grounds for millions of migratory birds and species like grey whales. At present, there are only two natural World Heritage properties in the Arctic: Ilulissat Icefjord and Natural System of Wrangel Island Reserve. Last February, marine science experts from around the world gathered at UNESCO’s Headquarters to discuss marine sites in the Arctic that could merit inscription on the World Heritage List. One of their key conclusions was that the intimate connection between local communities, traditional culture, and the natural environment means that all potential sites should be considered both for natural and cultural values. The full results of the meeting will be published in a report In April 2017. As vast and remote as the Arctic region is, the area known as the High Seas is even more mysterious. This area beyond national jurisdiction encompasses two thirds of the world’s ocean. Its rich, deep waters sustain many far-ranging species, from albatross to tuna, sharks to sea turtles. And they conceal wonders we have only begun to explore. Although these sites are far from shore, they are not safe from threats like climate change, deep seabed mining, shipping accidents and plastic pollution. The High Seas are governed by a patchwork of rules, but the pace of commercial development is outpacing our current conservation capacity. The World Heritage Convention is an ideal instrument to facilitate the protection of these international waters, since it is grounded in a common commitment to preserving the planet’s most exceptional places. In August 2016, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN released a report, World Heritage in the High Seas, An Idea Whose Time Has Come, identifying five sites that could be recognized as having Outstanding Universal Value. They included a unique oceanic oasis offshore from Costa Rica, the only known gathering point for white sharks in the north Pacific, an entire ecosystem built around floating algae, an 800 meter-deep area in the Atlantic dominated by soaring carbonate spires, and a sunken fossil island in the subtropical waters of the Indian Ocean. The report received press coverage around the world, helping to shine a light on the treasures of the open ocean, and advance the international effort to conserve them. In the coming year we will explore possible pathways for the protection of these sites under the 1972 World Heritage Convention. BUILDING A NETWORK OF GLOBAL GUARDIANS EXTENDING THE REACH OF MARINE WORLD HERITAGE – Galápagos Islands – Coiba National Park and its Special Zone of Marine Protection – Cocos Island National Park – Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary – Area de Conservación Guanacaste – Archipiélago de Revillagigedo – Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California Great Barrier Reef Wadden Sea Banc d'Arguin National Park West Norwegian Fjords – Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord Glacier Bay National Park 4 | World Heritage Marine Programme / 2017 Annual Newsletter The Arctic The High Seas © Photo Credits (left to right): NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and Charles Fisher, Pennsylvania State University, The Natural Environment Research Council and IUCN/GEF Seamounts Project C/O Alex D Rogers, Super Joseph/, NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2015 Hohonu Moana ©UNESCO/Andreas Krueger