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Managing effectively the world’s most iconic marine protected areas: A Best Practice Guide

Thursday, 25 June 2015
access_time 2 min read

The publication launched today, “Managing effectively the world’s most iconic Marine Protected Areas. A Best Practice Guide” lays the groundwork for a common approach to a more pro-active, future-oriented management of marine protected areas (MPAs) around the world.

The step-by-step guidance shows how defining a clearer vision of what MPAs can and should look like in another 10 to 20 years is key to understanding the actions that need to be taken today. Because they are so visible, World Heritage marine sites are in a unique position to lead by example as the global community seeks to improve management in MPAs the world over and achieve the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Aichi Targets by 2020.

Today, one of the most challenging questions posed to World Heritage marine sites is how to balance conservation of a site’s irreplaceable values with increasing or shifting demands for socio-economic development and use. Apart from a few remote sites that are off limits for exploitation due to their geographic location, virtually all World Heritage marine sites around the world are confronted with this challenge.

Most MPA managers struggle to respond in a durable and meaningful way to this challenge. Nearly all lack the necessary capacity and understanding to define the so-called “tipping point” of when too much development is just too much. Due to rapid increases in demands for ocean space, the effects of climate change and growing amounts of income-generating activities in MPAs around the world, the need for a future-oriented, pro-active management plan has never been more urgent in securing a sustainable future for our ocean treasures. Yet, most MPAs around the world tend to concentrate their efforts on the here and now and have little time to ponder the impact that today’s decisions will have 10 to 20 years into the future.

No World Heritage marine site can be conserved properly unless its managers and their teams are clearly aware of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) that makes up the sites’ World Heritage recognition. The step-by-step guidance provides a tangible approach for bringing the OUV of a site at the heart of its management system. Best practice illustrations throughout the guide show how OUV is key to setting management objectives and can align private sector partners, NGOs and government institutions behind shared and common conservation goals. More broadly, the guide outlines how using area-based tools, such as marine spatial planning (MSP), can help to plan for and achieve environmental, social and economic objectives that lead to sustainable use and effective management of MPAs over time.

At the 2010 Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, nations agreed to increase the coverage of protected areas around the world with a goal of improving the conservation of areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services. Under Aichi Target 11, by 2020 at least 10 percent of coastal and marine areas—especially those of high importance to biodiversity and ecosystem services—is required to be conserved through effective, equitable management including area-based conservation measures that are integrated into the wider seascape. This guide illustrates how best practices in World Heritage marine sites contribute toward setting new MPA management standards for the world.