Mauritania, Philippines and Australia apply for better protection for marine World Heritage sites at International Maritime Organisation
Worldwide shipping traffic has increased 300% since 1992, and this growing industry does not leave World Heritage marine sites immune to its impact.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO)—the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships—can provide special protections for particularly vulnerable areas. The World Heritage Marine Programme has been working closely together with both Mauritania and the Philippines over the past years in the lead up to the official launch at last week’s IMO meeting.
The IMO met in London from 11 to 15 May 2015, and the World Heritage Marine Programme was there to support the governments of the Philippines and Mauritania in obtaining better protection against maritime pollution for their respective World Heritage sites. Preparation of the full application dossier and preparatory negotiations with IMO members are now commencing in view of obtaining the actual designation of the respective marine World Heritage sites.
The London-based IMO can designate places that are recognized for globally significant marine ecology as “Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas” (PSSA) to reduce their vulnerability to damage from international maritime activities. Today World Heritage sites comprise, or protect waters adjacent to, six of the 14 PSSAs worldwide, including: Papahānaumokuākea (USA), Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary (Colombia), Galápagos Islands (Ecuador), Everglades National Park (USA), Wadden Sea (Denmark, Germany, Netherlands) and the Great Barrier Reef (Australia).
The World Heritage Committee recognizes the potential threats posed by increased shipping activity and is working with World Heritage sites to secure special protections where needed most urgently. In 2011, the World Heritage Committee, in Decision 35COM 7B.17, urged the Philippines to expedite its application for special protections for the Sulu Sea. In 2014, the World Heritage Committee, in Decision 38COM 7B.62, requested that the Government of Mauritania submit a request to designate the Banc d’Arguin region as a PSSA.
Following several groundings in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park last year, the Philippine government officially launched its application for PSSA status of its World Heritage Site during a special event at last week’s IMO meeting.
If successful, Banc d’Arguin National Park with its unique but fragile marine ecosystem and migratory bird population would be the first PSSA on the African continent. Mr. Babana M’hamed, Director of Mauritania’s Merchant Navy, officially launched his Governments intention to apply for PSSA designation for the waters adjacent to the Banc d’Arguin National Park.
The Australian government also presented its application to extend the Great Barrier Reef PSSA to cover key parts of the Coral Sea
Click here for more information about PSSAs.
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC-14/38.COM/7B.Add,
- Recalling Decision 37 COM 7B.8 adopted at its 37th session (Phnom Penh, 2013),
- Welcomes the significant progress achieved by the State Party and its partners since the inscription of the property in terms of its protection and management, in particular the strengthening of its legal framework, the creation of a functional management authority and management system and the management of fishing inside the property which restricts fishing to the local Imraguen communities using only traditional methods and an efficient surveillance system;
- Takes note of the conclusion of the reactive monitoring mission that so far, the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property has been preserved in part thanks to its isolation but that the region is undergoing rapid changes characterized by numerous planned infrastructure developments;
- Notes with concern the many infrastructure projects being developed around the property, which could potentially impact on its OUV, and requests the State Party not to authorize infrastructure inside the property or in its vicinity, without having conducted an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in conformity with IUCN’s “World Heritage Advice Note: Environmental Assessment” and to ensure that all EIAs are validated by the Scientific Council of the property and submitted to the World Heritage Centre prior to making any decisions that would be difficult to reverse, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines ;
- Expresses its utmost concern about the road to Mamghar, which presents a serious threat to the integrity of the property and is impacting on its cultural values, and urges the State Party to ensure that its use is restricted to mitigate its impact and that a system of control of access to the property is put in place;
- Also requests the State Party to ensure that the draft EIA for the water sourcing system linked to the extension of the Tasiast mine is completed to assess its potential impacts on the OUV of the property, and submitted to the World Heritage Centre prior to making any decisions that would be difficult to reverse, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
- Appreciates the fact that no oil or mining exploration permits were attributed within the property, but also expresses concern about potential impacts if any of the on-going exploration projects lead to exploitation, in particular, in oil blocks close to the property where exploratory drilling is going forward in 2014;
- Also welcomes the initiative to conduct a “Territorial Diagnostic” in order to assess the cumulative impacts of the different planned development projects on the property, and further requests the State Party to develop on the basis of this study a strategic vision for the development of the region which ensures the conservation of the OUV of the property;
- Requests furthermore the State Party to implement all other recommendations of the 2014 joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission and take them into account in the development of the new management plan, in particular:
- Ensure the sustainability of the fishing surveillance system, maintain the restrictions on fishing foreseen in the law and develop an agreement with all stakeholders to limit the catch of threatened fish species, in particular rays and sharks,
- Create a residence permit system to ensure that fishing rights are restricted to the local population, as well as to ensure that no new villages develop in the park,
- Update urgently the emergency MARPOL plan to ensure that an operational system is in place to address a potential oil spill,
- Submit to the International Maritime Organization the request to designate Banc d’Arguin region as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area,
- Put in place a system of shared governance involving all stakeholders, including reviving the Board of the Park, its Scientific Council and the participatory management process and reinforcing its cooperation with its technical and financial partners,
- Link the funding for the property from the trust fund to the management effectiveness of the site and the conservation of its OUV;
- Requests moreover the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2015, an updated report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the recommendations of the mission, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016.
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined Document WHC-11/35.COM/7B,
2. Recalling Decision 33 COM 7B.18, adopted at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009),
3. Commends the State Party for its progress in implementing the recommendations made by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009), particularly in relation to illegal fishing;
4. Urges the State Party to expedite the application for the designation of the Sulu Sea as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area, and encourages it to obtain the necessary expert advice in order to complete the process and to consider requesting International Assistance from the World Heritage Fund to this end;
5. Also encourages the State Party to expediently resolve jurisdictional ambiguities within the newly declared buffer zone to the satisfaction of World Heritage interests, either by extending the mandate of the Tubbataha Management Office to this area, or by finding other suitable arrangements;
6. Also urges the State Party to develop a comprehensive tourism management plan for the property before implementing strategies to increase funding through tourism;
7. Takes note of the diverse ecological monitoring activities taking place in the property and further urges the State Party to ensure that the results of these activities are made available, and contribute substantially to management planning;
8. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2013, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property, including progress made in the implementation of the above.Read more about the decision