Highlights of the 4th International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC4), 4-8 September 2017

Blogger picture

Hi everyone! It was a pleasure to attend IMPAC4 in the beautiful beachfront town of La Serena, Chile. Joining me were 1100 attendees from 59 countries — a good turnout.

Below are the highlights of the conference, giving you the main news and outcomes from the week. If I’ve missed anything, please let me know at jdavis [at] marineaffairs.org and I’ll add it. Thanks! (And if you'd like a more detailed, blow-by-blow account of the conference, please see my live-blog of it.)

John Davis, Editor, MPA News

MPA announcements

  • Three new Chilean MPAs: On opening night of IMPAC4, the Chilean government announced the official designation of three MPAs: Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island (740,000km2); Juan Fernandez Archipelago (480,000km2); and Cabo de Hornos (147,000km2). I don’t know the regulations of the latter two yet, but the Rapa Nui MPA bans industrial fishing and mining. Traditional artisanal fishing by the Rapa Nui community will continue. The marine park’s creation was enabled by a 73% vote in favor from the Rapa Nui community in a 3 September referendum, following five years of consultations. For more information, click here and here.

  • No mining in penguin reserve: The week before IMPAC4, the Chilean government decided to halt development of a major mining project near the Las Damas Reserve, a penguin MPA near La Serena. The decision was fairly controversial in Chile, where the mine developers had promised the creation of thousands of jobs.

  • GLORES program announces first three platinum-level sites: At IMPAC4, the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES), managed by the Marine Conservation Institute, announced its first Global Ocean Refuges: Papahānaumokuākea Marine National MonumentMalpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary, and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.


  • Call to Action for the Oceans: IMPAC4 culminated in a one-day high-level meeting attended by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and other international and national leaders. The leaders endorsed a "Call to Action for the Oceans", which calls on nations to unite in favor of ocean protection and sustainable marine use. The official IMPAC4 announcement of the Call to Action is here.

  • Transatlantic MPA Network: An initiative to link existing networks of MPA managers in the Atlantic region was highlighted at IMPAC4. In development since late 2016, the network aims to transfer knowledge between sites that face shared challenges and wildlife. The project is funded by the European Commission. For more information, click here.

  • Joint exercise to track illegal fishing in Chilean waters and MPAs: The Pew-funded project OceanMind (formerly Project Eyes on the Seas) announced results from an exercise in which it partnered with the Chilean Navy and UK Space Agency to analyze illegal fishing inside Chile’s EEZ and MPAs. In addition to using data from AIS, VMS, radar, optical satellites, and vessel registries, the exercise also used the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (i.e., tracking vessels’ night lights), which was the first time I’d seen that applied to MPA surveillance.

  • Chile/US partnership: The governments of Chile and the US signed an agreement at IMPAC4 to cooperate on terrestrial and marine protected areas.

New websites, publications, videos

  • New website for global MPA database: The UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre and IUCN released the latest online version of its MPA database: marine.protectedplanet.net. The new site is much more interactive than the previous one. The current global MPA count is 15,271 MPAs covering 6.35% of the world ocean.

  • Website for proposed MPA classification system: In 2016 a joint team of Portuguese and French researchers proposed a new system for classifying MPAs based on what activities the sites allow and how those activities could impact biodiversity. The project now has a website that allows practitioners to generate a classification for their sites within minutes, following a brief series of questions.

  • Report: Large-Scale Marine Protected Areas: Guidelines for design and management (IUCN)

  • Journal issue: A special issue of the journal Aquatic Conservation was published at IMPAC4. It highlights key MPA-themed lessons from the 2016 World Parks Congress in Honolulu, Hawai'i, including on MPA management, financing, blue carbon, and more.

  • Journal issue: The latest issue of Antarctic Affairs journal (July 2017) contains six articles on Antarctic MPA projects, including for the Ross Sea, Eastern Antarctica, Weddell Sea, and the Western Antarctic Peninsula.

  • New video by young professionals: The Young Professionals network of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas released a video titled “Making Waves” with lessons and inspiration gathered from IMPAC4.

  • New video on high seas conservation: IUCN released a new video, “The Last Frontier”, on high seas conservation, including a call for increased science and better governance for international waters.


  • Keobel Sakuma wins Kenton Miller award: IUCN awarded Keobel Sakuma of Palau with the Kenton Miller Award for innovation in protected areas. Sakuma and his team have been responsible for planning and managing the MPA that now covers Palau’s entire marine area. For more information, click here.



  • A rumor that Leonardo DiCaprio was going to attend IMPAC4 drew some interest on Twitter but never materialized.

  • The Nature Conservancy has contributed a self-cleaning underwater webcam to Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park in South East Australia. The webcam has a wiper arm that automatically cleans the webcam lens each hour. The webcam also produces 360-degree video. For the live feed, click here.


Punta de Manabique is the only place in Guatemala with coral reefs. It is home to two endangered species: The Hammerhead Shark (Sphirna mokarran) and the Chumbimba (Old Maculicauda). It has the most extensive seagrasses in the country, beaches and waves, swamps, tall forests, palms, mangroves, guamiles and freshwater lagoons. It provides shelter to the largest number of migratory birds in Guatemala. The flooded forests or swamps of Confra (Manicaria saccifera), a species of palm, is one of the rarest ecosystems in Guatemala, which exists only in this region. However, since 2005 the area has been rapidly deforested. Currently, the agricultural frontier continues, wood extraction, destruction of the Motagua river basin, fauna extraction, overfishing, garbage and pollution. I hope that someone can get attention during the IMPAC4 Congress in relation to this terrible situation in Guatemala. Read more: "Towards the Future that is Wanted or the Paradise that is Lost? A Vision to Share. Punta de Manabique, Guatemala"

Thanks for the briefing.

Carlos A. Espinosa - Dos Mares

Add new comment

Sign-in with your OpenChannels Member Account and sign-up for email notifications of new blogs. Simply visit any blog post and click the "Subscribe to updates of new content of this type" link just above the comments section.