Everything (marine) you need to know from the 2014 World Parks Congress

Blogger picture

The OpenChannels Team live blogged throughout the 2014 World Parks Congress. John Davis was on-scene in Syndey, updating us on the conference's Marine Theme. We also curated the most useful and interesting tweets coming out of the conference in order to save them from disappearing into the ether. You can see everything as it happened in the live blog's archive at http://openchannels.org/chat/wpc-2014.

This not-so-live blog contains relevant highlights for the ocean and coastal community. If you think we missed anything important, please let us know in the comments below. Thank you!

Partnerships and Pledges

US-China climate deal

The two countries' leaders have agreed on reducing CO2 emissions as CNN reports. However, the new Republican majority in the US has vowed to block this agreement.

Australia-China deal on Antarctica

The two countries are going to collaborate on environmental protection, among other things.

US-Kiribati deal to protect 1,270,000 km2 of ocean

Republic of Kiribati President Anote Tong has signed a Cooperative Agreement to coordinate research and protection of parts of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument and the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, also known as the Phoenix Ocean Arc.

Ban on sediment dumping in GBRMP

Greg Hunt has pledged that a ban on the disposal of dredge spoil into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park will become law to prevent this issue from arising again in the future.

Gabon to create no-take MPA system covering over 20% of EEZ

President Bongo of Gabon has pledged to create a system of no-take marine protected areas covering about 23% of the country's exclusive economic zone.

More information from John Davis who is on the scene:

Re the announcement yesterday by Gabon President Ali Bongo, I followed up with WCS to ask a couple clarifying questions on details. WCS was instrumental in working with President Bongo on his 23% MPA coverage pledge. Below are my questions as well as the answers provided by Dr Hugo Rainey, Senior Technical Advisor - Seascape with WCS's Gabon Program....

MPA News: By when does President Bongo anticipate bringing this pledge to fruition?

Hugo Rainey: It is very hard for WCS to predict when President Bongo plans to take this forward but we hope it will be soon. We look forward to working with the Government of Gabon to create the parks and support management implementation.

MPA News: He said the new MPA network will not allow commercial fishing. Will it allow other kinds of fishing, like subsistence fishing?

Hugo Rainey: The regulations for new parks will be established in due course. There are substantial areas set aside as community fishing zones at sea, as well as existing rivers, lakes and lagoons which are not covered by the proposed marine spatial planning. Industrial fishing is permitted in a large area of the EEZ under licence. Therefore it is unlikely that artisanal or industrial fishing would be allowed in the new proposed marine parks. It should be noted that most artisanal fishing in Gabon is not carried out by Gabonese fishers, mostly they are from West African nations and there are few subsistence fishers at sea in Gabon.

Australia to donate AU$6 million to CTI, and AU$700,000 to marine litter

The Coral Triangle Initiative will receive AU$6 million to help preserve the Great Barrier Reef. John Davis also reports Australian Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, has pledged AU$700,000 to manage marine litter in the Great Barrier Reef, working with traditional groups such as Tangaroa Blue to clean up the coast.

South Africa to create MPA network

The country has pledged to triple ocean protection in their EEZ with a network of marine protected areas over the next decade.

Russia ready to host WPC 2024

The Russian Federation announced that they are both "ready and willing" to host the next World Parks Congress in 2024.

Parks Canada teams up with French MPA Agency

John Davis reports:

Parks Canada and French MPA Agency are signing letter of cooperation right now. This is interesting, as Fisheries and Oceans Canada does a lot more MPA work than Parks Canada does, yet Fisheries and Oceans Canada doesn't seem to be involved in this agreement.

Goal of France/Canada agreement is general knowledge-sharing. Parks Canada looking to learn from France as Parks Canada develops its National Marine Conservation Area program.

Letter of cooperation signing btw Parks Canada and French MPA agency #WPCMarine #WPC14 @Ocean_plus pic.twitter.com/jfmmer9BDb

— Steve Pogonowski (@stevepog) November 17, 2014

High Seas

John Davis reports from the High Seas Panel, "Greg Hunt just announced Australia will support UNCLOS mandate on high seas conservation when it comes."

More from John: "MInister Hunt looking to raise three issues with Chinese president tomorrow: climate and ocean acidification; high seas agreement; and rainforest stuff."

The Marine Theme Promise

While the official language is still being decided, it appears the Promise will call for the oceans to become 30% Marine Protected Areas by 2030. Another figure was 30% no-take MPAs included in 50% global MPA coverage, of which 100% are sustainable-use. "Nature needs half" was a common rallying call at the conference.

During these discussions, Dan Laffoley was quoted as saying: "The danger is creating islands of hope in a sea of despair. There needs to be strong protection for habitats throughout the oceans." This quote was repeated again and again whenever percentage-based targets were being discussed.

If you're looking for the Marine Theme on the live blog archive, click on the link for the 1:10 - 9:21 time block (it's the third from the last). Most of the discussions are in this interval.

The Promise of Sydney

It's now complete! The Promise consists of 4 parts: The Vision, 12 Innovative Approaches to Transformative Change, Solutions (i.e. win-win examples from the real world), and Promises and Pledges (which as of writing this, simply asks users to submit their contributions).

In addition, the Promise will be open to public comment, once the UNDP and GEF establish a website for soliciting commitments made during the Congress.

UNDP and GEF will establish web-based platform with all commitments made during the Congress #WorldParksCongress

— World Parks Congress (@WPCSydney) November 19, 2014


SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool)

The Zoological Society of London has demonstrated SMART, the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool, to aid in monitoring, enforcement, and reporting of protected areas.


Need help with data visualization and engaging your constituents? Vizzuality has demonstrated their work doing just this.

Global Fishing Watch

SkyTruth, Oceana, and Google have come together to produce maps showing the extent of global fishing activity.

Biodiversity Indicators Dashboard

NatureServ's tool, currently only for the Tropical Andes, the African Great Lakes, and the Mekong Basin, but a great idea for the oceans! "By clearly documenting and visualizing data on the key biodiversity indicators, this web-enabled, interactive dashboard will enable tracking of biodiversity and conservation performance data in a clear, user-friendly format."

Technology for MPAs

John Davis reports:

Now at session "How high technology can help and improve MPAs management"...First is a system developed by French firm Comex that combines underwater photogrammetry and acoustic mapping. Allows for great 3D imaging. Looks like a barebones Alvin sub. Called ROV3D. Pitched to MPA managers as a monitoring tool.

Second case: using passive acoustics (via a UAV with hydrophones) to monitor cetaceans in an MPA, and streaming the data to researchers on land. This is being done in at least one French MPA.

Map of Life

Wow, impressive and free Map Of Life tool provides species lists for anywhere on the planet #WorldParksCongress pic.twitter.com/TniHq2aZ4q

— Emily Darling (@emilysdarling) November 17, 2014

Open Data Kit

Google presented this tool at the conference, which helps you "author, field, and manage mobile data collection solutions." It's free and open source!

Papers and Reports

Newly published in Nature, Conservation: A to-do list for the world's parks

Bob Pressey: Maximize returns on conservation
Douglas J. McCauley: Mega-parks need greater oversight
Lance Morgan: Protect diverse marine habitats
Hugh Possingham: Represent ecosystems
Lee White: Manage parks professionally
Emily Darling: Conserve climate refuges
Peter J. S. Jones: Assess governance structures

Book: "Governance of Marine Fisheries and Biodiversity Conservation"

Serge Garcia, Jake Rice, and Anthony Charles have edited a new book available from Wiley Press.

Paper: "Governance challenges in scaling up from individual MPAs to MPA networks"

This paper was developed out of IMPAC3. If you have a subscription to Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, you can access the full-text from Wiley Press.

Paper: "Optimizing enforcement and compliance in offshore marine protected areas: a case study from Cocos Islands, Costa Rica"

James Cook University researches have published a new paywalled paper in Oryx available from Cambridge Journals. The article examines patterns in IUU fishing to determine "hotspots" of illegal harvesting activities and how to combat this practice.

Report: "Protected Planet Report 2014"

This is the latest global assessment of protected area coverage by the UNEP's World Conservation Monitoring Centre. Highlights inlcude that 3.4% of global oceans are in MPAs, 8.4% of marine waters within national jurisdiction are in MPAs, 0.25% of waters beyond national jurisdiction are in MPAs, and an additional 2.2 million km2 of waters within national jurisdiction will need to be protected to reach Aichi target of 10% global MPA coverage.

Working paper: "Social Assessment of Protected Areas: Early Experience and Results of a Participatory, Rapid Approach"

From the International Institute for Environment and Development.

Discussion paper: "Attaining Aichi Target 11: How well are marine ecosystem services covered by protected areas?"

From The Nature Conservancy, University of Cambridge, and UNEP WCMC.

Special issue of Advances in Marine Biology on Large Marine Managed Areas

Covers 10 chapters and over 400 pages!

Reports: France's MPA Dashboard and National Strategy

The Dashboard explains the country's seven steps to creating marine protected areas. The second report summarizes the country's National Strategy for creating and managing MPAs.

Blogs and other articles

Five ways marine parks benefit people

Every conference needs a listicle! The World Bank took care of this for us.

Marine parks for fish and people: here’s how to do it

The Conversation has a new article on marine parks in NSW.

Are Marine Protected Areas in the right places to protect people, or just nature?

Blog by Mark Spalding, senior marine scientist at The Nature Conservancy on Nat Geo.


ZSL's Space for Nature

The Zoological Society of London "in collaboration with IUCN and freuds, has carried out the first ever systematic global public opinion survey on the question of how much space we should set aside for nature, and why, to help steer the future vision for the world’s protected areas."

Video magazines from Ocean+ WebTV

'Going Big’ with Marine Protection

Leveraging the unique benefits of Large-scale MPAs to enhance ocean management and governance globally.

Locally Managed Marine Areas

A Google Hangout with practitioners in the field.

Champions of the High Seas

Another Google Hangout, featuring Sir Richard Branson, Sylvia Earle, Dan Laffoley, and others.

The Great Barrier Reef: What works

This Google Hangout discusses the rezoning of the GBR.

Websites and Organizations


The website Protected Planet has been the source of many screenshots on Twitter coming out of the conference.

Big Ocean: peer learning network for MPA managers

"Our focus is management and best practice. Our goal is to support each other and the growing field of large-scale MPAs."

Marine Wilderness 10+10 Project

John Davis reports: "The Marine Wilderness 10+10 project, which aims to support/protect marine wilderness at a couple dozen MPAs around the world. The project is noteworthy for its participants: US National Parks Service, Parks Canada, and CONANP (the Mexican national parks commission)."

Interesting Conversations and Debates


Hugh Possingham started a discussion on triage in environmental conservation:

@HugePossum at #WorldParksCongress: Doctors use triage. Most people do. We are already doing it in all public policies

— CBM (@BiodivCentre) November 15, 2014

@HugePossum at #WorldParksCongress : The anti-triage people have lost money and have lost species

— CBM (@BiodivCentre) November 15, 2014

Bill Laurance at #WorldParksCongress: Words matter. I have problem with boldness of the word triage, prefer use conservation prioritization

— CBM (@BiodivCentre) November 15, 2014

Martin Taylor at #WorldParksCongress: Hugh (@HugePossum) is right [about triage] in a sense that you have to be transparent

— CBM (@BiodivCentre) November 15, 2014

Dan Faith at #WorldParksCongress: It seems like triage in some sense leads to this notion that something is going to extinct

— CBM (@BiodivCentre) November 15, 2014

Survival of the cheapest. Is 'triage' a loaded term or a useful image for where we're at with threatened sp conservation? #WPC2014

— James Lee (@elkjam) November 15, 2014

Other things to note

On the Great Barrier Reef

Tony Brown, an AU tourism industry representative stated: "We've lost 50% of the coral of the GBR. The reef is losing." But despite all the bad news about the GBR, it has not slowed tourism to the reef.

Russ Reichelt, GBRMPA chairman: 70% of catchments in some areas adjacent to GBR have been cleared for agriculture. Water quality is THE big challenge for the GBR. An unanticipated benefit of expanded no-take zones in GBR (as result of rezoning a decade ago) is that crown-of-thorns starfish are not as prevalent in the protected areas.

John Davis reports, "GBRMPA has participatory monitoring program with smartphone app, online training system, visual aids, and web accounting of surveys. More info on GBRMPA website: http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/."

Help for financing protected areas

The Conservation Finance Alliance - a supergroup of BINGOs, donors, and others - is offering their assistance to protected area managers on talking to finance ministers on the need for protection/conservation and what this should be prioritized financially.

Also, don't forget Indiegogo and other crowdfunding sites! As @Steph_ODonnell stated, "crowdfunding (as with all funding) is about finding and telling a story."

On enforcement of MPAs

John Davis reports on dialog from the Enforcement Panel: "We need to start coordinating with other law enforcement because the lawbreakers we're starting to deal with [in PAs] are also the folks involved in arms, human trafficking, drugs. And we're woefully underqualified to handle these people."

John also reports: "The panel discussion on wildlife crime is pretty gripping. Stories of terrestrial parks dealing with gangs of a dozen Kalashnikov-wielding poachers at a time. Will crime in MPAs eventually move in that direction, with gangs and big weaponry?"

President Remengesau of Palau: "The international community's greedy fishing practices must be stopped."

AU Environment Minister Greg Hunt: We should take the 1000 rangers who have lost their lives in the line of duty and elevate them worldwide as international heroes.

Comment from International Ranger Federation: Drones are fine but that money could be better spent on community engagement and other more cost-effective methods.

'God will judge the poachers - it's up to us to arrange the meeting.' - Minister for Environment & Wildlife, Botswana #WLDCrime

— World Parks Congress (@WPCSydney) November 17, 2014

Participatory 3D modelling (P3DM)

There were some good talks on P3DM and Participatory GIS (PGIS)

"#p3dm merges spatial information with local knowledge. It is a democratic tool" - Giacomo Rambaldi #WorldParksCongress #pgis

— PPGIS / PGIS (@ppgis) November 17, 2014

MPA coverage by G20 nations

#MPAs by G20 Nations: No-Take and Total Protected Area Coverage http://t.co/p9meVUq6WB #WPC2014 pic.twitter.com/S9nyXMJl81

— MPAtlas (@MPAtlas) November 17, 2014