Towards reducing misrepresentation of national achievements in marine protected area targets
Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted 20 targets, known as the Aichi Targets, to benchmark progress towards protecting biodiversity. These targets include Target 11 relating to Marine Protected Area coverage and the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) is the accepted international database for tracking national commitments to this target. However, measuring national progress towards conservation targets relies on sound data. This paper highlights the large-scale misrepresentation, by up to two orders of magnitude, of national marine protected area coverage from two Pacific Island nations in multiple online databases and subsequent reports, including conclusions regarding achievements of Aichi 11 commitments. It recommends that for the target driven approach to have value, users of the WDPA data should carefully consider its caveats before using their raw data and that countries should strive for a greater degree of accountability. Lastly it also concludes that protected area coverage may not be the best approach to environmental sustainability and that the remaining 19 targets should be considered to a greater extent.