Australian Government officially designates final network of Commonwealth MPAs
It is now official. On 16 November as MPA News went to press, the Australian Government formally approved what it proposed last June - a national representative system of MPAs that increases the nation's MPA system from 27 sites to 60, and now covers 3 million km2 in total (MPA News 14:1). Described by the Government as the most comprehensive marine park network worldwide, the system includes the new Coral Sea Marine Reserve, a nearly 1 million-km2 area of which half will be no-take.
The process of developing management plans for the new reserves has begun, including what gear types and activities will be allowed in the MPAs. No new "on the water" changes for users in the MPAs will take effect until July 2014. In recognition of the expected impact of the new restrictions on fishing, the Government announced a plan to allocate around AU $100 million (US $104 million) in fisheries adjustment assistance. "The assistance package recognizes that while the marine reserves are estimated to only have around 1 per cent impact on the commercial fishing industry nationally, some fishers and fishing businesses will be affected," said Environment Minister Tony Burke. Government announcements and fact sheets on the MPAs and the assistance package are at http://environment.gov.au/about/media/resources/marinereserves/index.html.
CCAMLR fails to reach consensus on Antarctic MPA proposals
At their annual meeting in October 2012, member states to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) failed to reach unanimous agreement on three separate proposals for marine reserves in Antarctic waters. The proposals covered the Ross Sea, Eastern Antarctica, and areas exposed by collapsed ice sheets near the Antarctic Peninsula. Each proposal would have closed areas to fishing and used the closures as study sites on impacts of climate change on polar ecosystems. CCAMLR operates by consensus; since there was no full agreement on the reserves at the October meeting, the proposals have been tabled until a special meeting of CCAMLR to be held in Germany in July 2013.
CCAMLR member states include the EU and 24 nations. Prior to the October meeting, member states New Zealand and the US had rival plans for a Ross Sea reserve, as described in the September-October 2012 issue of MPA News by Evan Bloom of the US Department of State (MPA News 14:2). They managed to bridge their differences, presenting a joint proposal to CCAMLR for a 2.27 million-km2 MPA. The CCAMLR website is www.ccamlr.org. The Antarctic Ocean Alliance, a coalition of conservation groups, is at www.antarcticocean.org.
US expands tiny MPA to more than 50,000 times original size
It is not unusual for the boundaries of an MPA to change over time to some extent, reflecting socioeconomic considerations or improved understanding of an area's ecology. But can you imagine an MPA expanding by more than 50,000 times its original size? It just happened. What was formerly the 0.8-km2 Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary in American Samoa is now the 46,000-km2 National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. The South Pacific site, previously notable for containing the only true tropical coral reef in the US National Marine Sanctuary System, now also contains much more extensive reef habitats (including in deep water), hydrothermal vent communities, rare marine archaeological resources, and important fishing grounds.
The expansion and renaming, as well as a whole new set of regulations, followed a management plan review process for the site. Accounting for the expansion are five areas that have been incorporated in the MPA, including the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument. The Fagatele Bay site was previously the smallest national marine sanctuary in the US; now it is the largest. For more information on the management plan review and the changes, go to http://fagatelebay.noaa.gov.
Mozambique announces coastal protected area
The East African nation of Mozambique has designated a 10,411-km2 protected area in its coastal waters. Described by supporters as the largest MPA in Africa, the Primeiras and Segundas Archipelago protected area includes an array of habitats, including islands, mangroves, coral reefs, and seagrass ecosystems. It also provides important breeding grounds for dugongs, seabirds, and turtles.
The development of a management plan for the site is underway. The archipelago's waters, fed by cold, nutrient-rich upwellings, are fished heavily by commercial and artisanal fishers. A press release by WWF Mozambique, which supported the planning of the protected area for several years, is at http://wwf.panda.org/wwf_news/?206632/Mozambique-creates-Africas-largest-coastal-marine-reserve.
New atlas available on important seabird areas
BirdLife International has launched a new online atlas that identifies 3000 important bird areas (IBAs) for marine species worldwide, including breeding grounds and migration routes. Consisting of confirmed, proposed, and candidate IBAs, the sites account together for 6% of the world's oceans. The atlas is intended to help governments plan protected areas for seabirds, including on the high seas, as well as guide the siting of incompatible uses (such as offshore windfarms) away from important habitats. Available for free, the atlas pertains to species from albatrosses to penguins, and draws on the collected expertise of more than 1000 experts. It is available at www.birdlife.org/datazone/marine.
Strategy to build MPA management capacity in Mediterranean
A new report presents a strategy for improving MPA management in the Mediterranean region through building managers' capacity. Based on an assessment of current capacity-building needs and priorities at the national and MPA levels, the report recommends delivery mechanisms with the collaboration of regional and national actors. Developed by WWF, MedPAN (the Mediterranean Protected Area Managers Network), and RAC/SPA (the Regional Activity Centre for Specially Protected Areas), the report is available at www.medpan.org/?arbo=article&sel=ID&val=755&language=en.
Guidance on designing MPA networks that are resilient to climate change
A new report provides a set of four general guidelines for designing MPA networks that are resilient to climate change:
• Protect species and habitats with crucial ecosystem roles, or those of special conservation concern;
• Protect potential carbon sinks;
• Protect ecological linkages and connectivity pathways for a wide range of species; and
• Protect the full range of biodiversity present in the target biogeographic area.
The 82-page report Scientific Guidelines for Designing Resilient Marine Protected Area Networks in a Changing Climate is published by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, an intergovernmental institution to support environmental cooperation among Canada, Mexico, and the US. It is available at www.cec.org/Page.asp?PageID=122&ContentID=25240.
UNEP releases latest report on global protected area coverage
In September 2012, the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre released the Protected Planet Report 2012, its latest official review of progress toward achieving the protected area targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity. It provides statistics on protected area coverage of countries and ecoregions, current to the year 2010. It is available at www.unep-wcmc.org/ppr2012_903.html.