World Parks Congress recommends target of 30% no-take MPA coverage worldwide

MPA News


I've read the materials in the World Parks Congress website, and the 30% no-take recommendation conflicts with other recommendations from that meeting.  Under the Achieving conservation goals stream, the strategy of innovative approaches and recommendations to reach conservation goals in the next decade ( highlights that "Protected area quality is more important than percentage targets: protected areas need to be managed effectively".  Recommendation number 20 of that strategy states that "percentage targets are problematic in focusing on area at the expense of biodiversity objectives".  It does add that "many delegates argued that these should be around 30% of the planet for no take reserves, 50% overall protection, and 100% of the land and water managed sustainably".  However, many is not most.  The argument to emphasize quality over percentage targets was strong and compelling. Including 30% no-take zones in the overall recommendation appears to be misleading and contradictory to the recommendations of the conservation goals strategy.

Hi Steven. Happy New Year! You raise a good point. For the final two days of the WPC, I was straddling Stream 1 (Achieving Conservation Goals) and the Marine Stream, trying to get a sense of the direction they were heading with their respective recommendations. From my observation, there was minimal coordination between the streams in the drafting of their respective recommendations. Hence the imperfect alignment in the resulting recommendations on coverage targets from Stream 1 (namely Recommendation 20) and the Marine Stream (Recommendation 1). In my view, the non-alignment may not be as significant as it seems on first reading, but any mismatch does raise a question of whose recommendations should take priority. A case could be made that recommendations on marine issues from the Marine Stream should hold sway, but reasonable people could disagree on this. I'll cover this in the next MPA News.

Regarding Stream 1's Recommendation 20 on targets: this can be read as either against targets or in favor of them, depending on which sentences you focus on. As you point out, the phrase "percentage targets are problematic in focusing on area at the expense of biodiversity objectives" is clearly skeptical of targets. Yet the phrase "delegates agreed on the importance of setting ambitious targets" correctly captures the attitude in the room during the final Stream 1 discussion of its draft recommendations. As I noted in OpenChannels' live blog of the WPC, there was overwhelming support in that room for relatively high percentage-based targets for MPAs: "Raising of hands in conservation targets session, asking what numerical targets the audience favored. There was one hand raised for 10% protection. Most of the raised hands were for 20%, 30%, and 40%. One person raised his hand for 100%. There were a couple hundred people in the room." Obviously this straw poll was very unscientific, but the takeaway was clear. In fact, pre-final drafts of Stream 1's recommendations called for a 30% no-take target. It was only the final draft where there was a backing-away from that, for whatever reason.

It's unfortunate that the imperfect alignment causes confusion, and I would suggest that the next WPC figure out a way for improved coordination among the streams. That being said, I expect that the Marine Stream heads at this WPC would agree with most if not all of what Stream 1 wrote, including on the flaws of percentage targets.

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