The Skimmer & MPA News

MPA News

When MPA News reported on blue carbon back in 2016, it was still just a concept, discussed as a way that MPAs could help fight climate change. But now two MPA projects are implementing blue carbon strategies as a source of revenue – the first MPAs to do so. They are generating credits based on the tons of carbon their projects have captured and stored, then selling those credits to global buyers who want to offset their own carbon emissions.

This is a whole new way of monetizing MPAs. The timing is potentially good: the global market for carbon credits is expected to grow substantially as nations and other entities, like airlines, strive to meet various emission-reduction commitments. According to one of the projects selling blue carbon credits, the current demand for them may be as much as a thousand times greater than current supply.

MPA News

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the world, MPA News continues to compile resources that may be of value to our readers. Here is our latest batch:

The lockdown seriously impacted Mediterranean MPAs: Results of survey (MedPAN) – MedPAN’s survey of 35 practitioners found reductions in tourism and fishing at MPAs across the Mediterranean, as well as several other impacts.

Brief videos by World Heritage site managers on how their sites are coping with the COVID-19 crisis (UNESCO) – These videos include testimonials from four marine sites: Banc d’Arguin National Park (Mauritania), Komodo National Park (Indonesia), Sundarbans National Park (India), and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (Philippines).

Managing Buccoo Reef Marine Park (Trinidad and Tobago Newsday) – During the temporary closure of Buccoo Reef Marine Park amid the pandemic, Tobago policymakers used the downtime to institute a new user policy and permit system with the goal of transforming the MPA from ineffective to effective.

And more....

MPA News

By Ambassador Teburoro Tito, Chairman of the PIPA Conservation Trust Fund Board

On 11 December 2018, Kiribati made history by being the first country to have its domestic marine conservation initiative recognized by the UN General Assembly as an exemplary model of international cooperation. What is so unique about the Phoenix Islands Protected Area to justify this special mention?

MPA News

By Ton IJlstra

Over the past 20 years, wind energy and MPAs have staked important spatial claims with regard to the Dutch North Sea – to the potential detriment of the Netherlands' commercial fishing industry. For this reason, the North Sea Foundation called in 2017 for an agreement among stakeholders that would preserve the country's North Sea ecosystem while enabling sustainable fisheries and the expansion of wind parks.

MPA News

Canada joins Global Ocean Alliance, advocating 30% ocean protection by 2030

In early July, Canada became the 22nd nation to join the Global Ocean Alliance, a group of countries in favor of protecting 30% of the ocean by 2030. Current MPA coverage of Canada’s waters is 13.8%. Globally, the World Database on Protected Areas calculates 7.4% of the world ocean is under some protection.

Members of the Global Ocean Alliance support setting a worldwide ‘30x30’ target next year under the Convention on Biological Diversity. Started by the UK in 2019, the alliance now includes Belgium, Belize, Cabo Verde, Canada, Costa Rica, Croatia, Fiji, Finland, Gabon, Germany, Italy, Kenya, Luxembourg, Monaco, Nigeria, Palau, Portugal, Senegal, Seychelles, Sweden, the UK, and Vanuatu.

A recent study by over 100 economists and scientists concluded that the economic benefits of protecting 30% of the world’s land and ocean by 2030 would outweigh the costs by a ratio of 5-to-1. Media coverage of the study is here, here, and here.

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Editor’s note: In this series, The Skimmer is taking a look at the various ways that the pandemic is affecting marine ecosystems and their conservation and management. In April, we took an initial look at the impact of the pandemic on fisheries and aquaculture. In this issue, we cover how the pandemic is impacting coastal and marine tourism and the potential impacts of these changes on coastal and marine ecosystems. In future issues, we will examine the pandemic’s impact on plastic pollution, climate change, and more. We will update previous articles as we are able, so if you see critical aspects that we are missing from this and previous articles, please let us know at skimmer [at] octogroup.org.

In many ways, coastal and marine tourism has become a posterchild for the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the earliest and highest-profile cases of the mass spread of the COVID-19 virus happened aboard passenger cruise ships (here, here). Photos of crowded beaches have become synonymous with inadequate social distancing to prevent the virus’s spread. And photos of empty beaches show the devastating impacts of the pandemic on local economies.

The Skimmer asked coastal and marine tourism operators and experts from around the world (Indonesia, Brazil, the Mediterranean, the United States, and more) about the diverse ways that the COVID-19 pandemic is currently affecting coastal and marine tourism, how it is likely to change coastal and marine tourism in the future, and what impacts this is likely to have on coastal and marine ecosystems. Their responses (below) give reasons for both hope and concern.

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management
The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Editor’s note: Jon Fisher is currently a conservation science officer at The Pew Charitable Trusts where he provides scientific expertise to inform and improve research projects and helps to increase the impact of scientific research. He was formerly a senior conservation scientist at The Nature Conservancy where he led and conducted research as a principal investigator and conducted internal theory of change work. He and co-authors recently published a paper “Improving scientific impact: how to practice science that influences environmental policy and management” in the journal Conservation Science and Practice. Fisher presented a webinar on this research to the OCTO networks (including the EBM Tools Network) in December 2019, and we highly recommend reading the paper and watching the webinar recording.

Skimmer: As you describe in your paper, a lot of scientific research that is intended to be applied isn’t ever used - because decision-makers are unaware of it, aren’t able to access it, don’t understand it, or don’t see it as relevant. Your recent paper outlines practical steps for improving the impact of science on decision making. Could you give us a summary of those steps?

Fisher: Sure, at a high level we recommend four steps:

  1. Identify and understand the audience (e.g., a decision-maker with whom you can partner)
  2. Clarify the need for evidence (i.e., how new information could lead to action)
  3. Gather "just enough" evidence (i.e., so there is enough rigor to be credible without missing key decision-making deadlines or wasting resources on gathering extraneous information)
  4. Share and discuss the evidence (i.e., help people learn about your results and motivate them to act on them).

These are guidelines rather than a strict recipe for success because there are many factors that determine the impact that research has. But following these steps improves the odds of research being influential. In fact, we ourselves have found that not following these steps in past projects has led to disappointing outcomes.

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Two recent articles we read really struck home about why it benefits EVERYONE to make marine conservation and management anti-racist and anti-colonial. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a American marine biologist, policy expert, and strategist; founder and CEO of Ocean Collectiv, a consulting firm for conservation solutions grounded in social justice; and founder of Urban Ocean Lab, a think tank for coastal cities. In a Washington Post perspective piece “I’m a black climate expert. Racism derails our efforts to save the planet”, she writes:

“[B]lack Americans are disproportionately more likely than whites to be concerned about — and affected by — the climate crisis. But the many manifestations of structural racism, mass incarceration and state violence mean environmental issues are only a few lines on a long tally of threats. How can we expect black Americans to focus on climate when we are so at risk on our streets, in our communities, and even within our own homes? How can people of color effectively lead their communities on climate solutions when faced with pervasive and life-shortening racism?

“If we want to successfully address climate change, we need people of color. Not just because pursuing diversity is a good thing to do, and not even because diversity leads to better decision-making and more effective strategies, but because black people are significantly more concerned about climate change than white people (57 percent vs. 49 percent), and Latinx people are even more concerned (70 percent). To put that in perspective, it means that more than 23 million black Americans already care deeply about the environment and could make a huge contribution to the massive amount of climate work that needs doing.”

Similarly Asha De Vos is a marine biologist and ocean educator from Sri Lanka. She is founder of Oceanswell and a National Geographic Explorer, Pew Fellow, and TED Fellow. In a Scientific American opinion piece “The Problem of ‘Colonial Science’”, she writes:

“Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the world shut down. I saw researchers and conservationists panicking that they could not get to their field sites across the world; that their multiyear data sets would have a gaping hole; and, finally, that if they had ensured that they trained local partners on the ground to do the work, then their data collection would have continued. Did it really take a pandemic for us to realize this?

“[Colonial science is] the conservation model where researchers from the developed world come to countries like mine, do research and leave without any investment in human capacity or infrastructure. It creates a dependency on external expertise and cripples local conservation efforts. The work is driven by the outsiders’ assumptions, motives and personal needs, leading to an unfavorable power imbalance between those from outside and those on the ground.”

MPA News

Last month, MPA News featured first-hand accounts from ten MPA practitioners worldwide on how the COVID-19 pandemic was already impacting their MPAs – from steep declines in tourism, to cuts in budgets and staffing, to increased poaching at some sites. The likelihood of a lasting global financial crisis, and uncertainties about the directions COVID-19 will take, threaten to prolong these and other challenges for the foreseeable future. If the MPA field does not prepare and adapt, it risks losing gains in protection that have been made to this point.

This month, we continue our coverage of the pandemic and financial crisis:

  1. Insights from Markus Knigge of Blue Action Fund on how the financial crisis could impact grants to MPAs
  2. Highlights from a June panel on MPAs and COVID-19, moderated by MPA News
  3. A list of additional resources, including guidance and grants

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