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Highlights of IMPAC5 for 6 February 2023

Today, the International Union for Conservation of Nature Oceania Regional Office held its special event on ‘conserving our sea of islands – status of and opportunities for MPAs in The Pacific.’ The BIOPAMA Pacific Regional Project funded the event. The Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management (BIOPAMA) Programme assists the African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries in addressing their priorities for improved management and governance of biodiversity and natural resources. BIOPAMA provides various tools, services, and funding to conservation actors in the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries.

The BIOPAMA programme contributes to improving the long-term conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and natural resources in Africa, the Caribbean, and Pacific regions in protected areas and surrounding communities through better use and monitoring of information and capacity development on management and governance. BIOPAMA is an initiative of the Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States financed by the European Union’s 11th European Development Fund.

As the Regional Coordinator of the Protected and Conserved Areas and the BIOPAMA Project, I spoke of the growing need to recognize the abundance of experiences, knowledge, and lessons learned over the years in managing our natural capital. The Pacific is home to the vast area of ocean spaces, and the interconnectedness and interdependence on it for our food, medicine, livelihood, recreation, and more cannot be ignored. While the Pacific is eager to learn and explore new ideas – it also has many good examples and lessons to share with the rest of the world – that was my precursor to opening the Pacific session on the ‘state of the protected and conserved areas of the Pacific (SoPACA).’

The SoPACA report was launched in 2022, just before the CBD COP15. At IMPAC5, our goal was to share key findings from the report that helps shape policy direction, development of national plans, and strategies aligned to the global biodiversity framework – Kungming Declaration through a status update and adjustment of the ongoing work on protected areas and conservation. In addition, it was an occasion to share Pacific stories and best practices that can inspire others, and we can enrich our collaborations and partnerships with existing and new stakeholders from around the world.

The Pacific event, Chaired by me, included four other experts. These were Etika Qica, Chinnamma Reddy, Vaiuuppo Jungblut and Alanna Smith. We were fortunate that the Hon Minister for Environment, Natural Parks of the Coral Sea, Climate Change and Water – Hon. Jeremie Katidjo Monner from New Caledonia also attended our session. Friends of the Pacific, partners and many others interested in extending their regional work also joined our session.

The SoPACA is the first comprehensive regional assessment of protected and conserved areas in the Pacific, which the European Union financially supported through the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management Programme (BIOPAMA). The purpose of this report was to document the status of protected and conserved areas in Oceania, conduct a review and outline progress made towards achieving national and international targets for protected and conserved areas, including for coverage, representativeness, connectivity, and effectiveness, and to showcase the achievements and learnings from across the region to promote effective management practice. Through this report, we also wanted to review and highlight relevant regional protected and conserved area issues and provide guidance for strengthening management effectiveness, governance, and equity.​

Vainuupo Jungblut, who is also one of the coauthors of the Chapter on ‘coverage and connectivity.’ highlighted that a high percentage of coastal and marine areas in the region fall under customary ownership, which empowers traditional governance systems of local communities to make decisions over the current and future management and utilization of their marine resources. According to Vainuupo, as per the findings of the report, marine protection coverage has increased significantly over the past decade in Oceania. The region-wide MPA coverage within EEZs is 19.9%, while around 30% of countries and territories have achieved their commitments for marine coverage. Seven Pacific island countries have placed all or most of their EEZs under some protection. The report also states that 33 marine ecoregions and pelagic provinces lie partially or fully within the EEZs of the region. In contrast, 14 of these ecoregions have 10% or more of their extent within marine protected areas.

Etika Qica, in his presentation on the law and governance of the protected and conserved areas, shared examples of how the customary laws have proven to be helpful in the region besides the modern approaches. Some models include locally managed marine areas (LMMA) governed by customary tractional practices. It is, however, imperative to note that few countries recognize customary law under statutory law, e.g., Tonga Fisheries Management Act 2002 enables the development of Sustainable Fisheries Management Areas, and Vanuatu, for example, has an Environment Act which allows customary land to be administered and managed as conserved community areas. In another example shared by Etika, PNG, for instance, has legal deeds, which are the formal recognition of local rules through other legal approaches such as conservation deeds. Similarly, the contract law mechanism in Fiji under the Sovi Basin is secured through a conservation lease between a conservation organization or Statutory Body (National Trust of Fiji) and Landowners brokered by the Itaukaei (indigenous) Land Trust.

Chinnamma Reddy shared their experiences developing marine spatial planning (MSP) in Oceania. She listed critical steps required for developing MSP, noting that some steps may not be needed as the process largely depends on the country’s unique situation and at what level their needs and requirements stand. The ten critical steps for developing MSP begin with identifying the need and ensuring political will and financial resources. Other relevant steps include consultations, defining vision and objectives, gathering baseline data and maps, identifying unique marine areas, and defining various zones and their governance system feeding into the development of an MSP.

Finally, Alanna Smith shared country experiences for the Cook Islands, highlighting the case study of the Marae Moana. Tourism is the Cook Islands’ primary source of revenue. The Marae Moana is a multi-use marine park covering 1,900,000 km². It started in 2010 through public consultations and stakeholder engagement with traditional leaders, NGOs, and government departments. This consultation resulted in the co-designed marine park policy, which was approved in 2006 and was called the Marae Moana Act of 2017. The main objective of the Act is “to conserve biodiversity and ecological heritage values.”

Photo Gallery for 6 Feb

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