Positive prospects for marine park collaboration

30 May 2014 | News story

Co-training of marine park staff, sharing of technology development and coordination of data collection and sharing arrangements are some opportunities for collaboration between managers of marine parks identified during a workshop held this week in Suva, Fiji.

Pacific Ocean countries and territories are increasingly turning to large marine protected areas (MPAs) to conserve their marine ecosystems and resources that are important for subsistence and biological purposes, but are under immense pressure from over-harvesting and climate change.

The workshop gathered managers of two established MPAs – the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), Kiribati, and the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (PRIMNM), territory of the USA – and two MPAs that are in the process of being established – the Marae Moana Marine Park, Cook Islands, and the Natural Park of the Coral Sea, New Caledonia.

One of the key elements of success identified during the workshop related to the variety of people needed to make the MPA function.

Realizing it takes a diverse set of expertise from different people and partners who can work towards a common goal has been a key element of the PRIMNM’s success… meeting the mission of the MPA takes many stages, and different people and skill sets are needed at different times,” says Susan White, Project Leader for PRIMNM at the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Given the remote and scattered nature of the large MPAs, there are difficulties involved in accessing areas within the MPAs, and the costs for transport reflect this. It can also be a case of ‘out-of-sight, out-of-mind’, where a lack of visibility and awareness about the large MPAs can make sourcing sufficient funding difficult.

Resourcing is always a challenge, especially where ‘just getting to work’ is very costly [referring to the remote nature of the MPA]. It is important to set realistic priorities to meet the MPA mission,” says Samantha Brooke, Program Manager—Marine National Monument Program at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

However, opportunities for collaboration in the management of the large MPAs were identified and discussed, which can help to address some of the challenges. Some of the opportunities discussed include: co-training of marine park staff; sharing of technology development, such as remote monitoring; coordination of data collection and data-sharing arrangements; and joint awareness-raising and fund-raising efforts.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to work together, to help share information and technology and work more efficiently. This really promotes us and gives us a global voice, and recognises that we are connected,” says Tukabu Teroroko, PIPA Director at the Kiribati Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development.

The experiences and lessons learnt from the established MPAs have also provided guidance for the large MPAs currently being established in Cook Islands and New Caledonia. A key point highlighted was the importance of consulting with all stakeholders, to ensure they support the MPA and want to help protect it.

The workshop has helped me to see that we are on the right track in the Cook Islands and it has also given me some ideas for how things could be done for positive results. Listening to managers who work in sites that have been in existence for some years now has helped to envision the resources and work needed in the future, depending on how our marine park takes shape,” says Jacqueline Evans, Project Manager for the Marae Moana Marine Park, Cook Islands. Evans works for Te Ipukarea Society in the Cook Islands, an IUCN Member.

We have three years to prepare a management plan for the Natural Park of the Coral Sea. This workshop is the first time I can discuss with managers of these types of MPAs, to learn from their lessons, and to build new partnerships,” says Christophe Fonfreyde, Chief of Fisheries and Marine Management, Government of New Caledonia.

The next step to continue the collaboration is to establish annual meetings between the managers of the large MPAs, which may be as a standalone workshop or as part of an existing forum.

IUCN Oceania facilitated the workshop, which built on previous workshops held in 2012 in Hawaii (hosted and funded by Conservation International), in 2013 in Kiribati, and in February 2014 in Honolulu (the latter two facilitated by IUCN Oceania).

Also in attendance were officials from the Environment Office of the US Embassy. The workshop continued the progress made at the earlier workshops funded by small grants from the US Embassy.