Protected areas in the oceans a matter of great urgency say scientific community

More protected areas in strategic ocean locations need to be set up and benefit from proper enforcement in order to address the rapid degradation of the world’s marine environment.

St Lucia Marine Protected Area, South Africa

This is one of the recommendations put forward by nearly 600 marine life scientists from 42 countries gathered at the World Conference on Marine Biodiversity in Valencia, Spain from 11-15 November to review recent research relevant to marine biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, and ocean management. 

IUCN, as an invited speaker at a special Policy Roundtable, assisted the scientists in identifying priority actions to address the loss of marine biodiversity. Kristina Gjerde, IUCN High Seas Policy Adviser, made a well-received presentation about “Protecting Areas beyond National Jurisdiction’.

The conference resulted in the “Valencia Declaration: A Plea for Protection of Marine Biodiversity”, consolidating some of the most important findings and concerns of the present scientists.

Key findings include:

  • Marine biodiversity and ecosystems are essential to the functioning of our biosphere and hence to human well-being.
  • The pace and scale of anthropogenic changes occurring in the oceans and the impact of these changes on marine biodiversity and ecosystems are cause for grave concern.
  • When effectively designed, managed and enforced, marine protected areas can deliver many ecological and socio-economic benefits as well as building the resilience of marine ecosystems in the face of increasing global pressures.
  • Research efforts to explore marine biodiversity and assess its status are insufficient lagging well behind similar efforts on terrestrial biodiversity.
  • To be effective, networks of marine protected areas must be ecologically coherent and should be embedded in integrated ocean management frameworks that address the range of human activities and impacts both within and beyond the protected areas.
  • Deep sea ecosystems differ significantly from coastal ones such that the dynamics of most deep-sea fish stocks are so fragile and slow to recover that they should be approached with an exceptionally high degree of precaution.

The priorities for urgent action include:

  • Integrated ocean management be put in place covering human activities impacting on marine biodiversity and ecosystems both within and beyond national jurisdiction
  • Ecologically coherent networks of marine protected areas be developed at an urgent and accelerated pace based on existing scientific data and understanding.
  • Research efforts to explore and better understand marine biodiversity be enhanced and promoted to provide the knowledge base necessary to underpin an adaptive management process.
  • Deep-sea fisheries be authorised only where evidence has been gathered to conclusively demonstrate that a stock can be sustainably exploited in full compliance with FAO Technical Guidelines for deep-sea fishing in the high seas.
  • The United Nations General Assembly builds on the Law of the Sea and the Convention of Biological Diversity to achieve an international governance regime for the effective stewardship of marine areas beyond national jurisdiction and the fair and equitable use of living resources for the benefit of human kind.

The Conference was organized by the Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning (MarBEF), a network of excellence funded by the European Union. It was held in the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, inside the largest aquarium in Europe.


Work area: 
Marine threatened species
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)
Ocean Governance
Environmental Governance
Protected Areas
Protected Areas
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