Safeguarding 30% of our Oceans
The Blue Parks initiative incentivises a global ocean refuge system to safeguard biodiversity in at least 30% of the ocean. Blue Park Awards recognise outstanding marine protected areas (MPAs), and the Blue Park criteria provide a science-based standard for marine conservation effectiveness.
We’re incredibly proud to have two Blue Park Award winners in our midst. In light of the open call for nominations for this year’s award winners, we sat down with Chumbe Island and Misool to find out more about the initiative.
1. Blue Parks aim to build a network of protected areas safeguarding at least 30% of every type of marine ecosystem in every region of the global ocean. Why is this now more important than ever?
Misool: Our life-giving oceans are under threat from all directions – direct threats of overfishing and habitat destruction and indirect threats from climate change and plastic pollution.
The consequences of inaction will affect us all. However, small coastal communities, around 680 million people (about 11% of the 2010 global population), will deal with the most immediate effects. These people whose lives depend on the ocean; rising sea levels threaten their homes; warming oceans will decimate livelihoods and overfishing will create a food security emergency.
The Misool Marine Reserve demonstrates that protecting a small area can have a far-reaching impact. Raja Ampat is known as the ‘Species Factory’ due to its role in dispersing diverse coral polyps, larvae, and eggs westwards, effectively seeding not only Indonesia’s reefs but possibly even SE Asia’s. In 15 years, we have witnessed how quickly our oceans can bounce back within the boundaries of a well-managed MPA. We are reminded of this every day as we watch baby sharks swim freely at the site of a former shark-finning camp.
Chumbe Island: The oceans cover 70% of our planet and are its lungs, generating 70% of our oxygen and feeding billions of people. Despite this crucial role they play, our attention has only relatively recently turned to the immense crisis marine environments face with global warming, overfishing and pollution.
We have now ended the decade that was meant to fulfil the 2020 Aichi biodiversity targets, among them, to effectively protect at least 17% of terrestrial and 10% of coastal and marine areas. Unfortunately, we have not met any of these targets so far. Even when designated, most Marine Parks remain ‘paper parks’ with little if any effective management on the ground. Thus today, less than 3% of the ocean is strongly protected.
Therefore, the Blue Parks Award of the US Marine Conservation Institute promotes a science-based strategy to incentivise and accelerate the creation of strongly protected marine areas. And Blue Ocean’s target of 30% is also aligned with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which will in the next conference in 2021 create a new ten-year global conservation plan to expand Protected Areas to 30% of the earth’s surface (“30 By 30”).
2. Why is the Blue Park recognition so crucial to your conservation mission?
Misool: Misool’s Blue Parks’ designation provides third-party validation that our conservation work and marine protected area meet standards set by internationally renowned scientists and experts. It demonstrates to our guests and supporters that we are not ‘greenwashing’; the Misool Marine Reserve is both ecologically important and well-protected. This is self-reinforcing. As the marine ecosystem thrives, so does our business. We attract more guests and generate more revenue from tourism; this revenue can then be reinvested in education and conservation efforts.
Chumbe: When founded in 1993, Chumbe Island Coral Park was a pioneer of marine Privately Protected Areas (PPA), the first private Marine park worldwide, and it has been quite a challenge since then for people to understand that we don’t run just another ecolodge that is doing some good conservation work, but that Chumbe is a genuine professionally managed Marine Protected Area (MPA) that is funded by ecotourism.
Therefore, it was an excellent recognition for our park to win this award, the “Oscar” for MPAs shared with only 16 other parks worldwide. This award also gives us a boost when dealing with the international conservation community and government authorities, and last but not least, for marketing.
3. Could you give a few examples to demonstrate how this award is so rigorous compared to other standards?
Misool: The application process is evidence-based. It’s not enough to state that the fish biomass on Misool’s reefs has increased by 600% on some sites – we need to show the science behind that. Claims need to be supported by scientific papers and publications. For any protected areas considering applying, don’t be discouraged by the amount of information required. For us, it was an excellent opportunity to get all the science in one place and review our management plans.
Chumbe Island: The Blue Parks label is only available to fully designated no-take MPAs, and the science-based eligibility criteria include the biodiversity value of the park and implementation, site design and management arrangements, effectiveness and compliance, regulations, ecosystem representation and ecological spatial connectivity.
Therefore, while (unlike The Long Run) the Blue Parks assessment does not invest in onsite visits, it has been particular and meticulous in analysing our consecutive Management Plans and monitoring reports. This includes social and governance aspects, for evidence that Chumbe is a decades-old no-take MPA with clearly visible biodiversity impact on the ground.
The evaluation process includes the publication of the reports on the Blue Parks web page for 30 days, encouraging comments by those with experience in the nominated MPA to submit comments and additional documentation or evidence to correct and refine the report. Finally, based on this, the Science Council members determine the nominee’s award status.
4. How does Blue Parks align with The Long Run’s standards and mission?
Misool: The Blue Parks mission is an excellent complement to The Long Run. The Long Run focuses on business, industry and best practice leadership to promote the conservation of nature and people. Blue Parks uses science to verify impact. Long term change requires a vast network of disciplines and industry who are united around a common goal.
Chumbe Island: For a broad assessment of conservation performance and impact on the ground, I would say that the standards and mission of Blue Parks and the TLR are fully compatible with each other.
The Blue Parks Award is specifically designed to support international progress towards the Convention on Biological Diversity Aichi Target 11, UN Sustainable Development Goal 14, and the longer-term goal of protecting 30% of the ocean by 2030.
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