Effective management and more funding for marine protected areas are urgently needed to secure a longer life for our oceans and the vital services they provide, urges IUCN at the 3rd International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC 3), which opens today in Marseille, France.
A target of at least 10% of the world’s marine and coastal zones to be protected by 2020 was agreed by most of the world’s governments in 2010. Co-organized by IUCN and the French Marine Protected Areas Agency, IMPAC 3 will gather over 1,200 managers of marine protected areas, marine specialists and other key players, including ministers, from around the world. Its aim is to evaluate the progress made so far and propose new solutions for the future, including ways to improve funding, management, research and monitoring of marine protected areas.
“It’s encouraging to see the progress that we’ve made to date in terms of protecting the global ocean area – from less than 0.5% at the turn of the 20th century to over 2% today,” says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General. “However, if we continue at the current pace, it will take us another 30 to 40 years to reach the 10% mark. A strong, combined effort is urgently needed to meet the 2020 deadline agreed by governments.”
According to the latest report by IUCN and the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), ocean’s health is “spiralling downwards” far more rapidly than previously thought. This is due to decreasing oxygen levels caused by climate change and nitrogen run-off, combined with other chemical pollution and rampant overfishing.
“This really is the last call for us to reverse the ongoing degradation of marine life,” says François Simard, Deputy Director of the IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme. “We need to make sure that we have enough resources, including financial ones, to continue increasing our knowledge about these places and improve their management. Failure to do so can soon have devastating effects on all of us.”
Areas that are beyond national jurisdiction, which represent more than 60% of the global ocean, need special attention, according to IUCN. This includes a new high seas biodiversity agreement that is needed to set the legal basis for more comprehensive management and a truly global system of marine protected areas.
The oceans cover more than 70% of the earth’s surface. More than 3.5 billion people depend on them for food, energy and income. Marine protected areas are defined zones where natural and cultural resources receive special protection. They therefore play a central role in addressing some of the global development challenges of today, such as food and energy security, poverty and climate change.
The 3rd International Marine Protected Areas Congress is taking place from 21 to 25 October, followed by a high-level ministerial meeting in Ajaccio, Corsica on 26 and 27 October.
Management and funding of marine protected areas will be discussed further at the IUCN World Parks Congress, a global forum on protected areas held every ten years, which will take place in November next year in Sydney, Australia.