TEMPO.CO, Nairobi – The Western Indian Ocean region declared 143 marine and coastal protected areas – an area covering 553,163 square kilometers, accounting for 7 percent of the total Exclusive economic zone (EEZ) for the region – according to a new publication from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) -Nairobi Convention and the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association.
The Marine Protected Areas Outlook, released today, indicates that nearly half of the total land area – about 63 percent of the total square kilometer area – has been placed under protection in the seven years since adoption. in 2015 of Sustainable Development Goal 14.5, which commits countries to conserve at least 10 percent of their marine and coastal areas by 2020.
This Perspective examines the current and future state of marine protected areas (MPAs) in Comoros, Kenya, France (in its western Indian Ocean territories), Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Africa South and Tanzania, highlighting increased country engagement. to strengthen marine protection. In 2019 alone, Seychelles protected 30% of its exclusive economic zone, protecting the habitats of 2,600 species, while South Africa declared 20 new MPAs, allowing the two countries to exceed the target of 10 %. The Comoros has developed new legislation specific to MPAs, while more than three hundred locally managed marine areas – that is, areas in which coastal communities assume the role of conservation – have been declared throughout. the region.
The publication further documents the dozens of proposed MPAs currently under consideration by countries, which would cover an additional 50,000 square kilometers or more. Nonetheless, with only 7 percent of the region’s total EEZ under protection, countries will need greater momentum and investment to achieve the more ambitious goal of 30 percent protection by 2030, as than proposed in the global biodiversity framework.
While the ocean provides us with essential resources for survival, including food, jobs, and even oxygen, the world is damaging and depleting it faster than ever. Soon the region may no longer be able to count on the many jobs, health and economic benefits – valued at $ 20.8 billion – that the Western Indian Ocean provides. Marine protected areas offer one of the best options to reverse these trends.
“A well-managed MPA can bring significant economic, social and environmental benefits to a country,” said Yamkela Mngxe, Acting Director of Integrated Projects and International Coordination at the South African Department of Forests, Fisheries and Fisheries. environment. “They can increase food security by preventing overexploitation of fish stocks; to create and protect jobs in the tourism and fishing sectors; build resilience to climate change; and protect species and habitats.
Although countries in the region have made significant progress in protecting their marine and coastal areas, the Outlook describes best practices, challenges and several opportunities to build on this progress to ensure that the entire region achieves future goals. of the Global Biodiversity Framework on Marine Protected Areas. The Outlook’s assessment of MPA management effectiveness indicates that MPA frameworks and institutions do not always function effectively. The relevant legislation is also not applied consistently, due to gaps in financial capacity or personnel; weak enforcement of MPA limits; and management decisions that are not guided by science.
The main recommendations of the Outlook therefore include:
The need for dedicated budgets for the management of MPAs;
Adopt proactive law enforcement and compliance strategies to ensure adherence to MPA regulations and guidelines that could be informed by best practices in fisheries reserves like Mauritius, which have helped restore fish stocks and to protect biodiversity;
Integrate research and monitoring programs on biodiversity and ecosystems into decision-making in MPAs;
Strengthen community engagement in marine protection by implementing the lessons learned by the MIHARI network, which brings together more than 200 locally managed marine areas in Madagascar.
“The outlook for MPAs comes at a time when the region has embarked on large-scale socio-economic developments which are also putting pressure on MPAs,” said the Honorable Flavien Joubert, Minister of Agriculture, Climate change, and Seychelles Environment. “The Outlook thus provides answers and innovative approaches to minimize the extent of negative impacts on MPAs.
The MPA Outlook concludes that by seizing the opportunities it presents, countries in the region can capitalize on these advances to safeguard the immense natural beauty and resources of the Western Indian Ocean for generations to come – and sustain the momentum towards achieving the goals of the post-2020 biodiversity framework.
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