The Commonwealth Blue Charter is highlighting case studies from the Commonwealth and beyond, as part of a series to spotlight best practice successes and experiences. To share your own case study, please contact us.
“The process of assigning management categories to our national parks will help facilitate the planning of protected areas and protected area systems managed by BNT and other agencies, improve information management about protected areas and assist to regulate activities within protected areas.”
Eric Carey, Executive Director, Bahamas National Trust¹
At its first meeting, the Commonwealth Blue Charter Marine Protected Area (MPA) Action Group identified training on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) protected area management categories as one of its capacity development needs. Each protected area should be assigned to one of these categories, and governments should provide information on categories when submitting data on protected areas to the World Database of Protected Areas. IUCN has produced detailed guidance on the categories but there are few documented examples of the assignment process.
As part of the process to improve the management and expansion of The Bahamas MPA network, the Bahamas National Trust (BNT), with the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) and the Clifton Heritage Authority, undertook a process to assign IUCN protected area management categories to all sites under its purview, through a series of workshops in 2014.
Recommendations for categories for all designated protected areas, including MPAs, were made. This case study explains the purpose of the categories and the assignment process used in The Bahamas. Although the recommendations are still awaiting adoption and formalisation, this initiative provides useful lessons learnt and demonstrates the challenges involved.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) protected area management categories were designed with the aim of providing a tool to help with planning protected area systems; to encourage the development of protected area systems that include a range of conservation objectives tailored to national and local circumstances; to help global and regional data centres collect and report on conservation efforts; and to facilitate comparisons between countries.
The category assigned to a protected area must reflect the primary management objective(s) of the site. A category gives direction to site management and helps ensure that a protected area is designed and managed to meet its intended purpose. For example, if a development such as a tourism operation is proposed for a protected area, its category needs to be considered in case the development will prevent achievement of the protected area objectives. Since each protected area has its own goals and objectives, each site is likely to have a different management strategy, and the category helps ensure appropriate measures are implemented. Without categorisation, management may drift away from the original aim of the site. All the categories are important and a successful protected area network is likely to include sites of different categories.
Assigning categories can be difficult if there are multiple objectives and values for a site, as is often the case, or if the objectives are evolving and complex. IUCN provides guidance on assigning categories for all types of protected areas (Dudley, 2008), as well as specific guidance for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) (Day, 2019), since the marine environment has certain unique characteristics. Both of these documents should be used for MPAs (given that the general guidance explains the key principles underlying the categories).
As part of the national effort to meet its commitments under the Caribbean Challenge Initiative (CCI), the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) decided to assign categories to its protected areas. The CCI was launched in 20082 to promote the protection and management of the marine and coastal environment with a goal of effective management of at least 20 per cent of a country’s nearshore and marine environment by 2020. The Bahamas was one of the first governments to participate, signing the Declaration in 2013. The 2012 Master Plan for the Bahamas National Protected Areas System (BNPAS) (Moultrie, 2012) had laid out a process to achieve this, and a series of research programmes and gap analyses were undertaken subsequently.
The Bahamas MPA network, currently covering just over 10 per cent of its territorial waters, has sites ranging from highly protected fishery replenishment areas to marine managed areas with multiple zones that allow varying levels of human interaction and extraction. Four MPAs are marine reserves and are managed by the Department of Marine Resources (DMR); a number are managed by the BNT; and those declared in 2015 have yet to be assigned a management agency. A three-year project, Bahamas Protected: Realising the 2020 Goal to Effectively Manage and Expand Bahamian Marine Protected Areas (Knowles et al., 2017), produced recommendations for 43 new and/or expanded MPAs to meet the 20 per cent area target; the BNT and its partners have submitted these (Anderson et al., 2018) to The Bahamian government and they are currently in the pipeline for approval.
As a component of the overall process, it was decided to assign the IUCN categories to ensure that the protected area system was aligned with international standards. It was also felt that formalised management categories would help address the increasing trend, in the Caribbean, towards de-gazetting protected areas, a consequence of rapid economic development.
The IUCN guidance was used in designing the categorisation process. Workshops took participants through a sequence of exercises aimed at both ensuring a good understanding of the objectives of each site and building skills in decision-making using the categories.
Participants came from all the organisations involved in supporting, establishing and managing protected areas: BNT, DMR, the Department of Forestry, The Nature Conservancy Bahamas (TNC), The Bahamas Environment Science and Technology Commission, the Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Corporation and Clifton Heritage National Park.
A three-stage process was used, that took place over a nine-month period:
- Workshop 1: Issues identified; management categories and their role as an adaptive tool discussed; context of protected areas reviewed;
- Workshop 2: Issues and context identified in Workshop 1 organised into a conceptual framework;
- Workshop 3: Decisions made on potential categories; future activities identified in terms of requirements for new competencies, capacity and legal processes; process for completion
The last workshop doubled as a knowledge-sharing exercise and had participants from six other Caribbean islands – five Commonwealth countries (Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago) and one other (Dominican Republic).
Partnerships and support
The BNPAS categorisation workshops were undertaken in 2014 and were facilitated and sponsored by the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management (BIOPAMA) programme, which is an initiative of the Organization of Africa, Caribbean and Pacific States, funded by the European Union under the 10th European Development Fund. IUCN and the European Commission Joint Research Centre implemented the process. Funding totalled about €48,000 and covered IUCN staff time, costs of the workshops, travel, accommodation and per diems.
Results, accomplishments and outcomes
At the final categorisation workshop, agreement was reached on proposed categories for all designated protected areas (BNT, 2014), as shown in Annex 1 and summarised below:
In 2019, the BNT Council, which is a member of IUCN and responsible for this part of the process, approved the recommendations for the proposed categories, which are currently awaiting formalisation and implementation, at which stage the categories will be reported to the World Database on Protected Areas. Although the workshop developed a process for classification of new protected areas, categories were not proposed for the MPAs designated in 2015; these sites have not yet been assigned to a management agency and it is recognised that category assignment is best undertaken in the course of preparing the management plans.
COVID-19: The greatest current environmental, as well as economic and social, challenge for The Bahamas, as for most countries, is recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. All countries and MPAs around the world have suffered a massive negative impact. With the cessation of tourism, many sources of income have dried up. MPA managers have had to focus on ensuring the safety and security of their staff. Reduced visitor numbers and disrupted supply chains for fishery products have significantly affected the livelihoods of local communities that may normally both depend on and help manage MPAs. MPA management is focusing down on core operations to maintain basic functioning. However, there is consensus that effectively managed MPAs will be more resilient and that a sustainable managed ocean, encompassing MPA networks of adequate size, will be an essential component of recovery. This pandemic, combined with the devastation to the northern Bahama islands by Hurricane Dorian in 2019, has left the country in a position where unfortunately environmental considerations are a lower priority than the environment.
The workshop participants found that some concepts behind the categorisation process were complex, and that, despite the IUCN guidance, definitions and terms were not necessarily easily understood. The technical advice and training provided by BIOPAMA was therefore invaluable. Training was needed for managers, wardens/ rangers, fisheries superintendents and others involved in the assignment process and tasked with subsequently interpreting the categories for other stakeholders.
The stakeholder engagement and workshop process needs careful design and facilitation to ensure that developers, investors and others with a vested interest do not influence the assignment process and reduce the level of ambition at a site for biodiversity protection.
As IUCN categories are assigned according to the objectives of a protected area; they do not necessarily reflect the name of the site or level of protection. This is clearly demonstrated by this example for The Bahamas, where most MPAs are called either national parks (used in the IUCN guidance for Category II sites) or marine reserves (Category I sites in the IUCN Guidance). The BNT plans to retain the current branding of national parks and on-going marketing approaches, thus clear explanations of Categories I and II sites will be needed. This issue of terminology will also need to be addressed as the proposed new MPAs are designated.
The other Commonwealth countries that participated in the final workshop have also had difficulties assigning categories and have found the process challenging. Categories have been assigned to all the sites in the Saint Lucia national protected area systems plan, but legislation to formalise this has not been implemented, and the other countries have not yet completed the process.
Key lessons learnt
The Bahamas process has validated much of the guidance provided for assigning the IUCN protected area management categories in terms of:
- The need to involve key stakeholders, and base the assessment on best available natural and social The three workshops were designed to ensure enough time for assimilation of information and also to facilitate the research and analysis required.
- The need to carefully assess the MPA objectives before assigning a IUCN category; this has additional value in that it can help with development or revision of a management plan and identification of appropriate management measures for a site.
As is recognised widely, the management categories are primarily a tool for protected area management agencies and the international conservation community, to help focus on objectives and to develop well-balanced frameworks for MPA systems. They do not lend themselves very well to use in external communications – a problem identified in many countries – except perhaps where they could help explain regulations and management interventions for a particular site.
Given this challenge, workshop participants discussed the possibility of creating new categories specifically for The Bahamas. In fact, this issue had been addressed, and resolved, previously. In the 1980s, when the protected area system was being expanded in The Bahamas, three broad categories were adopted: national park, protected area and national reserve. Over time, these names started to determine which agency managed a site, rather than the objectives of the site. A widely understood national “branding” for protected areas thus became established, as happens in many countries. However, the value of adopting the IUCN categories was also understood, since it provides a mechanism to align protected areas with international standards. It was nevertheless considered important to retain the existing naming system and so the management category, once agreed, is placed in brackets after the protected area name. Thus, for example, “national parks” in The Bahamas are those sites managed by the BNT but they have a variety of objectives that are reflected in their categories that help determine management.
Eric Carey, Executive Director, Bahamas National Trust, [email protected]
Lakeshia Anderson-Rolle, Director of Parks, Bahamas National Trust, [email protected]
Anderson, L., Dahlgren, C., Knowles, L., Jupp, L. et al. (2018) “Bahamas Protected: 20 by 20 White Paper: Marine Protection Plan for Expanding The Bahamas Marine Protected Area Network”. Proposal Prepared for the Office of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Environment and Housing and the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources
BNT (2014) “2014 Protected Areas Management Categories Analysis for the Bahamas January– September”. Final Report.
Day, J., Dudley, N., Hockings, M., Holmes, G. et al. (eds) (2019) Guidelines for Applying the IUCN Protected Area Management Categories to Marine Protected Areas. 2nd Edition. Gland: IUCN.
Dudley, N. (eds) (2008) Guidelines for Applying Protected Area Management Categories. Gland: IUCN. Updated as Stolton, S., Shadie, P. and Dudley, N. (2013) IUCN WCPA Best Practice Guidance on Recognising Protected Areas and Assigning Management Categories and Governance Types. Best Practice Protected Area Guidelines Series No. 21. Gland: IUCN.
Moultrie, S. (2012) “Master Plan for The Bahamas National Protected Area System”. Nassau: The Nature Conservancy, Northern Caribbean Office.
Knowles, J.E., Green, A.L., Dahlgren, C., Arnett, F. and Knowles, L. (2017) “Expanding The Bahamas Marine Protected Area Network to Protect 20% of the Marine and Coastal Environment by 2020”. A Gap Analysis.
The Commonwealth Blue Charter is highlighting case studies from the Commonwealth and beyond, as part of a series to spotlight best practice successes and experiences. To share your own case study, please contact us.
“By giving recognition to well-managed and well-governed protected and conserved areas, the IUCN Green List aims to increase the number of areas delivering long-lasting conservation results for people and nature.” – Dr Agnes Agama, Malaysia’s Expert Assessment Group for the Green List¹
The International Union for Conservation of Nature Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas is a global standard of best practice for area-based conservation, covering all forms of protected and conserved areas. It is a certification programme that recognises effectively managed and fairly governed terrestrial and marine protected and conserved areas that are achieving their conservation outcomes. These areas include marine and terrestrial protected areas, natural World Heritage sites, indigenous peoples’ and community conserved areas, and wildlife sanctuaries, among others. The Green List standard has criteria for good governance, sound design and planning, and effective management that underpin a fourth fundamental component: positive conservation outcomes. Several marine protected areas (MPAs) have now achieved Green List status and many others are registered as candidates.
This case study describes the programme and illustrates how two MPAs in Malaysia are applying for Green List status.
Expansion of the global system of protected and conserved areas to secure the most important areas for biodiversity conservation will be successful only if these areas are well governed and managed and deliver positive outcomes for biodiversity and for society. However, protected areas, whether marine or terrestrial, find it a major challenge to achieve conservation outcomes and meet a site’s objectives while also implementing fair and equitable management of human activities.
As is widely recognised in the business world, evaluation and assessment of performance is a key tool for improving management and ensuring success. Evaluation of protected areas is therefore increasingly undertaken using a range of assessment methods. However, the lack of an accepted standard for “good” governance and management has meant that assessors are often unsure exactly what expectations they should measure against. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Green List programme was set up in 2012 to develop an agreed global standard that can be used everywhere, for protected areas in both low-income and high-income countries and regardless of the extent of their financial resources (Hockings et al., 2019).
The IUCN Green List Standard is organised around four components — good governance, sound design and planning, effective management and successful conservation outcomes. Each component has a set of Criteria, each of which has indicators against which to measure achievement. A marine protected area (MPA) must be evaluated to achieve all Criteria, across all four components, in order to be accepted for the IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas.
Fundamental to the process are the Expert Assessment Groups for the Green List (EAGLs), which are composed of experts in protected area management who volunteer their time and are selected by the relevant Regional Vice-Chair of the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA). A site, or several sites, or the jurisdiction responsible for the sites, initially registers as a Green List candidate. The relevant EAGL then adapts the global Green List indicators to the local context, referring any suggested adaptations to the Green List Standards Committee for ratification. Managers of the protected areas that are applying then prepare evidence for five basic indicators, at which point the protected area becomes a Candidate Site.
Supported and assisted by the EAGL, the site managers then assemble the evidence required to assess the remaining indicators, and this, with supporting documentation, is uploaded onto the web-based portal used to manage the Green List. Targeted consultations are then undertaken with key rights-holders and stakeholders, the method to be used for this having been approved by both the EAGL and an independent reviewer from the organisation Accreditation Services International (ASI); ASI provides mechanisms and procedures that assure independence and credibility of the decision-making processes.²
At least one member of the EAGL must visit the site to assess the operations and performance of the protected area, speak with staff and stakeholders, and view information not available electronically. EAGL members then meet to consider the application; site managers and the independent reviewer may attend the meeting to ensure proper processes are followed. The EAGL can either recommend the site for addition to the Green List or indicate to the site managers that additional work is needed to meet the Standard. EAGL recommendations, with a summary of site compliance and the report of the independent reviewer, are sent to the international Green List Committee, which takes the final decision on admitting the site to the Green List.
Successful sites are placed on the Green List for a period of five years, with a mid-term review (which involves a similar but slightly reduced process). For full relisting after five years, a site visit is required and further review. There is also a mechanism for stakeholders or the public to raise an alert if they feel that a site on the Green List has suffered from a material change in management effectiveness or in outcomes, and if necessary a site can be removed from the list. Information on the Green List process and Standard is available in the Green List User Manual.³
By 2020, the Green List programme was operating in 40 countries (including several Commonwealth countries, such as Australia, Kenya, Malaysia and Tanzania), with 46 sites in 14 countries admitted to the Green List. Eight sites on the Green List are MPAs, and there are some 15 candidate MPAs, as well as the entire California MPA network, which has registered as an entity and will provide the first test of how a protected area network can be Green Listed. The Seychelles has also expressed interest and the IUCN Green List staff organised an initial workshop in June 2020 to introduce the concept to relevant national protected area experts and organisations in this country.
Malaysia is the first of the Commonwealth countries involved in the Green List programme to register MPAs as candidates. The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia took on the role of the implementing partner and a Malaysian EAGL was established in October 2017. The EAGL adapted the global Green List Standard to the Malaysian context, and the IUCN Green List Committee approved this in 2019; the national standard is now available in Bahasa Malaysia as well as English. The EAGL asked protected areas in Malaysia if they would be interested in participating and five agreed to do so: three terrestrial protected areas and two MPAs:
- Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) at the northern tip of Sabah covers 8,988 km2 and was designated in 2016 to protect mangroves, sea grass beds, coral reefs, whale sharks, marine turtles, dugong and associated marine biodiversity.⁴ As the first multiple-use MPA in Malaysia, its establishment involved a 13-year participatory and consultative process facilitated by WWF Malaysia and Sabah Parks (the responsible management agency), critically important as the MPA provides livelihoods for over 80,000 coastal inhabitants (Boey et al., 2019). Sabah Parks and WWF Malaysia signed a 10-year memorandum of understanding in 2017, which covers technical and funding support for the implementation of the TMP Integrated Management Plan and which was approved in 2018.
- The Sugud Islands Marine Conservation Area (SIMCA) was designated in 2001 following an approach to the government by the owners of the Lankayan Island Dive Resort (LIDR), who realised there was a need to halt illegal and destructive fishing in the surrounding waters and to protect the environmental integrity of the island. SIMCA is comanaged by the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and a private company, Reef Guardian, covers 463 km2 and includes three islands and the surrounding waters, with shallow coastal reefs and sea grass beds (Teh et al., 2008). Visitors to LIDR are charged a fee, which generates funding for management. The SWD trains and certifies Reef Guardian staff as Honorary Wildlife Wardens, and occasionally participates in sea patrols to enforce SIMCA boundaries and prevent illegal fishing and turtle egg poaching.
To introduce stakeholders and staff from the five protected areas to the Green List process, a three-day workshop was held in 2019, attended by representatives of relevant government agencies, WWF Malaysia, IUCN and other linked organisations, along with some of the EAGL members. The participants were given an overview of tools and approaches that can help with implementation of the Standard, including governance methodologies, sound design and planning tools, and management effectiveness methodologies. Workshop participants conducted an initial self-assessment of site performance against the Green List Standard criteria.
Partnerships and support
WWF Malaysia is the implementing partner for the Green List candidature process for both terrestrial and marine protected areas; achieving Green List status for TMP is a specific target under the memorandum of understanding between WWF Malaysia and Sabah Parks for implementation of the TMP Integrated Management Plan. Support is also provided through Blue Communities, a four-year programme funded by the UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund, which supports research aimed at management of marine ecosystems in four sites in Southeast Asia; the University of Malaya undertakes research in TMP . The Asia Protected Areas Partnership and the Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Korea also provide support.
SIMCA has no external funding to support its Green List candidature, and is using revenue generated by tourism and other fundraising activities within the MPA. Existing technical capacity within Reef Guardian is being used to support the application process. IUCN is also assisting both sites.
IUCN estimates that it costs about US$10,000 to evaluate three to five protected areas for the Green List, with half of this financing the operation of the EAGL and half funding the work of the independent reviewer. The cost of site visits, staff time for compiling evidence and other involvement of protected area staff is generally met by the management agency.
Results, accomplishments and outcomes
Currently, the sites are preparing the necessary documentation to submit to the EAGL. It will be some time before the sites go through the final certification (Green Listing can take two to three years), but as, explained in the section below on lessons learnt, the process itself has valuable outcomes in terms of building staff capacity, ensuring the management plan is fit for purpose and developing the necessary monitoring programmes, documentation processes and financial plans.
COVID-19: The greatest current environmental challenge in Malaysia, as in most countries, is recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. All countries and MPAs around the world have undergone a massive negative impact. With the cessation of tourism, many sources of income have dried up. MPA managers have had to focus on ensuring the safety and security of their staff. Reduced visitor numbers and disrupted supply chains for fishery products have significantly affected the livelihoods of local communities that may normally both depend on and help manage MPAs. The impact on fishing communities has been documented for TMP (Jomitol et al., 2020). MPA management is focusing down on core operations to maintain basic functioning. However, there is consensus that effectively managed MPAs will be more resilient and that a sustainable managed ocean, encompassing MPA networks of adequate size, will be an essential component of recovery.
A review of the MPAs that participated in the Green List pilot phase (Wells et al., 2016), the experiences of those that have registered more recently and the Malaysia Green List workshop mean that the main challenges in the Green List process are beginning to be well understood:
- The capacity, resources and funding for undertaking the assessment are not insignificant. Extensive data and information have to be assembled, collated and analysed, much of which may lie in dispersed sources. This work often falls to MPA managers and their staff, in addition to their normal duties. For example, at SIMCA, a major challenge is to gather past records of communications, meeting minutes and letters prior to the establishment of the MPA in 2001, but much of this is no longer available.
- Language and terminology may create obstacles, and the concepts involved are not always easily understood by different cultures. In particular, site staff must understand that the process is not an evaluation of individual performance but that it is aimed at helping authorities and overall management. This may require advance training and external support.
- Participants at the Malaysian workshop noted the following particular challenges: stakeholder engagement, funding, proving the legal basis of the site and obtaining data on social and economic impact. At TMP, a newly gazetted MPA, the parks authority had to focus on getting the MPA operational at the same time as initiating the Green List candidature process, and the limited, relatively new staff, with limited knowledge and assessment experience, posed a challenge.
- There is general agreement among the sites involved to date, and in the public consultation on the Green List Standard, that a single unified approach is appropriate for all types of protected area, whether terrestrial or marine. Nevertheless, the fluidity and dynamic nature of marine ecosystems, which make MPAs particularly sensitive to events occurring outside their boundaries or globally (such as climate change), must be considered. For example, in Malaysia, future developments in the vicinity of TMP (e.g. potential silica mining, oil and gas extraction, port and harbour development) that are the remit of other government agencies could threaten the effective management of the MPA, if legislation and enforcement arrangements are not harmonised with the interests of TMP and marine biodiversity protection.
- When adapting the indicators, consideration must be given to measuring how well MPA management is integrated with wider efforts to sustain and restore the functioning of adjacent ecosystems and address upstream and downstream effects.
Key lessons learnt
The MPAs that have participated in the Green List process have felt that it has led to a clear improvement in the processes involved in achieving effective management. The availability of a global standard against which sites can measure their performance means that all protected areas can start to put in place the necessary measures to improve their management effectiveness. Regular assessments and registration with the programme should be seen as a part and parcel of the development programme for any MPA, and government agencies and management bodies should be promoting this.
Initiating a regular programme of assessments of management effectiveness is an important first step.
Sites that have conducted such evaluations (e.g. using the Management Effectiveness Tracking Tool (METT)) will have a sound basis of documentation available. In Malaysia, TMP staff received training in 2017 in the assessment method (similar to the METT) that is used for the Coral Triangle Marine Protected Area System (CTMPAS). SIMCA is learning of the importance of preparing and organising documentation so that management can benefit from past experiences and become “adaptive”.
The Malaysian workshop identified the value of scientific research to inform a number of the components of the Green List Standard, particularly the assessment of planning and design, and demonstration that a site is having a positive impact on biodiversity, for which sound monitoring programmes are needed.
Appropriate training for all involved in a Green List assessment is essential: the Standard and overall approach and requirements must be fully understood and supported by national protected area authorities and incorporated in the overall management framework so that managers use them automatically. This requires clear communication about the process and on the benefits of achieving Green List status.
The Green List Standard can also be used more generally to demonstrate the measures required for achieving successful biodiversity outcomes: protected area managers, planners, educators and scientists can use it to help guide the management of any conservation areas. For example, Mexico has indicated that it will apply for Green List status for its most important reserves in the first instance, but also use the Green List Standard as a guide for all other protected areas in the country.
IUCN Green List programme: James Hardcastle, Project Manager
IUCN Green List Implementing Partner for Malaysia, c/o WWF-Malaysia, Elyrice Alim
TMP: Augustine Binson, TMP, Sabah Parks, Malaysia
SIMCA: Davies Spiji, Reef Guardian Sdn. Bhd., Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia
Boey, S., Wan Mohamad Ariffin, W., Yang Amri, A., Liew, S. et al. (2019) “Initializing Multi-Stakeholder Engagement in the Context of Marine Protected Area Management and Capacity-Building Programmes: A Tun Mustapha Park Case Study”. Journal of Research Management & Governance 1(1): 27-33.
Hockings, M., Hardcastle, J., Woodley, S., Sandwith, T. et al. (2019) “The IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas: Setting the Standard for Effective Area-Based Conservation”. PARKS 25(2). https:// parksjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/ PARKS-25.2-Hockings-et-al-10.2305-IUCN.CH_.2019. PARKS-25-2MH.en_-1.pdf
Jomitol, J., Payne, A.J., Sakirun, S. and Bural, M.O. (2020) “The Impacts of COVID-19 to Small Scale Fisheries in Tun Mustapha Park, Sabah, Malaysia; What Do We Know So Far?” Preprints 2020. doi: 10.20944/ preprints202005.0287.v1
Teh, L., Teh, L. and Chung, C.C. (2008) “A Private Management Approach to Coral Reef Conservation in Sabah, Malaysia”. Biodiversity and Conservation 17: 3061–3077.
Wells, S., Addison, P., Bueno, P., Constantini, M. et al. (2016) “Using the IUCN Green List of Protected Areas to Promote Conservation Impact Through Marine Protected Areas”. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 26 (Suppl.2): 24-44.
The Commonwealth Blue Charter is highlighting case studies from the Commonwealth and beyond, as part of a series to spotlight best practice successes and experiences. To share your own case study, please contact us.
“With over 1.35 million km2 of ocean, the people of Seychelles have a direct dependence on our ocean resources for food security and livelihoods. Developing a Marine Spatial Plan is a way of tackling the sustainable development of the ocean for today and future generations.”
Former President Danny Faure¹
Seychelles has long been a leader in biodiversity conservation and, in 2012, when less than 1 per cent of its marine waters were managed in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), the president made an ambitious commitment to protect over 30 per cent by 2020. At the same time, the economic situation meant that there were strong incentives to develop the country’s Blue Economy. Lastly, concerns about the impacts of climate change on this small island developing state were growing because of sea level rise and increasing sea surface temperatures. Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) was therefore adopted as the tool to ensure that, in protecting new areas of ocean, biodiversity goals would be balanced with the requirement for a sustainable national economy. New MPAs, formally announced in March 2020, are a key part of the Seychelles Marine Spatial Plan (SMSP) that will be completed in 2021. The SMSP will also address sustainable use of marine resources in the remaining 70 per cent of ocean and climate change adaptation, and will coordinate appropriate regulatory compliance and unified government oversight of all activities. This case study looks at how MSP has been used to develop the recommendations to expand marine biodiversity protection in Seychelles.
In 2012, at the Rio +20 Conference, the Government of Seychelles (GOS) committed to protecting 30 per cent of its 1.35 million km2 marine waters in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs),² as a pledge conditional to raising US$2.5 million/year for a conservation and adaptation fund. At that time, although over 47 per cent of the land was protected, only 0.04 per cent of marine waters were in MPAs. Environmental concerns are firmly entrenched in the Constitution of Seychelles, and the country has multiple policies and strategies to promote, coordinate and integrate sustainable development and to expand biodiversity protection. With such a large ocean area and with over two-thirds of Seychelles’ economy reliant on the ocean, there was a need to develop a marine plan for the country’s ocean space.
The Seychelles Marine Spatial Plan (SMSP) Initiative³ was developed as an integrated, multi-sector approach to address the need to support the Blue Economy (i.e. businesses that rely on ocean resources, marine-based food security and marine livelihoods) with climate change adaptation and biodiversity protection. The SMSP provides information to government and stakeholders about what is allowed and where and identifies the new MPAs.
Marine spatial planning (MSP) is an iterative process that takes place over a number of years, using spatial data and stakeholder participation to create an evidencebased plan. Plans are living documents and, after implementation, are monitored, adapted and revised as new information and data become available, new objectives or values emerge that are important to marine users, and ocean uses and activities change. The SMSP process was designed using United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization guidance⁴ as well as other publications and reports, combined with information from discussions with colleagues and experts. This ensured the use of best practices and lessons learnt from other geographies such as Australia,⁵ Canada⁶ and the Eastern Caribbean⁷ to adapt the process to the local context.
Article 38 of the Seychelles Constitution,⁸ along with the Seychelles Sustainable Development Strategy,⁹ requires the implementation of “an integrated marine plan to optimise the sustainable use and effective management of the Seychelles marine environment while ensuring and improving the social, cultural and economic wellbeing of its people” and this provides the background for the marine plan. The SMSP Initiative was launched with three objectives: to expand protection of marine waters to 30 per cent, to address climate change adaptation and to support the Blue Economy.¹⁰
A key part of meeting the objectives for the 30 per cent protection goal and supporting the Blue Economy was designing a zoning framework for the full 1.35 million km2. Development of this was informed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) ecological and socio-economic criteria for MPA networks,¹¹ the IUCN guidelines for MPAs on protected area categories,¹² lessons learnt from other countries, tools for biodiversity prioritisation (e.g. Marxan) and consultations with experts. The zoning process was defined in two phases with three Milestones, the first two of which were focused primarily on proposals for deep water and the third on deep and shallow water. This was because most marine activities other than industrial tuna fishing occur in waters less than 200 m deep and it took longer to gather the necessary data and develop those proposals.
Scientific data, local expert knowledge and stakeholder input for maps showing habitats, species and marine uses and activities began in Milestone 1. Information was also obtained from international research expeditions such as National Geographic Pristine Seas in 2015 and the Nekton Expedition in 2019. Two Marxan analyses were undertaken: the first was a project led by GOS United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)Global Environment Facility (GEF) (Klaus, 2015¹³) and led to an initial analysis; and the second was a rapid “Marxan with Zones” project using three scenarios (biodiversity bias, Blue Economy bias, economic bias), which led to suggestions for establishing three different zones across the marine waters: High Protection, Medium Protection and Multiple Use. Customised decision-support tools were developed to check representation goals against 30 per cent area targets.
Over 100 stakeholders are participating and engaged from more than 11 marine sectors, including commercial fishing, tourism and marine charters, biodiversity conservation, renewable energy, port authority, maritime safety and non-renewable resources. To date there have been 210 committee meetings, workshops and public information sessions, an additional 52 workshops for the Outer Islands (GOS-UNDP-GEF Outer Islands Project) and bilateral consultations with marine sectors, local experts and agencies. The results of these activities were used to develop the zoning framework and new MPAs, and further discussions are being held in order to prepare a table of Allowable Activities for the different zone, and to develop other management considerations.
Partnerships and support
The SMSP initiative is a government-led process, and started in 2014. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) leads the process design on behalf of the government, provides all technical and scientific support and undertakes planning, facilitation and project management with support from the GOS-UNDP GEF Programme Coordinating Unit.
The SMSP is a necessary output from the Seychelles debt conversion, which created the Seychelles’ Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT), an independent public-private trust operationalised in 2016. The Trust is responsible for managing debt conversion proceeds including disbursing blue grants and investment assets funded by the debt conversion deal.¹⁴ Under this deal, private philanthropic funding and loan capital were raised, and SeyCCAT then extended loans to GOS to enable the purchase of US$21.6 million of sovereign debt at a discount. GOS now repays SeyCCAT on more favourable terms, allowing SeyCCAT to direct a portion of the repayments for financing of marine conservation and climate change adaptation projects and, in the long term, implementation of the SMSP. Additional funding is being provided through grants to GOS, an Oceans 5 grant awarded to TNC, and some private funders. Approximately US$250,000 is spent on the SMSP per year.
Results, accomplishments and outcomes
As per the debt conversion commitment, Milestone 1 (2014-2018) resulted in protection of 15 per cent of the marine waters through gazette of the new Zone 1 and 2 areas in February 2018. Milestone 2 (2018-2019) refined the zoning design and expanded Zones 1 and 2 to include a further 11 per cent of marine waters, which were gazetted in April 2019, bringing the total area protected to 26 per cent. This Milestone included an economic analysis undertaken with a fisheries expert and an economist to evaluate the potential impact of the zones on industrial tuna fishing. Milestone 3 (20192020) involved an estimate by an economist of the costs required to implement the new MPAS, and final gazettements during this Milestone achieved the 30 per cent protection goal in March 2020. The total area protected includes MPAs that were designated before the SMSP process was initiated, such as Aldabra Marine Reserve. The MPAs are thus as follows:
• High Biodiversity Protection Areas:
Known collectively as Zone 1 and covering 203,071 km2 (15 per cent of Seychelles waters), these five areas (Aldabra Group, Bird Island (Île aux Vaches), D’Arros Atoll, D’Arros to Poivre Atolls, Amirantes South) are designated as MPAs under the National Parks and Nature Conservancy Act (NPNCA) and are designed to conserve and protect the top priority areas for marine and coastal biodiversity, including those of international significance. MPAs contain habitats and species that may be rare, endangered, unique or with narrow distribution ranges, as well as breeding or spawning areas, key foraging habitat, fragile or sensitive species and habitats. Each site is large enough to ensure ecological resilience and to provide climate change adaptation. In the draft Allowable Activities table, extractive activities and those that alter the seabed are not allowable.
• Medium Biodiversity Protection and Sustainable Use Areas:
Known collectively as Zone 2 and covering 238,442 km2, these eight areas (Amirantes to Fortune Bank, Denis Island, Desroches Atoll, Poivre Atoll, Alphonse Group, Farquhar Atoll, Farquhar Archipelago, Cosmoledo and Astove Archipelago) are designed with the objective of biodiversity protection and sustainable use and are designated as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) under the NPNCA. They include habitats and species that have some tolerance to disturbance and human use and include regionally and nationally significant areas; the draft Allowable Activities include sustainable fishing, tourism and renewable energy. Zone 2 is considered suitable for some level of extraction and sea-bed alteration depending on the specific location, provided there is appropriate consultation and management to achieve the objective of the area.
Zone 3 is Multiple Use and covers the remaining 70 per cent of Seychelles waters. It will be finalised in 2020-2021 at which point the SMSP will be implemented through a phased approach, which is still being developed.
The new MPAs will be implemented through existing or new legislation; regulations will be passed for uses and activities, management plans will be developed and IUCN protected area management categories will be assigned as appropriate. The SMSP website¹⁵ provides information on all the outputs of the initiative including a spatial data catalogue, an Atlas, the MSP Policy, economic assessments and the legal gazettes for the new MPAs.
COVID-19: The greatest current challenge in most countries is recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
All countries and MPAs around the world have seen a massive negative impact. With the cessation of tourism, many sources of income have dried up. MPA managers have had to focus on ensuring the safety and security of their staff. Reduced visitor numbers and disrupted supply chains for fishery products have significantly impacted the livelihoods of local communities, which may both depend on and help manage MPAs. MPA management is focusing down on core operations to maintain basic functioning. However, there is consensus that effectively managed MPAs will be more resilient and that a sustainable managed ocean, encompassing MPA networks of adequate size, will be an essential component of economic recovery.
Developing a comprehensive marine spatial plan needs patience and persistence, and can take up to 10 years. It takes time to gather information and to discuss with all involved any implications that MSP may have on livelihoods. Once the plan is agreed, further time is needed to finalise the details and obtain government approval and for implementation. For the SMSP, the Milestones created steps along the way to the 30 per cent goal and allowed time for development of the supporting spatial database and science, documents for discussions with stakeholders and the independent assessments and analyses that informed the iterative process with stakeholders and civil society.
It is also a challenge to ensure that all sectors participate fully and that equity issues in relation to engagement and contribution are appropriately addressed. The fact that the SMSP stakeholder engagement process and governance framework were designed from the start to ensure participation from all sectors was helpful. It is important to have a government champion for an MSP and consistency in the core team to build trust with stakeholder groups.
The future may hold greater challenges, in terms of implementing the SMSP, integrating and coordinating regulatory authorities for many different uses and activities in the zones, and encouraging stakeholders to comply with the new legislation once enacted. Given the immense size of the area covered by the new MPAs, this will require additional resources. Several options are being considered, including an independent authority; discussions are on-going and will be finalised in 20202021. For monitoring and surveillance, a combination of approaches will likely be adopted, involving existing authorities (e.g. Coast Guard) and making use of the rapidly evolving global monitoring and surveillance technology to strengthen the existing system.
Key lessons learnt
• Political support and commitment to the process from the beginning, with leaders, including the president, understanding the purpose and objectives of the initiative, represented a major factor in success. Project staff reported back regularly to Cabinet and sought feedback from decision-makers, developing the political will that was needed to follow the six-year process.
• Establishment of the right partnership at the beginning was essential: as a small island developing state, Seychelles lacked prior MSP experience, technical capacity and knowledge for the MSP process. TNC provided MSP expertise, a process and science lead and a project manager. The project manager is based in Seychelles and able to talk regularly to the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change.
• Trust-building was critical. Given the lead role of the Ministry, there were concerns among some stakeholders that biodiversity protection would dominate discussions. It was continually emphasised that the SMSP was multi-objective, and that it was a government priority to ensure both biodiversity conservation and sustainable livelihoods.
• Spatial data are vital for an MSP. To ensure that sectors were equally well informed and proposals were evidence-based, relevant scientific data and local knowledge were made available from the start. Each sector provided spatial information indicating its priority areas, and also reviewed data from consultations to ground truth them for accuracy. The GIS (geographic information system) methodology must also be able to receive confidential or proprietary data and use it to develop proposals without revealing specific locations.
• Given that sectors often differ in their level of understanding of the issues and have different capacities for participation, project staff made sure that committee meetings and reporting arrangements suited all involved. Technical Working Groups were established for specific sectors and topics (e.g. fisheries, tourism, finance, climate change) allowing space for technical discussions and developing draft products.
• Time is needed for stakeholders to gather the information to present their arguments, and for discussions with them of proposals as these arise. It was accepted that the process would slow down if lack of agreement or misunderstandings arose, and facilitation focused on gathering information to help resolve issues and obtain a high level of support.
• A consistent effort was made to ensure key stakeholders were present during relevant discussions so that many views could be presented and decisions were transparent. Meeting materials were distributed and comments received to ensure all views were incorporated. Public information sessions were held on all the main islands to also reach civil society and stakeholders. Finalised meeting minutes and other documents were made available through the website.
• The issues of new protected areas and future exclusion of industrial tuna fishing, oil and gas exploration, and marine charters for sport fishing were difficult, and impartial facilitation (independent from the Ministry) ensured that all sectors were able to discuss the proposed locations and potential impacts. An economic assessment for industrial tuna fishing was very useful and, during the zoning process, all sectors agreed to forego some areas that they had mapped as “high value”; ultimately, a compromise was reached between economic development and protection of key areas for biodiversity and ecosystem function.
• It is essential to understand that the adage “one size fits all” does not apply to MSP. Nevertheless, in the same way that lessons learnt about MSP from other geographies were used to develop the Seychelles process, lessons from the Seychelles MSP will apply elsewhere.
Those involved in the SMSP would be pleased to share the Seychelles experience and lessons learnt.
Joanna Smith, Seychelles MSP Process and Science Lead: [email protected];
Helena Sims, Project Manager, SMSP Initiative: [email protected]
Alain de Comarmond, Principal Secretary, Seychelles Environment Department: [email protected]
1. Laurence, D. (2020) “Seychelles Protects 30 Percent of Territorial Waters, Meeting Target 10 Years Ahead of Schedule”. Seychelles News Agency, 26 March.
8. “The State recognises the right of every person to live in and enjoy a clean, healthy and ecologically balanced environment and with a view to ensuring the effective realisation of this right the State undertakes to ensure a sustainable socioeconomic development of Seychelles by a judicious use and management of the resources of Seychelles.”
11. IUCN/WCPA (2008) Establishing Marine Protected Area Networks-Making It Happen. Washington, DC: IUCN WCPA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and The Nature Conservancy.
12. Day, J., Dudley, N., Hockings, M., Holmes, G. et al. (2012) Guidelines for Applying the IUCN Protected Area Management Categories to Marine Protected Areas. Gland: IUCN.
13. Klaus, R. (2015), Strengthening Seychelles’ protected area system through NGO management modalities, GOS-UNDPGEF project, Final report.
14. See separate case study prepared for the Commonwealth Blue Charter Blue Economy AG.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General is urging governments to ensure their countries’ post-COVID economic recoveries are environmentally sustainable and safe for the ocean.
Forty-seven of the Commonwealth’s 54 member countries have a coastline while 25 are either small island developing states or ‘big ocean states’ relying heavily on the ocean for food and income.
Sustainable blue and green economies
On World Oceans Day (8 June), Secretary-General Patricia Scotland calls on countries to reform development strategies in a way that supports vibrant and sustainable blue and green economies.
She said: “The ocean is the life blood of so many Commonwealth countries and our environment should be the cornerstone as we put plans in place to recover our economies. The Commonwealth covers more than a third of coastal oceans in the world, contributing to a global ocean-based economy valued at US$3 to 6 trillion per year.
“COVID-19 impact has radically altered some of our key economic sectors and transformed the way we live, communicate and do business. While the fallout from the pandemic has had a huge impact on our blue economies, it also presents a crucial opportunity to strategise on how to accelerate the transition towards more sustainable economic practices built on climate resilience and ocean sustainability.
“The Commonwealth Blue Charter is one of the most effective platforms for global ocean action in the international landscape today. I commend the work of our member countries through the action groups and welcome the support we have received from national, regional and global partners, enabling us to mobilise together for ocean health.”
Blue Charter action groups
The Blue Charter is the Commonwealth’s commitment to work together to protect the ocean and meet global ocean commitments. Ten action groups, led by 13 champion countries, are driving the flagship initiative. More than 40 countries have signed up to one or more of these action groups, and counting.
Commonwealth Blue Charter action groups include:
- Sustainable Aquaculture (led by Cyprus)
- Sustainable Blue Economy (Kenya)
- Coral Reef Protection and Restoration (Australia, Belize, Mauritius)
- Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihoods (Sri Lanka)
- Ocean Acidification (New Zealand)
- Ocean and Climate Change (Fiji)
- Ocean Observations (Canada)
- Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance (marine plastic pollution – United Kingdom, Vanuatu)
- Marine Protected Areas (Seychelles)
- Sustainable Coastal Fisheries (Kiribati)
Members of the private sector, academia and civil society – including Vulcan Inc, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, Nekton Foundation and many others – are also engaged as Blue Charter partners.
Commonwealth countries committed to saving the ocean will benefit from new knowledge gained from the Seychelles, which has just designated almost a third of its ocean as marine protected areas (MPAs).
The island nation recently set aside 30 per cent of its marine territory, or about 410,000 square kilometres, to be legally protected from activities that damage the marine environment.
Other than sustainable tourism, the new laws will ban almost all human activity in half of the protected areas, while allowing only low-impact sustainable businesses to operate in the other half.
The milestone is a culmination of six years of intense technical and legal work, scientific research, as well as community and political engagement.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “Seychelles has demonstrated remarkable leadership as the ‘champion country’ for marine protected areas under the Commonwealth Blue Charter. It is immensely encouraging to see how the experiences, insights and lessons learned from Seychelles will inspire and catalyse other member states who also wish to protect their ocean.
“Marine protection goes beyond conservation, allowing for the development of ‘blue’ economies based on sustainable ocean activity. A healthy ocean also presents enhanced opportunities for economic recovery post COVID-19, and for building resilience and withstanding the impacts of natural disasters and extreme weather events.”
The new marine spatial plan maps out the entirety of Seychelles Exclusive Economic Zone (spanning 1.37 million square kilometres) and was financed through an innovative ‘debt-for-nature’ swap co-designed by the Government of Seychelles and The Nature Conservancy.
Path to success
Alain de Comarmond, Principal Secretary of Environment at the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change of Seychelles stressed that countries would need to set their own targets and methods according to their own circumstances.
He outlined four basic elements that led to Seychelles’ success: political support, efficient partnerships, a robust framework for implementation, and patience.
He explained: “The starting point in all of this is the political support and commitment. The President and political leaders were clear about the objective for Seychelles, and the Cabinet was updated regularly on all progress of our work.
“Finding the right partnerships is also very important. For small developing states like Seychelles, most of us do not have all the technical capacity or knowhow needed. We were very lucky to have a very strong partner in The Nature Conservancy, which provided technical and financial assistance.”
Mr de Comarmond added that a well-oiled chain of teams and committees across various agencies helped to ensure that the process was inclusive. The government recognised that the business community and civil society needed to be fully engaged and take ownership.
He said: “We took a very patient and persistent approach, investing a lot of time in building trust and getting the agreement from all our stakeholders. Proposals were always backed with scientific data.”
Seychelles’ achievement of 30 per cent coverage is far beyond international targets of 10 per cent by the end of this year. However, a growing number of Commonwealth countries are supporting a more ambitious target of 30 per cent by 2030, to be agreed at the next UN Biodiversity Conference.
Blue Charter Champion
Under the Commonwealth Blue Charter, Seychelles leads an action group of 16 member countries, including: The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, The Gambia, Ghana, Jamaica, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Sri Lanka, St Kitts and Nevis, Tonga, the UK and Vanuatu.
Head of Oceans and Natural Resources at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Nicholas Hardman-Mountford, said: “A key goal of the Blue Charter is to share knowledge and experiences, while working together to scale up strategies, in this case for the effective management, monitoring and enforcement of MPAs.”
Countries driving the Commonwealth Blue Charter project will meet in Cyprus from 21 to 24 March 2020. They will reflect on what they’ve achieved over the past year, and agree on a strategy for the coming year.
The Commonwealth Blue Charter is a landmark agreement by leaders to cooperate on ocean action. Since launching in 2018, 10 action groups led by 13 ‘champion’ countries have rallied Commonwealth members around pressing ocean issues like marine pollution, coral reef restoration and climate change.
Champion countries will share experiences, best practices and new ideas.