Marine Conservation Biology Institute Marine Conservation Biology Institute
Marine Conservation Biology Institute
Advancing the Science

MCBI at the International Marine Conservation Congress
Washington DC
May 19th - 24th, 2009

MCBI was involved in the International Marine Conservation Congress in many ways including hosting a symposium, participating in several more, organizing a workshop and a congressional advocacy day, and making numerous presentations.



Three Stages in the Evolution of Marine Ecosystem-based Management: “Exploitation Everywhere,” Marine Reserves, and Comprehensive Ecosystem-based Ocean Zoning
Session organizer: Elliott Norse, MCBI President
Panelist: Bill Chandler, MCBI Vice President for Government Affairs

In recent decades, the conceptual core of marine management has evolved from 1) laissez-faire and promoting the fullest exploitation of seemingly limitless marine resources to 2) establishing fully protected areas to 3) fashioning a new, more inclusive, nuanced system that accommodates both human and conservation needs: comprehensive ecosystem-based spatial management including ocean zoning. The failure of “Exploitation everywhere” thinking and governance is evidenced by increasingly widespread collapses of marine populations, ecosystems, and fishing communities, and increasing competition for ocean space for conservation, fishing, aquaculture, energy, transportation, defense, and recreation. Biodiversity loss has focused attention on the idea of protecting ecosystems. Marine reserves are a key ecosystem conservation tool, are delivering major benefits, and will be integral to any ecologically, socioeconomically, and politically viable ecosystem-based management system. But reserves primarily address biodiversity loss and loss of ecosystem services, symptoms of a sectoral management system that can neither maintain the integrity of ecosystems nor accommodate the growing demands humans are placing on them. Reserves alone do not address the root causes of these losses, causes that lie more in the realms of socioeconomics and governance than in oceanography and ecology. Comprehensive spatial management using ecosystem-based zoning incorporating networks of marine reserves and other kinds of management areas can alleviate many threats and separate incompatible uses. It is the coming evolutionary step in marine EBM, with new ideas and examples now emerging.

This session will bridge gaps between natural and social scientific perspectives and between diagnosing problems and implementing ecosystem-based management solutions.


Open Ocean MPAs: Ecology, Identification, Management and Governance
Symposia Organizer: Amanda Lombard
Discussant: Elliott Norse, MCBI President  

Extending marine protected areas (MPAs) to the open ocean (beyond the continental shelf and especially to the high seas areas beyond national jurisdiction) is a complex though achievable task. Compared with coastal MPAs, open ocean (also known as pelagic) MPAs provide special challenges in their location (for example, the need to respond to spatio-temporal dynamics) as well as their monitoring, management and governance (since governments are only now beginning to ramp up cooperative efforts to conserve biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction). Expertise from various disciplines, international co-operation, and understanding of the existing legal frameworks is required to realize open ocean MPAs. In addition, “cutting edge” tools for understanding physical and biological dynamics and new approaches to conservation planning, monitoring and management are needed to design open ocean MPAs and to ensure their sustainability in the long term. This multi-disciplinary session will cover the key aspects of physical and ecological dynamics in the open ocean as well as issues around implementation and governance, all directed toward the establishment and maintenance of effective open ocean MPAs. The session will include overviews and specific case studies. The international representation of symposium speakers, together with attendees, will discuss the theory and practicalities of identification of potential areas (both static and mobile), and options for management and governance, including enforcement and priorities for future research.


MPA Governability
Session organizers: Ratana Chuenpagdee & Jose J. Pascual-Fernandez
Speakers: Lance Morgan and Larisa Sano, The California Experience with the Marine Life Protection Act

MPAs are often considered as technical and institutional fixes to marine resource management and conservation problems. Yet, the success stories of MPAs implementation worldwide are in short supply. Is it because we expect too much from an MPA? Or is it because there are features of MPAs that we have ignored? The proposed symposium examines MPAs and their effectiveness from a ‘governability’ perspective using several case studies. This requires that MPAs are treated not only as a governing system but also an object of governance. The governability perspective also recognizes that there are limits to what an MPA can do and that not all MPAs are equally governable due to the diversity, complexity, dynamics and scale of the natural and social systems, as well as their interactions. An investigation into MPA governability begins from an understanding of the process prior to the conception and implementation of MPAs. Questions such as who initiates the idea, who participates in the initial discussion and in what capacity, and how the idea is communicated are asked. Next, the assessment of MPAs as an object and subject of governance is required. The question for the former is how MPAs help maintain healthy ecosystem, while for the latter, the query is about how MPAs work as a steering instrument. Finally, factors limiting the implementation of MPAs are identified. For this, we seek to understand how the MPA and their objectives are communicated, negotiated and decided, and whether they are being recognized by all stakeholders as legitimate.


Seamount Marine Protected Areas: Progress, Obstacles and Collaboration Between Researchers and Practitioners
Session organizer: Michele B. Patterson
Moderator: Jeff Ardron, MCBI Director High Seas Program

Seamounts have long been recognized as priority areas for conservation given their intrinsic vulnerability to exploitation of their fish populations with commercial interest, and given the lateral impact of those activities on the sessile long-lived populations of cold water coral and sponge aggregations.  It is widely expected that seamounts and other unique deep sea ecosystems will become even more disturbed due to other pressures, such as climate change, which may considerably change oceanographic conditions with impacts on the resilience of important biotic fractions of the ecosystem.

This symposium will consist of:

a) Presentations from leading seamount researchers and field practitioners describing recent progress and/or obstacles in seamount marine protected area designation and research, and,
b) A roundtable discussion on seamount MPA obstacles and research needs that might benefit from a closer network approach between conservation practitioners and scientists.


Plenary Talk:

No Blue, No Green: Why Caring for the Ocean Matters to Everything that Matters to You Dr. Sylvia Earle, Explorer-in-residence at the National Geographical Society, founder of the Deep Search Foundation, and MCBI board member

Headlines feature trends toward a "green economy," "green energy," even green agriculture. Meanwhile, the state of the ocean is being seriously neglected.  Consideration will be given in this presentation to why and how the ocean connects to the economy, health, security, and the underpinnings of life itself, and the urgency of developing appropriate policies and designating national and international networks of protected areas in the sea that can help stabilize the effects of destructive practices.



Selection of Open Ocean MPAs: the Theory and the Reality
Jeff Ardron, MCBI Director High Seas Program

In May 2008, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted criteria for the identification of ecologically and biologically significant areas in deep and open oceans and criteria for what would constitute MPA networks. This work took into account over twenty other sets of criteria developed to date by other organizations and institutions. Nonetheless, the next step –how to implement these and similar criteria– has received much less attention. Conservation scientists face many technical issues, largely a result of limited knowledge and data. Furthermore, clarity is required of qualitative descriptors such as what is “representative” or “natural.” This talk will focus on how to make the most use of existing information on the high seas. It will highlight challenges as well as unexpected opportunities that are arising as scientists begin the process of identifying areas that potentially fulfill the CBD criteria.


Putting the CBD Guidance into Practice: Designing Ecologically Coherent MPA Networks in Canada
Jennifer Louise Smith, Michele B Patterson, Hussein Alidina, Jeff Ardron

In May 2008 the 9th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted a package of guidance that sets out criteria for the design of ecologically coherent MPA networks. Canada, like many countries, has made only incremental progress and lacks a clear plan to reach the CBD commitment of representative networks of MPAs by 2012. Canadian agencies at all levels of government are currently struggling with how to address this policy gap. A question often heard, in one form or another, is: is it feasible to fulfill the spirit and the letter of the CBD guidance within a complex legislative and policy framework such as Canada’s? Seeking to make a constructive contribution to this discussion, WWF-Canada has drafted a response to the CBD guidance. The document is intended to support planning of regional-scale networks, such as those under development in Canada’s five priority Large Ocean Management Areas (LOMAs) and other large marine regions, by helping to answer, in practical terms, the following questions: · How can we go about designing an ecologically coherent MPA network? · How do we know when our MPA network is ecologically coherent? This discussion paper sets out an approach to addressing the CBD guidance, using the Canadian context as a demonstration study, and concludes that implementing this guidance is tractable by adopting pragmatic design guidelines, making the most of the existing mandates, and utilising best available science.


Progress in Addressing Ecological Impacts of Fishing
Lance Morgan, MCBI Vice President for Science

Many recent scientific studies have demonstrated the differential impacts of fishing methods on marine ecosystems (i.e., non-target species, habitats and food-webs). Other work has documented that individuals from diverse backgrounds generally reach consensus about the relative severity of these impacts. Surveys of fishermen, conservationists, scientists and managers in both the Unites States and Canada have provided remarkably consistent ratings and rankings of bycatch and habitat impacts of commercial fishing methods. These relatively robust findings suggests that progress can be made in addressing fishing impacts on the ecosystem, yet there continues to be significant declines in populations and the health of marine ecosystems. One important factor is the mismatch in addressing the scale of the impacts when implementing solutions. Many of the solutions are aimed at relatively minor modifications of fishing gears that are best described as too little, too late. Another problem is targeting solutions on specific problems. One size fits all marine reserve approaches need to reflect specific achievable goals. Examples include recent trawl closures that extend closures to areas where no trawling occurs or is expected to occur. One important solution that has not been given much thought is the use of area-based spatial management to address specific impacts with gear substitutions. Risk-averse strategies that preferentially allocate catch to certain low impact fishing methods in certain zones provide a promising alternative. Examples of addressing fishing impacts using gear substitutions and spatial management are discussed and related to success in reducing ecological impacts of fishing.



How will Conservation Science meet Policy Requirements on the High Seas?

Major decisions and criteria recently developed by the CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity) and UN FAO (Food and Agricultural Org.) concerning conservation of the high seas, while based on science, remain unknown to most marine scientists, and also to policy makers outside of these bodies. This IMCC workshop side-event will provide an opportunity for high seas researchers and policy makers to discuss with each other what is currently being done to meet international high seas commitments, what is reasonable to expect within the short-term, and what would be required in the medium term using these recently adopted conservation criteria. Participants will be challenged to come up with realistic approaches to address data-limited situations such as are commonly found on the high seas. Next steps will be developed. Sponsors: Marine Conservation Biology Institute (MCBI) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).


Congressional Advocacy Day:

Communicating With Congress Concerning Conservation
On May 19th, Marine Conservation Biology Institute (MCBI) hosted a Congressional Advocacy Day for participants of the International Marine Conservation Congress.  The event provided approximately 50 participants with an overall understanding of the US legislative process, overview of current international and national marine issues, advocacy training and meeting with congressional staffers.
The Advocacy Day began with a presentation by Charlotte de Foutaubert, a consultant with the International Union for Conservation of Nature on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).  UNCLOS is an international treaty that defines the rights and responsibilities of nations in their utilization of the world's oceans.  To follow, MCBI’s Vice President for Government Affairs, Bill Chandler, discussed marine policy and the severe underfunding of marine programs.  Finally, Kassandra Cerveny, MCBI’s Congressional Relations Manager, and John Fitzgerald, Society of Conservation Biology led an advocacy training session. 

After the morning session, participants broke up into small groups to visit key congressional offices to educate and promote the importance of marine conservation.  Overall, the participants met with 25 congressional member offices, 3 committees (Foreign Relations, Senate Commerce Committee, and the US House Natural Resources Committee), and Congressional Research Service Meeting.  Overall, the meetings were a success. 


Letter to Congress:

Letter from Participants in the International Marine Conservation Congress

During IMCC participant Hill meetings, we learned that NOAA desperately needs more funding for NOAA’s marine conservation programs.  MCBI and Society of Marine Conservation Biology leaders drafted an individual sign-on letter to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees requesting enhanced funding for NOAA.  The following letter was circulated during the IMCC for attendees to sign:   

Dear Senators Inouye and Cochran, and Congressmen Obey and Lewis:
The United States has more ocean under its jurisdiction than any other nation, and our economy, jobs, safety and well-being critically depend on the health of our oceans.  As natural and social scientists participating in the International Marine Conservation Congress near Washington DC, who share a profound concern about maintaining and restoring the health of our oceans, we write to respectfully request that Congress increase the NOAA 2010 budget from the President’s request of $4.4 billion to $5.0 billion, plus an amount sufficient to cover the requirements of the proposed National Climate Service in NOAA. Read the full letter...

Over 130 IMCC participants from the USA and countries around the world signed on to the letter.









Plenary Talk



Congressional Advocacy Day

Letter to Congress