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Every four years, the International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC) brings together major maritime stakeholders from around the globe, beyond national or sectoral boundaries, to assist in the conservation and sustainable development of the oceans.

vague phare roches douvres ocean xavier desmier 571x380Roches Douvres lighthouse. © Xavier Desmier / Champs photographiques

Participants represent public management and planning agencies, research institutions, non-governmental organizations, coastal or island communities, and sea-related industries, from fishing to cable laying, mining, shipping and tourism.

In 2013, the Agence des aires marines protégées (French Marine Protected Areas Agency) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) are co-organizing the 3rd edition of the International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC3). The core of the Congress will take place in Marseille from Oct. 21 to Oct. 25. It will be followed by a high-level political meeting in Corsica on Oct. 26 and 27 (invitation only).

Many international partners contribute to the Congress, which enjoys local support from the City of Marseille and the Collectivité territoriale de Corse (Corsica Territorial Authority), through the Office de l’environnement de la Corse (Corsican Environment Office).

Organizers and participants alike work together towards one goal: protecting the Ocean and its resources for future generations.

What are Marine Protected Areas?

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) form a worldwide network of remarkable sites where sea-management standards are set.

An MPA is a defined zone where natural and/or cultural resources receive special protection. MPAs vary widely in their conservation methods and in the habitats they encompass – from open ocean to estuaries. They do not necessarily exclude human activities, but rather seek to manage them in a sustainable way.

Generally, MPAs strive to find the best possible compromise between ecological and economic constraints. As such, they are crucial because:


  • The oceans cover more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface;
  • More than 3.5 billion people depend on the oceans for their substance, notably for food, but also for tourism, trade and energy;
  • Over half of the world’s population lives within less than 40 miles of a shoreline;
  • The oceans face massive threats from overfishing, marine pollution, marine habitat destruction and acidification.

MPAs therefore have a central role to play in the major challenges that humankind will face in the near future: fighting and coping with climate change, reducing poverty and sharing resources.

Browse the interactive map of marine protected areas worldwide on


At least 10 percent of the world’s marine and coastal zones must be protected by 2020. IMPAC3 provides a framework to evaluate the progress made and work out new solutions.

As early as 2002, the Earth Summit in Johannesburg called for the creation of a comprehensive network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) by 2012. But in 2011, the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) postponed to 2020 the objective of turning 10 percent of the oceans into protected marine areas: this goal is called Aichi Target 11.

Most national and international administrations have ambitious ongoing programs for the study and conservation of marine ecosystems, of marine protected areas, and of connected zones. IMPAC3 gives them a chance to report back on their work, so that participants may draw intermediate lessons from initiatives already underway, and improve current and future programs. It is a golden opportunity to:

  • Exchange MPA planning and management expertise and know-how;
  • Develop cooperation and capacity building among MPAs;
  • Promote global and regional networking;
  • Use the web to connect stakeholders;
  • Integrate MPAs with the rising Blue Economy;
  • Foster public interest in MPAs and contribute to the emergence of a Blue Society.

IMPAC3 aims to deliver a new vision and new tools to achieve the goal of protecting 10 percent of the world’s oceans by 2020.


France is hosting the third edition of the International Marine Protected Areas Congress, after Australia in 2005 and the United States in 2009.

In October 2005, The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Parks Victoria initiated the very first International MPA Conference in Geelong, Australia. It sought to define a typology of Marine Protected Areas and to review the state of marine ecosystems.

Then in 2009, IMPAC2 was hosted in Washington, D.C., by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (NOAA-ONMS). It witnessed the rising relevance of public agencies in creating and managing MPAs.

Today, the French ministry in charge of the environment has commissioned the Agence des aires marines protégées to co-organize, together with IUCN, the next edition of the Congress, in two symbolic Mediterranean locations: Marseille and Corsica.

IMPAC3 aims to reach out beyond the circle of MPA management agencies and involve all stakeholders, whether governmental, non-governmental or corporate. Protecting 10 percent of the Ocean’s surface by 2020, as required by the Conference on Biological Diversity (CBD), necessarily involves transnational, cross-sector cooperation.


IMPAC1 (Geelong, Australia, 2005)

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Jon Day, IMPAC1 Manager, in Geelong, Australia, October 2005. © GBRMPA - Parks Victoria
Aboriginal musicians at the opening of IMPAC1, Geelong. © GBRMPA - Parks Victoria

IMPAC2 (Washington, D.C., 2009)

stand IMPAC2 NOAA 567x380  impac2 washington passage flambeau impac3 noaa 567x380 
NOAA stand at IMPAC2, Washington, D.C., May 2009. © NOAA
Passing of the torch between IMPAC2 and IMPAC3 organizers, Washington, D.C. © NOAA

Ocean+ Values

IMPAC3’s Ocean+ motto highlights the role of MPAs in giving and sharing life.

Forests may be the lungs of our planet, but the Ocean is the heart-and-blood system that pulses life across its surface.

The Ocean makes exchanges possible, whether physical, chemical, biological or human. It brings us all together, but to keep it healthy, we must all work hand in hand – whether we are busy studying and protecting the Ocean, or harvesting its resources. Together, we can make sure that its wealth is shared fairly in the present, and preserved for generations to come.

In this task, governments cannot simply impose policies from above, without taking into account the needs and behaviors of communities and users who rely on the sea. MPAs therefore have a pivotal role in promoting a cultural shift, towards a “Blue Society” that considers the Ocean not as separate, but as central to our lives, wherever we might live.

We all depend on the sea, and its future depends on us. This is the meaning of Ocean+: The Ocean is our universal donor and recipient.


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