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A new study by marine-conservation scientists and policy experts finds that the world is actually on track towards meeting global marine protection goals, but warns that numbers alone cannot be a measure of success.
They found that 6.6 million square kilometers had been added in MPAs in recent years, and that the objective of protecting 10 percent of the oceans by 2020 is actually within reach.
This target, named Aichi 11 after the Conference on Biological Diversity meeting where it was decided, is central to the preoccupations of IMPAC3.
But the study, published in the Ocean Yearbook, pointed out that quantitative measures may mask a mixed reality and do not necessarily answer the qualitative goals set out by Aichi Target 11.
Indeed, the CBD calls for the protection not only of biodiversity, but also of human well-being and ecosystem services, whereas much of the global MPA growth is now taking place in offshore and remote areas. Even when it comes to coastal MPAs, they tend to focus on sparsely populated areas. Besides, coastal MPAs are often small and not effectively managed.
According to the authors, there is therefore a need to be more creative and critical about where to place MPAs and how to design them. Planners must make sure local communities actually benefit from the services MPAs are meant to render, such as food, fuel, livelihoods, recreation and natural defense systems.
Another issue is defining what counts towards the 10 percent that Aichi Target 11 aims for. The CBD recognizes that “other effective area-based conservation measures” — such as no-take reserves, multiple-use MPAs and community-managed MPAs — should be included in the census. But those measures open to interpretation. Should areas that ban shark finning be included? What about managed fisheries?
“The 10% target has set a race towards a number, but we seem to have lost track of what we want to achieve in the first place,” says Imen Meliane of The Nature Conservancy. “We are currently lacking the right standards for knowing what gets accounted in the 10%, and we need these for the number to be meaningful.”