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Daily report for 7 February 2023

5th International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC5)

On the penultimate day of IMPAC5, attendees were prompted to contemplate the impact of the Congress and ways to preserve its discourse for continued progress towards ocean preservation and fair conservation efforts in the future. Sean Russell, IMPAC5 Young Professionals Committee, welcomed participants, introducing the day’s theme: connections between Ocean, culture and human-wellbeing. He invited participants to sign the IMPAC5 Youth Call to Action.

Hinano Teavai-Murphy, Tetiaroa Society, shared personal stories of her relationship with her island and the Ocean, sharing Tahitian oral traditions which highlight the connections between the Ocean, her culture, and the wellbeing of her community. Making a call that “the Ocean is not a barrier, it connects us, it is our home”, she spoke of the importance of protecting the Ocean from harm for the sake of future generations.

Peter Thomson, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, stressed that the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework adopted in 2022 “is the most important universal agreement we have.” Emphasizing that 20% of the oxygen is produced in the Ocean, he underlined that there cannot be a healthy planet without a healthy Ocean, and noted that it’s health is in decline.

Aminath Shauna, Minister of Environment Climate Change and Technology, Maldives, described her country as a big Ocean state, instead of a small island country. She reflected on the fact that the 110 islands scattered across 19 atolls in the Indian Ocean, exist because of coral reefs, which provide protection, food and sustenance.

How World Heritage Listed Reefs Empower Communities to Adapt to a Changing Climate

Fanny Douvere, UNESCO’s World Heritage Marine Program, spoke of the incredible challenge posed by the 30x30 target, which implies expanding to almost triple the current MPAs in the next seven years. Theresa Fyffe, Great Barrier Reef Foundation, explained the Resilient Reefs Initiative carried out in MPAs in Belize, Palau, New Caledonia, and Australia, highlighting that they are built on local priorities and contexts.

Amélie Séchaud, New Caledonia Biodiversity Agency, spoke of the resilience strategy for the Lagoons of New Caledonia World Heritage site. She noted that the participatory management approach is not new, but “something well in place” in her country, although still presents challenges.

Chantalle Samuels, Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute, presented on embedding resilience-based management strategies in Belize’s World Heritage site through leveraging community engagement, showing a flagship strategy with three key actions: enabling livelihood diversity, ecosystem protection and restoration, and improved watershed management governance.

The Role of MPAs in Climate Change Mitigation 

Inti Kith, Charles Darwin Foundation, described the threats posed by invasive alien species in the Galapagos MPA and the use of settlement plates to assess the extent of marine bioinvasions. 

Shona Murray, University of Western Australia, discussed her findings on how MPAs can be improved for oceanic sharks.

Joachim Claudet, National Center for Scientific Research, explored ecological and social pathways for ecosystem resilience to climate change.

An ‘Orca’strated Approach to Supporting Recovery Efforts for Southern Resident Killer Whales in Coastal British Colombia

Jennifer Takimishyn, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, spoke about collaborations with First Nations for management within the reserve to enhance the protection of the resident orca - kakawin - pods.

SUMÉ,t David Dick, W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council, reminded the audience of Tahlequah, the orca who carried her stillborn calf for 17 days, saying that she did this to remind us of the harm we are bringing upon the Ocean.

Martin Wayne, Saturna Island Marine Research & Education Society, spoke of a citizen science network of shore-based sighters to monitor and report on whale and vessel movement in the area. While stressing that sanctuary zones are critical, he noted that they are not working as intended.

Jessica Scott, Ocean Wise, began her presentation by illustrating the impact that vessels have on whale communication and lives. She then spoke about the Whale Report Alert System aimed at mariners for reducing vessel strikes and disturbance in the region.

Discussions touched upon the importance of 10-knot limits on vessels, to reduce their impact on marine life, and the importance of building international communication networks.

Youth Engaging Youth

Joseph Mcleod, Parks Canada, highlighted that leadership means “going against the status quo” and helping take input from other people. He asked panelists to reflect on several questions: on empowering youth in organizations, Frankie Marquez, Ocean Wise, described her organization’s way of creating opportunities, such as enabling representation on the board; on hiring youth, Jason Barron, Nature Canada, explained that no specific skillset might be necessary when applying as a young person and focused on creating such opportunities; Jenn Stevens, Learning for Sustainable Futures, underscored the importance of creating opportunities in the school system.

Joshua Komangapik, Students on Ice, described the importance of facilitating ways youth can contribute in culturally relevant ways. Carter McNelly, Canadian Network for Ocean Education, underscored the importance of a work relationship that does not feel transactional.

The Forgotten Half of Our Planet

Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Explorer, reflected on all the things we don’t know yet related to the high seas and deep seas. Noting the “depths” of our ignorance, she stated, “the deeper we go, the less we know.” She called upon creating MPAs on the high seas, and around the Antarctic, and to keep in mind that protecting 30% of the planet is not going to solve all the problems.

Sheena Talma, National Geographic Explorer, spoke about her research surrounding the Seychelles and Mauritius joint management area. She encouraged countries to finish the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction negotiations and advocated for seabed and water column joint management.

Cassandra Brooks, University of Colorado Boulder, spoke about the path for the establishment of the Ross Sea MPA, the world’s largest one. Nichola Clark, The Pew Charitable Trusts, reflected on the need of a high seas treaty, noting: several governance gaps; many institutions with several degrees of success and ineffective coordination; no global obligation to conduct Environmental Impact Assessments; and, no mechanisms to establish MPAs in the high seas.

Samuel Georgian, Marine Conservation Institute, spoke about two priority conservation areas on the high seas and why they matter, the Salas y Gómez and Nazca ridges and the Emperor Seamounts.

Gender and Marine Conservation

Mez Baker-Medard, Middlebury College, presented on her work studying the participation of women in Madagascar’s small-scale fisheries. She pointed out a low level of women participation in MPA decision-making, and reported on a reduction, sometimes significant, of women fishing in protected areas.

Vatosoa Rakotondrazafy, MIHARI Network, spoke about her work representing and defending small-scale fishers’ rights in Madagascar, highlighting the absence of women from its forums and decision-making processes.

Marianne Randriamihaja, The Fisher Women Leadership Programme - Madagascar, spoke of efforts taken to increase women’s presence and visibility in fisheries. She argued that efforts to increase women’s presence in fishing must be seen as a movement, not just a project.

Ivonne Juarez-Serna, Middlebury College, presented on work with the previous speakers, highlighting that: gender consciousness means inclusive and more visible access; that work should be rooted in place-based knowledge; and that the role of men as allies must be considered in strategies for resistance and resilience.

Connecting Communities to Conservation

Marie Hascoet, French Agency for Biodiversity, spoke about work at the Iroise Natural Marine Park in the Molène archipelago, to enhance the visibility of Bronze Age fishing sites. Hannah Bregulla, Council of the Haida Nation, presented on the SG̲aan K̲inghlas - Bowie Seamount Curriculum, which sought to encourage stewardship amongst Haida students by grounding activities in a place-based two-eyed approach, which centres Haida values and language, and where Haida knowledge and western science coexist and are equally valued.

Mia Strand, Nelson Mandela University, spoke about the lacking knowledge on marine cultural heritage and local knowledge within South African MPA governance, arguing that this leads to a silence of Indigenous and local knowledges and relationships with the Ocean.

Ilena Zanella, Misión Tiburón, presented on their work in Golfo Dulce in the Cocos Marine Area off the coast of Costa Rica, for engaging coastal communities in ocean conservation aimed at improving the protection of wetlands used as a nursery area by the critically endangered hammerhead shark.
Frédéric Fasquel, French Agency for Biodiversity, spoke about the “Educational Marine Area” programme which involves pupils aged 9 to 15 by entrusting them with the management of section of coastline close to their school.

Addressing Challenges in MPA Management 

Stephen Ban, British Columbia Ministry of Environment, spoke of the implementation of MPAs in the British Columbia Parks system. He mentioned that the MPAs regulation in the province does not necessarily preclude recreational and harvesting activities, and highlighted that First Nations have authorities similar to provincial and local governments within treaty lands. Anne Cadoret, Aix-Marseille University and Jean-Eudes Beuret, Rennes Agro Institute, shared their research on a generic MPA model based on a comparative analysis of 13 MPAs. They highlighted that many times the opposition to MPAs, is not against conservation, but rather the design and implementation model.

Veronica Relano, University of British Columbia, discussed the San Antonio MPA case study, and reflected on the social, economic and ecological consequences underpinning the management of this MPA.

Ecological Grief: Young Professionals Using Transformative Change to Build a Better Tomorrow

Hali Moreland, Parks Canada, moderated the session, which served as a space for Noemie Roy, IMPAC5 Secretariat; Carter McNelly, Parks Canada; Caleigh Delle Palme, Parks Canada; Nadia Dalili, Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park; Elizabeth Melis, GREMM; and Emily Wells, Parks Canada, to reflect on their experiences with ecological grief, ecological anxiety, solastalgia (the distress caused by the transformation and degradation of one’s home environment), and share lessons on transformative learning and self-examination, utilizing coping strategies, such as meditation, photography, activism and community engagement. The session included a moment where participants were invited to connect with an object of nature through meditation, which created a bonding experience that led to a group discussion with participants on their own experiences with issues related to ecological grief.

In the Corridors

“What examples are we setting? What will we bring back from this Congress?”

Throughout the plenary session on the second to last day of IMPAC5, the audience was asked to reflect on the legacy of the Congress, and how its participants can ensure that the discussions from these past days can continue to guide meaningful action for protecting the Ocean, as well as ensure equity in conservation actions for years to come. This includes, as everyone were reminded from Monday’s keynote speeches from Dalee Sambo Dorough and Asha de Vos, ensuring that front line communities are not only welcomed into high-level decision-making, but also for politicians and scientists to listen humbly to their stories and knowledge, so to better understand realities on the ground, and ensure a transfer of power to safeguard self-governance and local leadership in marine conservation.

Seen from a global-to-local perspective, Aminath Shauna highlighted the responsibility of historical emitters in the context of climate justice, while also stressing transitions needed at home, with this congress offering a unique opportunity for sharing solutions and lessons learned from around the world.

Equally poignant was Hinano Teavai-Murphy’s passionate speech, where she asked participants: “Who are we? What is the Ocean to us? What are we teaching our children?” Speaking of her cultural teachings connecting language, the Ocean, and community well-being, she reminded everyone that “the Ocean connects us, it is our home”. For the sake of that home, and for everyone’s future, she called on people “to take a stand, for our children, and our children’s children;” a touching call to arms guiding participants to turn their research and advocacy into conservation outcomes for the Ocean.

Further information

Reporting supported by


Non-state coalitions