No time to lose for our planet's "blue heart"

A strong commitment to conserve and sustainably manage the ocean, including areas beyond national jurisdiction, was among the outcomes of the 3rd International Marine Protected Areas Congress, whose ministerial segment closed yesterday in Ajaccio, Corsica.

The Ministerial Conference was hosted by the French Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy Philippe Martin and gathered 19 ministers of nations representing the world's oceans. It reaffirmed the urgency and determination to reach the target of protecting at least 10% of the world’s ocean by 2020, agreed by most of the world’s governments in 2010.

The meeting in Ajaccio drew on a five-day conference of marine experts held in Marseille from 21 to 25 October.

"We left Marseille full of new ideas and a strong conviction that we can all put hope back in the oceans,” says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General. “Ministers gathered in Corsica made a strong commitment to accelerate the establishment of well-managed marine protected areas and mobilize the necessary financial resources. We hope that this will now lead to concrete action that we need to save our planet’s ‘blue heart’.”

Ministers gathered in Ajaccio discussed the need to combine global, regional and local approaches to conserving the oceans, engage the private sector in the process and devise innovative and sustainable financing solutions for marine protected areas. They also highlighted the urgency to establish globally-recognized high seas marine protected areas.

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between IUCN and the French Global Environment Facility (FFEM), focusing on the conservation and sustainable exploitation of seamounts of the South West Indian Ocean, outside of national legislative boarders.

“The high seas are of immense importance to the functioning of the planet, as well as to sustaining many of the species we value, be it for commercial, aesthetic, or ethical reasons,” says Kristina Gjerde, Senior High Seas Advisor, IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme. “Unfortunately, we still lack a legally-binding framework that would allow us to protect them as part of a coherent system of protected areas. It’s encouraging to see the determination to save these areas that was clearly visible both in Marseille and in Corsica.”

The oceans cover more than 70% of the earth’s surface. More than 3.5 billion people depend on them for food, energy and income. Currently, less than 3% of the ocean is protected.

Aside from France, French Polynesia and New Caledonia, the ministers present in Ajaccio represented Albania, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, the Comoros, Bahrain, Cyprus, Dominica, Guinea, Italy, India, Monaco, Nicaragua, Samoa, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo and Tunisia.

Co-organized by IUCN and the French Marine Protected Areas Agency, the 3rd International Marine Protected Areas Congress gathered 1,500 participants from 87 nations, including managers of marine protected areas, scientists, decision-makers, representatives of local authorities and communities, civil society and industry.


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