The Global 2012 Challenge for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and MPA Networks in National Waters and on the High Seas
Since 2002, a succession of world gatherings have proclaimed the urgent need for effective Marine Protected Areas with a set of targets, most coming due in 2012:
- In 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) called for the establishment of a global system of MPA networks by 2012, including areas on the high seas.
- In 2003, the 5th World Parks Congress called on countries to establish a global system of MPA networks to greatly increase the marine and coastal area covered. Highly protected areas (no-take zones) were to comprise at least 20-30% of each habitat.
- In 2003, the Evian Agreement signed by the G8 Group of Nations called for the creation of ecosystem networks of marine protected areas under international law by 2012.
- In 2004, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) agreed to the establishment and maintenance of MPAs to contribute to a global network, recognising that CMS and various regional agreements that would help fulfill this work.
- In 2008, the IUCN World Conservation Congress called on nations to accelerate progress toward the 2012 MPA network and high seas goals.
- In December 2008, the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) will deliberate contributing more directly to MPA development and management for migratory marine species, as a contribution to the 2012 targets.
Progress Toward Meeting the Global 2012 Challenge
An estimated 1.31% of the world ocean has been designated as marine protected areas for all purposes.1 Only 0.08% of the world’s ocean exists in fully or highly protected marine reserves.2 As of 2011, there are 570 protected areas with cetacean habitat, 53 of which are proposed for expansion, plus 138 proposed areas.3
In August 2006, the Micronesian Challenge was announced, an ambitious regional programme involving the Northern Marianas, Guam, Palau, Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and their vast marine estate. The "challenge" is to go beyond world targets and conserve at least 30 percent of near-shore marine and 20 percent of forest resources across Micronesia by 2020.
In Oct. 2007, the Scientific Committee of ACCOBAMS (Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area) recommended 17 proposed marine protected areas in its waters. In Oct. 2007 the Parties to ACCOBAMS agreed in principle to start creating these MPAs.
In 2007, the US designated the highly protected Papahanaumokuakea Marine Monument in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, at 340,000 sq km then the largest no-take area in the world.
In 2008 the Kiribati created the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, at 410,500 sq km it was then the largest MPA in the world.
In October 2008, WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society launched its "12 for 2012" Global MPA Campaign, as a contribution to international targets, to put in place 12 large and significant MPAs and MPA networks covering whale and dolphin habitat in national waters and on the high seas around the world.
In October 2008, the Marine Conservation Biology Institute (MCBI), International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), and Chantecaille Beauté announced that they would promote the conservation of ten important high seas areas around the world as High Seas Gems. Two of these, the Ross Sea and the Saya de Malha Banks were also announced to be among WDCS's 12 for 2012.
In October 2008, the Marine Conservation Biology Institute (MCBI), International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), and Chantecaille Beauté announced that they would promote the conservation of ten important high seas areas around the world as High Seas Gems. Two of these, the Ross Sea and the Saya de Malha Banks were also announced to be among WDCS's 12 for 2012
In November 2009, the first high seas MPA in the Antarctic region was declared. The South Orkney Islands Marine Protected Area is almost 94,000 sq km and is a prime area for feeding humpback whales.
In April 2010, the Chagos Islands Marine Protected Area was declared by the British government. At over 600,000 sq km it is the world’s largest marine protected area. It covers precious Indian Ocean coral reefs in highly protected IUCN Category I reserves.
In April 2012, the Antarctic Ocean Alliance proposed making the Ross Sea region a fully protected marine reserve. The proposed marine reserve for the Ross Sea - called by Antarctic authority David Ainley "the largest remaining, minimally changed ecosystem on Earth" would be approximately 3.6 million sq km.
In June 2012, the Australian government announced its detailed plans and maps showing the new protected area networks around Australia in Commonwealth waters. The proposed network would add more than 2.3 million sq km to the existing national system of Commonwealth marine reserves, giving a total size of 3.1 million sq km and forming world’s the largest system of marine reserves.
1 Mark Spalding et al, 2010
2 Wood et al, 2008
3 Hoyt, 2011