A 200 nautical mile Maritime Zone in the sea around St Helena has been designated a Marine Protected Area (MPA) (see attached map) – announced at the 2016 ‘Our Ocean’ Conference hosted by US Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington DC on Thursday 15 September 2016.
The MPA and subsequent Marine Management Plan for this area is a significant step forward for St Helena to meet both local and international commitments, and to protect local maritime interests. Part 1 of this Q & A explains what an MPA is and why is it important, Part 2 next week will look at issues relating to fishing in the MPA.
What is a Marine Protected Area or MPA?
An MPA is an area clearly defined geographically which is recognised legally, requiring dedicated management through law or other means to achieve the long-term conservation of the nature of that area and the industries it supports (fishing, minerals, tourism etc). It must also incorporate cultural values and activities.
There is broad recognition that MPAs are a very important tool in managing the marine environment and there is a global objective to have 10% of the world’s oceans protected by 2020.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) gives management categories for protected areas in line with their objectives.
These categories range from strict marine nature reserves in which fishing, mineral collection and other commercial activities are prohibited; to protected areas with sustainable use of natural resources.
What type of MPA does St Helena have?
Under the IUCN categories, the St Helena MPA is a Category VI (Sustainable Use) MPA – which means marine activities and resource collection are allowed but managed in a manner that incorporates cultural values and sustainability.
What does it mean to have a Category VI MPA?
It means that we will aim to conserve our marine ecosystem, together with our culture and traditions, to ensure it can be utilised and enjoyed by future generations. It also means that all marine activities – for example fishing and tourism – must be carefully managed to ensure minimal impact on the marine environment.
How do we go about ensuring that our activities are managed in line with category VI designation?
IUCN have set guidelines for the different categories of MPAs which must be applied. By legally declaring our MPA we have to demonstrate that we are going to live up to those guidelines. The local community, policy makers, decision makers, senior managers, agencies and other institutions must now align themselves with these MPA guidelines if they have not done so already.
How is marine tourism managed?
Marine Tourism activities have the potential to disturb marine wildlife and their habitats. To ensure that tourism activities minimise this disturbance, whilst still creating a good tourist experience, controls must be in place. All marine tour operators will be required by law to have a licence to be able to undertake such activities and prove that they are abiding by their licence conditions.
Do we have a marine tourism accreditation scheme?
In order to become accredited, marine tour operators must attend various courses with the local environmental authorities and demonstrate through assessments – including written and frequent spot checks – that they are aware of, and are managing their businesses within the guidelines. We are proud to say that all of St Helena’s marine tour operators have been accredited through our pilot scheme and that spot checks have proved successful.
How is local marine recreation managed?
Marine recreation is an important part of St Helena’s life and culture, and the declaration of the MPA will help ensure that the marine environment will continue to be enjoyed by future generations. Recreational activities, such as fishing, will be monitored to ensure that they do not threaten the long-term sustainability of St Helena’s environment.
How will we fund the implementation of the MPA?
The UK has pledged £20 million over the next four years to support the implementation, management, surveillance and crucially the enforcement of new Marine Protected Areas in the Overseas Territories. This resource will open doors for St Helena to access more effective enforcement options.
27 September 2016