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Day2: Introductive Plenary

This day is dedicated to science and knowledge in the service of MPA creation and management.

Facilitators: Patricio BERNAL, IUCN; François GAUTHIEZ, AAMP

David Obura (Coral Reef Degradation in the Indian Ocean) outlined two major challenges for MPAs. First, how do we identify, collect and process scientific knowledge to the benefit of MPAs? Second, what scale must we examine? Should we research and monitor at ocean scales to assist in the definition of large MPAs from the top down, or should we keep our eyes on the local scale, to guide community-based MPAs?

Phil Weaver (Seascape Consultants) raised two challenges for the conservation of the high seas. One, how can we investigate extremely remote places? Going there is time- and cost-intensive, and you often come back with more questions than answers. Yet such research reveals that the deep sea is not flat and boring – it is full of diverse habitats. Two, once scientists have identified Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs) in the high seas, how can they be translated into effective MPAs? Distance raises issues of surveillance and enforcement that must be overcome to move from paper parks to MPAs that make an actual difference.

Denis Ody (WWF France) stressed that while science remains the underpinning of marine conservation, the future of marine protected areas hinges less on new scientific research than on political will. The benefits of MPAs have already been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt, both in the Mediterranean and elsewhere around the globe. Studies show the magnitude of their reserve effect: within their boundaries live around 30 percent more species than elsewhere, with up to two-and-half times the fish population and four to ten times the fish biomass. This wealth of biodiversity is also "exported" to surrounding waters – in the form of eggs, larvae and grown fish. Ultimately, these resources benefit the livelihoods of local populations. Ody called on decision-makers to own up to these arguments and create more MPAs, now.

Ann McDonald (United Nations University) told of her experience working with coastal communities in Japan, and especially traditional female divers (Ama). They have refined a language and mapping systems that provide an incredible level of detail on local ecosystems.

Mahé Charles (French MPA Agency) spoke on the valuation of ecosystem services, once again stressing the necessity of interdisciplinary dialogue. Ecosystem valuation both fosters and relies on the involvement of all players, not merely of economists.

Grant Gardner (Canadian Wildlife Federation) pointed out that scientists must learn to engage the larger public: political courage comes from public pressure, and public pressure comes from public understanding. NGOs are key partners because they are experienced at awareness-raising.

François Gauthier concluded that while knowledge must guide conservation initiatives, lack of knowledge is no excuse for lack of action.

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