In my lifetime, I have seen waters that were teeming with multi-colored fish, turn dead like an empty aquarium. I have seen the streets of Bogota, my home town, lose thousands of trees in a matter of years.
It’s tempting to feel demoralized. But as the world’s protected area specialists, conservationists and decision makers gather in Sydney, Australia, this week for the World Parks Congress, there is also much to hope for.
- water access
- natural resources
- food security
- Sustainable Development
- protected areas
- natural capital
- World Parks Congress
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Climate Change
- Latin America & Caribbean
- East Asia and Pacific
- South Africa
Every MPA is not created the same; some allow fishing and some do not, some are small and some are large, some are connected and some stand alone. When they are well planned and well executed, MPAs can help feed communities, protect jobs and boost biodiversity in the ocean. Here are the top five reasons why MPAs can be GREAT!
1. Spill Over Effects
The benefits of an MPA extend far beyond the boundaries of protection. When well planned, MPAs act as the home base for migratory species. These species use the protected area to reproduce, feed or congregate. But they do not stick around for long. This is called the “spill over effect” and it is hugely beneficial to local fishing communities. Even if fishing is restricted inside the MPA, just outside the border the fish are more numerous and far larger. For example, in Indonesia, community income increased 21 percent in 258 villages near a network of six protected areas.
By 2050, the world's population will have risen to 9 billion people. Consumption of fish as a percentage of protein in diets around the world is growing too, especially in the last five years as noted in a recent United Nations Report. Fish makes up over 16 percent of the world's animal protein food supply, and food fish supply, including aquaculture, has increased at an average annual rate of 3.2 percent, which means it’s growing at an even faster clip than the world's population. But the supply of wild-caught commercial fish species, such as tuna, is not infinite. Realistic, well-defined and long-term focused management strategies need to be in place now so that despite an unwavering growth in population and consumption, wild fish stocks can thrive well into the future.
Consumption of fish will continue to increase. In both the developing and developed world, more consumers want access to more fish. In less developed, food-deficit countries -- specifically coastal ones -- fish like tuna provide an affordable source of nutrient rich food.
Imagine you are a leader of an African country and your entire government budget for the year is $1.2 billion.
That same year, an investor sells 51 percent of their stake in a huge iron ore mine in your country for $2.5 billion — more than double your annual government budget.
And imagine having ordered a review into mining licenses granted by previous regimes and knowing that the investor who made the $2.5 billion sale had been granted a mining license in your country for free.
It's what happened in Guinea. It's a story I heard Guinea's president, Alpha Condé tell the G8's trade, transparency and taxation conference in London. And it's a story I thought well worth sharing at the UN Security Council's meeting on fragile states and natural resources last week.
Many resource-rich countries are looking to diversify their economies, in anticipation of the day their natural wealth runs out. Resource extraction is extremely costly and employs only a fraction of the workforce. After the recent turmoil in the Middle East, policy makers have begun focusing more on the need to create jobs, provide for inclusion, and increase public participation in government decision-making. There are several examples of countries that have used their resource wealth to share prosperity, including the United States, Norway, and Australia.
But is there a blueprint for diversification and economic prosperity?
This was a lunchtime debate designed to induce a degree of indigestion!
Participants at an annual meetings session hosted by Africa Region VP Oby Ezekwisili faced the uncomfortable assertion that the majority of citizens in resource-rich African countries have seen little if any improvement as a result of decades of natural resource exploitation.
For some, oil or mineral wealth has proven a curse rather than a blessing, exposing them to economic instability, social conflict and lasting environmental damage.
To an audience including government ministers from DRC and Cameroon, Oby followed that up with a call for a campaign to generate a sense of ‘creative dissatisfaction’ – to provoke a demand for change in the way natural resources are exploited and the resultant benefits distributed.
Centre-piece of the debate was a new Natural Resource Charter, circulated in draft for consultation. Its intention is to aid governments and their citizens in resource-rich countries to use them to generate economic growth and promote the welfare of their population, without destroying their environment. It’s a blueprint for implementing the objectives of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).