Dan Laf­fo­ley

Ad­vanc­ing In­ter­na­tional Marine Con­ser­va­tion

Patagon Journal - - CONTRIBUTORS THIS ISSUE - What do you hope to achieve with this year’s IMPAC in Chile? Are you see­ing gov­ern­ments re­spond fa­vor­ably to the idea of 30 per­cent? What other marine ini­tia­tives are the IUCN plan­ning?

For med in 1948, the In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture( IUCN) is the “global author­ity on the sta­tus of the nat­u­ral world and the mea­sures needed to safe­guard it.” Its mem­bers in­clude 218 state and gov­ern­ment agen­cies and more than 1,100 non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions from more than 160 na­tions. Their vol­un­teer ex­perts are or­ga­nized in six com­mis­sions, such as the species sur­vival com­mis­sion which gives the of­fi­cial data on en­dan­gered and threat­ened species. Dan Laf­fo­ley is the marine vice chair of their World Com­mis­sion on Pro­tected Ar­eas. As such, he is also stand­ing co- chair of IMPAC with whomever the host coun­try is ev­ery four years, pre­vi­ously co-chair­ing the IMPAC3 held in France in 2013.

A marine bi­ol­o­gist from the United King­dom, Laf­fo­ley has been work­ing in ocean con­ser­va­tion for nearly three decades. In 2011, he founded the High Seas Al­liance and is also chair of the In­ter­na­tional Ocean Acid­i­fi­ca­tion Ref­er­ence User Group. He has par­tic­u­larly taken a spe­cial in­ter­est i n how marine science is com­mu­ni­cated to the global pub­lic, such as his work with Google Oceans and help­ing to de­velop smart­phone apps like the Marine World Her­itage App of UNESCO.

Laf­fo­ley is a vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor at the Marine In­sti­tute of the Univer­sity of Ply­mouth, serves on the boards of di­verse marine groups, in­clud­ing the HMS Bea­gle Trust, a UK/ Chilean part­ner­ship that seeks to build a mod­ern ver­sion of the ship that the evo­lu­tion­ary sci­en­tist Charles Dar­win trav­elled on the 1830s as a way of “in­spir­ing a new gen­er­a­tion to ex­plore, dis­cover and safe­guard the ocean.”

This is an op­por­tu­nity to bring marine pro­tec­tion area man­agers to­gether to give them an op­por­tu­nity to tell their suc­cess sto­ries, their chal­lenges, share best prac­tices, new in­no­va­tions and ap­proaches. The meet­ing in La Ser­ena is the last op­por­tu­nity be­fore 2020, the year that coun­tries have said that they will pro­tect 10 per­cent of their marine en­vi­ron­ments around their coasts, to look at how we can in­crease the am­bi­tion and de­ter­mi­na­tion of coun­tries. And I think it’s very ap­pro­pri­ate that we are hold­ing this meet­ing in Chile be­cause of the strides it has been mak­ing as a coun­try to in­crease their cov­er­age of marine pro­tected ar­eas over the past few years.

Over the past year, there seems to be grow­ing in­ter­na­tional mo­men­tum in cre­at­ing more MPAs.

We’ve got in­creased mo­men­tum. I think coun­tries are try­ing to meet the 10 per­cent fig­ure. But with all th­ese things the devil is in the de­tails. The com­mit­ments that coun­tries make must also be about qual­ity, po­si­tion­ing, in­te­gra­tion, and the val­ues of th­ese ar­eas. The 10 per­cent tar­get is also not enough. It is a po­lit­i­cal tar­get that coun­tries ne­go­ti­ated over the last few decades. But our knowl­edge about the state of the marine en­vi­ron­ment, the in­ten­sity of the ex­trac­tive ac­tiv­i­ties, and the pres­sures on the marine en­vi­ron­ment, has grown tremen­dously since then. At the IUCN World Con­ser­va­tion Congress in Hawaii last year, ev­ery­one rec­om­mended at least 30 per­cent of the ocean. So, we need to be nav­i­gat­ing cor­rectly to­ward the 2020 goals, but we need to have our am­bi­tions set far higher for the com­ing years.

I think you’ll find a num­ber of coun­tries are al­ready pass­ing 10 per­cent. The smart coun­tries are look­ing to pro­tect a lot more, be­cause marine re­sources will be­come in­creas­ingly scarce and not enough is be­ing pro­tected. And th­ese early adapters will be in a much stronger po­si­tion in fu­ture years com­pared to na­tions that are per­haps not so en­thu­si­as­tic to dis­rupt in­dus­try right now.

The ocean is vast and many species mi­grate to other ar­eas. Is it re­ally enough to just cre­ate more marine pro­tec­tion ar­eas?

We have a view that it should be 30 per­cent plus, and what I mean by plus is real, sus­tain­able, man­age­ment and con­trols over the other 70 per­cent. It is about look­ing at the ocean as a whole. The sorts of things we are deal­ing with nowa­days weren’t even search items on Google when peo­ple de­cided the 10 per­cent. Ocean acid­i­fi­ca­tion, the ten­dency of the ocean to trend to­ward more acidic con­di­tions which is al­ready caus­ing scal­lop growth prob­lems along parts of the coast­line in Chile, wasn’t a search item in 2004. And when it comes to fish­eries, we need all the fish­eries agen­cies in the world to be prop­erly re­port­ing when they de­liver sus­tain­able man­age­ment ap­proaches. There’s a lot more that needs to be done. We ac­tu­ally have a lot of the frame­works we need, it’s time to do them.

We have been do­ing a ma­jor cam­paign re­cently on ocean plas­tics. We are draw­ing the world’s at­ten­tion to the fact that the ocean is not just get­ting more acidic, it’s ac­tu­ally warm­ing. We are also work­ing on an­other re­port that will come out next year about the ocean glob­ally and re­gion­ally los­ing sig­nif­i­cant amounts of oxy­gen. If you warm wa­ter, it con­tains less gases, so ef­fec­tively one things leads to an­other. Ninety-three per­cent of the en­hanced green­house ef­fect since the 1970s has ac­tu­ally been go­ing into the ocean. The ocean has been our friend, but we are push­ing its tol­er­ances. One of the con­se­quences of that is it los­ing up to 30 per­cent of its oxy­gen since the 1960s over some of the pro­duc­tive shelf ar­eas. An­other thing we are try­ing to do at IUCN is make peo­ple aware of th­ese changes. Be­cause peo­ple are not go­ing to act with greater am­bi­tion un­less we trans­late the com­plex science to very ac­cu­rate and clear mes­sages.

How can you make marine con­ser­va­tion ar­eas more than just “pa­per parks”?

Yeah, there is a mas­sive prob­lem with pa­per parks. The an­nounce­ment is only the start of it. You need to be look­ing at the type of man­age­ment you put in place, and we know much more than the the­ory, we know what works. If you put in place high lev­els of pro­tec­tion, in vir­tu­ally ev­ery ex­am­ple of this, and this has been ver­i­fied in hun­dreds of peer-re­viewed sci­en­tific pa­pers, you get ben­e­fits. In a way, it’s no dif­fer­ent than how peo­ple man­age their fi­nan­cial in­vest­ments: they get peo­ple to keep an eye on it and ad­vise them on what they need to do. There needs to be an ac­tive man­age­ment process.

Do you think there needs to be more no-take zones?

If you have a friend that has suf­fi­cient in­come to buy a house and to have a pen­sion and save, but in­stead spend all the money they have each month, you would prob­a­bly think they’re mad. The ocean is no dif­fer­ent in the sense that if we just take ev­ery­thing all the time and we don’t put ad­e­quate pro­tec­tion in place, and we don’t in­vest in that process, we won’t get a par­tic­u­larly good out­come. We have pro­tected just per­haps 5 per­cent of the sys­tem that is at the heart of reg­u­lat­ing the cli­mate that all of us de­pend on. Five per­cent is nowhere near enough.

Un­der­wa­ter re­search at As­cen­sion Is­land. In­ves­ti­gación sub­acuática en la isla As­cen­sión.

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